Donald Antenen is a student at the St. John’s College Graduate Institute in Annapolis.
St. John’s College: What brought you to St. John’s?
Donald Antenen: I went to the University of Pennsylvania, where I studied classical languages—Greek, biblical Hebrew, Latin. I had a craving for being able to talk about the ideas in a lot of the texts, so I ran an informal Plato seminar in Philadelphia every summer. We’d pick one or two dialogues and meet once a week to read and discuss it. It was great, but I guess I wanted to do that with more than just Plato.
SJC: How have you found the discussion at St. John’s?
DA: There’s a leveling that’s happening in American higher education, so this place definitely stands out. Learning how to talk about a text and learning how to speak in a group is hard, it’s something that takes a lot of cultivation, so that’s something that happens here.
You also get to meet a lot of fascinating characters, both in the faculty and the student body, with a remarkably broad range of intellectual interests. I met a young woman today who’s an undergraduate; she’s very taken with German opera. She was listening to a lecture about [Wagner’s] Ring Cycle and debating whether or not to write her senior essay about it. The next student you meet will be really interested in mathematics or astronomy or something and this place allows those things to sit side by side.
SJC: How are you getting involved in the community?
DA: I work at the library. It’s a nice library, a beautiful building. The periodicals the library subscribes to offer an interesting commentary on the school, I think; there are lots of periodicals about the history of math and science, which I think is one of the implicit undercurrents of this school. I also run a Latin study group.
SJC: How does community help you learn?
DA: Instead of going and listening to one philosopher, instead of the authority being an individual teacher, here the authorities and the institution are the Program itself. Also, in the GI there’s a huge range of ages and experiences. You have people who have careers as doctors who are reading a science text, and then someone else who was in the military, someone else who’s just out of undergrad, and so on. [The reading and discussion] is preparing you to re-read texts and establish friendships such that when you do those re-readings you’ll have people to do them with.
—Brady Lee (AGI14)