Can A Book Be a Friend?

Zena Hitz + Mary Elizabeth Halper

Is a book dead or alive? Can one be friends with a book, or with the author behind the book? What are the promises and hazards of such friendships? Should we seek stability, loyalty, and reassurance of our deepest convictions and impulses? Or do real friends provide conflict, mystery, and depth, challenging and surprising us continually with new insights and contradictions? What if a friendship isn’t dyadic in nature, but triadic, requiring a third element to complete it—such as fine wine or a shared spiritual yearning? Are some friends more suited to lifelong friendship than others and, if so, why? In this episode, Annapolis tutor Mary Elizabeth Halpern and host Zena Hitz explore the very personal relationships that humans have with books, and with the complex questions they bring up in all of us.

In this Episode

  • Mary Elizabeth Halper
    Guest Mary Elizabeth Halper

    Mary Elizabeth Halper is a tutor at St. John's College. This semester, she is exploring the origins of modern atomic theory in freshman laboratory and the motion of the sun in freshman mathematics.

  • Zena Hitz
    Host Zena Hitz

    Zena Hitz (A95) is a tutor at St. John’s College. This semester, she is performing Lavoisier's experiments in freshman laboratory, reading English poetry in sophomore language, and pondering Machiavelli in sophomore seminar.

Featured Release

The power and beauty of Homer’s imagery in the Iliad is undeniable, and his scenes of battle often prompt vexing questions about ancient and modern virtues. Can killing and dying in war be beautiful? Is a just cause required for glory to be gained? Is war a courageous way of fulfilling human nature and, ultimately, of embracing the reality that death awaits us all? This episode, in which Annapolis host Louis Petrich and tutor Erica Beall delve into the dramatic contrasts that make Homer’s work powerful and war potentially beautiful, invites us to question our own modern perspectives on this ancient text.

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Executive Producers Welcome

Continuing the Conversation was funded through the philanthropy of donors to St. John’s College. If you’d like to give to the college’s Annual Fund, your gift will go to support the kinds of inquiry and conversation that comes to life at St. John’s College. It also frees up money for creative projects like this one, which brings great conversation and great books into homes across the world.


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St. John’s College invites the community to awaken their intellect by engaging in mindful exploration. The college offers an array of online and in-person events, ranging from world-class concerts and art exhibitions to lectures and theater performances, as well as tutor-led seminars that provide lifelong learners opportunities to study the Great Books.

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