The Thrill of Literature—and of the Universe

Sarah Davis + Grant Franks

Is it important to feel when we read literature? Or when we learn math and science? On a related front, what is the role of order and disruption in literature, in life, and in our observation of the universe? In this episode, Santa Fe host Sarah Davis and tutor Grant Franks explore the meaning and value of feeling, then launch into a wide-ranging conversation about the ways in which emotion, order, chaos, and discovery seem central to great literature, to world-changing shifts in math and science, and to one’s own sense of self and belonging. Through dramatic moments and characters in the Iliad, the Aeneid, and The Brothers Karamazov to Newton’s Principia Mathematica and Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, this episode investigates what makes us feel and how to feel about deep feeling.

In this Episode

  • Grant Franks
    Guest Grant Franks

    Grant Franks (A77) is a tutor at St. John’s College. This semester, he is pondering Joyce in sophomore seminar and discussing Darwin in senior laboratory.

  • Host Sarah Davis

    Sarah Davis is a tutor at St. John’s College. This semester, she is discussing Aristotle in freshman seminar and Dedekind’s theory of numbers in junior mathematics.

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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