Programs & Events

Annapolis Saturday Seminars 2014


Experience the great books educational program at St. John’s College by participating in a one-day seminar sponsored by the Friends of St. John’s College. What is a seminar? It is simply a conversation among 15 to 20 participants who explore ideas raised by the text. To participate, choose one of the topics listed, read the assigned text in advance, and then join with others on seminar day in a discussion of the work. No previous knowledge of the subject or author is required. No outside research on the topic is expected. Seminar participants are responsible for their own text.

The discussions will be led by a St. John’s tutor (faculty member) who has selected the reading – either a classic work drawn from the St. John’s program or a reading chosen for the author’s thoughts and ideas which have universal relevance. Saturday Seminars attract participants from varied ages and walks of life- no degrees are required- only an interest in thoughtful reading. Participants may continue their seminar conversations over a buffet luncheon that will be provided.

Read about a St. John's seminar here


Register for Saturday Seminars

$50 per person includes seminar and buffet lunch.
Register online now

If you wish to register by fax or mail, please print the registration form and mail or fax as directed.
For more information: Alice Chambers, 410-295-5544,


Schedule for the Day

February 22 (snow date: March 8)

9:30 a.m. Introduction to a St. John’s seminar by tutor David Townsend
(This is especially informative for new participants.)
Conversation Room, Mellon Hall
→ See campus map

9:45 a.m. Check-in for seminar room assignment for all participants
Francis Scott Key Lobby, Mellon Hall

10 a.m. Seminars in Mellon Hall classrooms

11:30 a.m. Seminars end

11:45 a.m. - 1 p.m. Buffet luncheon in Francis Scott Key Lobby


Tutors and Readings

Deborah Axelrod: Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard
This play looks at the conflict between traditional nobility, the owners of the orchard, and new economic realities, and the debts which are forcing the sale of the orchard. The play is also the achievement of a playwright who is testing the possibilities of his craft. It is neither entirely a comedy nor entirely a tragedy, and its plot is more in the themes than in the story. Its success depends on how well its audience, or its readers, can embrace its complexity.

Sarah Benson: James, Daisy Miller
Daisy Miller is a “completely uncultivated” young American making her Grand Tour of Europe. It is a story of clashing social mores that also questions the American relationship to European history and the classical education.

Brendan Boyle: Melville, Billy Budd
The law stands wedded to violence in the name of justice. But what protections do citizens have against the unjust use of that violence? And when, if ever, might the law forgo violence in the name of something greater than justice, assuming there is such a thing? Melville's brisk, affecting novella invites consideration of these and other questions.

William Braithwaite: Aristophanes, Lysistrata
Some readers consider this the most indecent of the ancient Greek comic poet’s eleven surviving plays (which all contain obscenity). We will study it with a view not only to appreciating its earthy humor, but also to judging whether the “most indecent” opinion is justified, and ultimately to see whether there may be a serious argument underlying the obscenity.

Michael Brogan: Dostoyevsky, “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”
[FULL- Email to get on the waitlist.]
Written just before The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky’s brief, enigmatic story, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man,” is the work of a writer at the height of his powers. Its unnamed narrator falls asleep and dreams of an Eden in which the Fall has never happened. He awakens a transformed man.

Michael Dink: The Book of Jonah
The Book of Jonah tells a brief, but puzzling and discussable story, about a Hebrew prophet whom God sends to threaten Nineveh with destruction. Jonah initially refuses, winds up in the belly of a whale, and ends up delivering the message, with unexpected results. The story raises questions about the nature of prophecy, the character of the “God of the Hebrews”, the relationship of the people of Israel to other peoples, and the nature of mercy and justice.

Louis Petrich: Two Essays by Freud from Character and Culture: “Reflections on War and Death” (1915) and “Why War?” (1932) (A letter to Einstein)
Freud published his “Reflections on War and Death” in 1915 to address the sense of disillusion and anguish that Europeans began to feel over the mounting carnage of the First World War. He applies the insights of psychoanalysis to probe the deepest causes of those wartime feelings. In his 1932 letter to Albert Einstein, Freud responds to the physicist’s request for a frank exchange of views on the prospect of deliverance of mankind from the scourge of war.

Greg Recco: Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel depicts an all-too-possible American life, one that partakes of the blessings of wealth and leisure in full measure and is still marked by unsatisfiable yearning.

David Townsend: Eudora Welty, “Why I Live at the P.O.”
[FULL- Email to get on the waitlist.]
This hilarious short story presents the complex relationships of individuals to their family and community. What kinds of behavior and attitudes make a family functional or dysfunctional? How does a person achieve individuality? Can we attain clarity concerning language, truth, experience, and the world? No previous knowledge of Welty is necessary; just bring your thoughts, feelings, and imagination to our discussion of this classic story.