Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina | Stephen Houser and Erika Martinez
Leo Tolstoy experienced a spiritual crisis during the writing of Anna Karenina, which treats the private and public considerations and consequences surrounding Anna’s adulterous affair with Count Vronsky. Her sensitivities, reflections, and changing position within society unfold amid a densely populated setting of other stories of love, marriage, and adultery, the relationship between Kitty and Levin being foremost among these. Anna’s deep problem of happiness directs us to confront for our own selves the problems and questions of happiness. The unflinching eye of the narrator in revealing Anna’s perceptions and doubts is one of the great compelling features of the novel, which William Faulkner described as “the best ever written.”
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics | Michael Golluber and Marsaura Shukla
The concern of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is the good life for a human being. Aristotle observes that “if there is an end which we wish for its own sake…will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on our way of life?” The stakes are high for us. Since the human good turns out to be “an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue” the possibility of our happiness requires an exploration of the various virtues in particular, and of human excellence in general.
Shakespeare’s Comedies: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and A Comedy of Errors | Warren Winiarski and Judith Adam
We will explore the range of Shakespearean comedy in two distinctive plays. First, A Midsummer Night’s ream, a fabulous story of love whose comedy, with its young lovers who seek to unite beyond the law, presents a counterpoint to Shakespeare’s tragic treatment of the same theme elsewhere. In the comic dream in the woods, with its magical mixing of couples, confused identities, and misdirected love, the truth of love is playfully tested. Then in A Comedy of Errors, we will explore the theme of confused identities taken to farcical, purely comical extremes. Perhaps only for the purpose of invoking joy and laughter in the audience, this deliciously ridiculous play presents the situation of two sets of long-separated twins whose lives ultimately and magnificently collide.
Marcel Proust’s In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower | Victoria Mora and Peter Pesic
Marcel Proust’s monumental series of six novels In Search of Lost Time concerns love, desire, memory, jealousy, betrayal, and loss. In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, the second volume in the series, follows its narrator during an enchanted summer, encountering old and new loves, visiting longed-for places. No less a master of social drama than of individual consciousness, Proust writes with great clarity, wit, and almost painful beauty.
This seminar is intended to continue our seminar on Swann’s Way from last summer, and accordingly offers first choice to its participants; others are welcome, if space allows, but they are expectedto have read Swann’s Way on their own so that they can participate fully in discussions that will doubtless reach back to that work.
Two Dialogues on Virtue: Plato’s Laches and Charmides ǀ David Levy and Michael Golluber
The great Islamic philosopher al-Farabi tells us that in the Laches Plato “investigated the courage of which the citizens of cities are reputed for being courageous; what the courage is that is believed by the multitude to be courage; and he explained the courage that is true courage.” In the Charmides he “investigated the moderation generally accepted in cities; what the moderation is that is true moderation; what the moderate man is who is believed to be moderate; what the moderate man is who is truly moderate; what is the way of life of those who are truly moderate; and how the multitude have been ignorant of what true moderation is.” Are these two virtues, courage and moderation, finally incompatible, or is there a kind of human life that is the reconciliation of both?
Isaac Newton’s Opticks | Peter Pesic and Guillermo Bleichmar
Newton’s Opticks is a masterpiece of curiosity and wonder; an exploration of the nature of light that owes as much to the imagination as to the intellect. In a remarkably accessible manner requiring little mathematics, Newton guides us into the phenomena of reflection and refraction, the workings of the eye and telescopes, the causes of the rainbow, and the theory of colors. Along with our reading of the text, we will delve first-hand into the study of nature by conducting Newton's key experiments.