St. John’s College Brings World-Class Speakers to Santa Fe for Spring Dean’s Lecture and Concert Series

SANTA FE, NM [January 15, 2024] — St. John’s College has announced its spring formal lecture series. On Friday evenings, members of the St. John’s College community gather in the Great Hall to hear a lecture or concert from visiting scholars, artists, poets, or faculty. Lecturers include members of the St. John’s College faculty — known as tutors — and professors from notable universities across the country. Each lecture is followed by a question period and an engaging discussion between the lecturer and attendees.

“We are proud to bring world-class thought leaders and major musicians to Santa Fe,” says St. John’s College President Mark Roosevelt. “I encourage all members of the community to join us for the lectures and performances this spring.”

All lectures and concerts are held at 7 p.m. in the Great Hall at St. John’s College, 1160 Camino de Cruz Blanca, Santa Fe, NM 87505, unless otherwise noted. They are free and open to the public. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

“The lecture series supplements our discussion-based program. It gives members of the community the opportunity to consider sustained arguments from scholars of diverse backgrounds across a wide variety of disciplines,” says Dean of the College Sarah Davis. “Attendees are invited to engage directly with the lecturer in the question period that follows, which is an integral and dynamic part of the event.”

The 2024 lectures are:

  • January 19, 7:30 p.m.: Tutors David Carl, Aparna Ravilochan, and Ron Wilson will hold “How to Read a Movie,” a panel discussion on film.

Through close readings of scenes from three films — Ernie Gehr’s “Side/Walk/Shuttle,” Claire Denis’ “Beau Travail,” and the opening scene of Bela Tarr’s “Satantango” — Mr. Wilson, Ms. Ravilochan, and Mr. Carl will offer a series of reflections on the relationship between cinema and the liberal arts, the question “how to read a movie?” and the broader stakes and possibilities for the study of cinema in contemporary society. Our comments will focus on the visual, auditory, and technical aspects of film rather than its narrative dimensions in order to explore the idea of “film as film” rather than primarily as a medium of storytelling, with an eye towards such questions as: When is “going to the movies” a kind of education in seeing? How can “watching a movie” be a form of critical, hermeneutic, pedagogical, and aesthetic engagement with the world around us? And how can a serious engagement with the art of cinema broaden and deepen our encounters with that world?

  • January 26: Tutors Marsaura Shukla and Sarah Stickney will deliver “A Reading of William Darkey’s Translation as a Liberal Art: Notes Toward a Definition.”

William Darkey (1921-2009) was a tutor at St. John’s College for over six decades. He was a founding member of the Santa Fe campus and also served as its dean. This lecture was delivered on Friday, November 14, 1975.

  • February 2: Annapolis Tutor Patricia Locke will deliver the National Endowment for the Humanities lecture titled “Hair, Clothes, Brush: On Becoming Human in The Tale of Genji.”
  • February 16: Ethan Linck, assistant professor of biology at the University of Montana, will deliver “Ecology, Evolution, and Ontology of Elevational Ranges.”

The elevational distributions of organisms have long fascinated scientists, an interest that has burgeoned with expectations of upslope movement of species in response to climate warming. Yet tests of this hypothesis have produced conflicting results, perhaps due to varied approaches and assumptions. In this lecture I will explore the historical roots of the concept of the elevational range in ecology and evolutionary biology, highlighting how it has been treated as both a byproduct of other phenomena and an object of study in its own right. I will then argue that this divide has created ontological and statistical issues for the field, and suggest areas for improvement.

  • February 23: Tutor Howard Fisher will deliver "What is the Measure of Electricity?"

Faraday made use of numerous electrical measuring instruments; but what, exactly, did they measure? What properties of electricity are “measurable” at all? Faraday’s efforts to identify these properties raised a question which Meno would have recognized: how can we know the properties of electricity unless we first know what electricity actually is?

  • March 1: Matthew Spellberg will deliver a lecture on Haida myths.
  • March 29: Tutor Frank Pagano will deliver “Modernity for Fools and Knaves: Machiabelli’s Mandragola and Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well.”
  • Tutor Alison Chapman will lead “A Monument without a Tomb: St. John’s Celebrates Major Scenes from Shakespeare’s First Folio,” a tutor panel on Shakespeare.

In his Preface to the First Folio (1623), Shakespeare’s friend and fellow author Ben Jonson described the Bard as a “monument without a tomb,” attempting to capture Shakespeare’s enduring vitality as both poet and playwright. St. John’s College students know deeply the truth of these words, as the Bard lives in so many parts of our campus — in our seminars, in our tutorials, and on stage in the Great Hall. In honor of the 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio, the Dean’s Lecture Committee is pleased to present a Tutor Panel that will consider major scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. The talks given by the tutors will be in conversation with the scenes performed by student theater troupe Chrysostomos earlier in the week. We hope that members of the community will attend both events and bring their thoughts and reflections for the question period.

  • April 12: Pierre Julien Harter, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of New Mexico, will deliver the annual Rohrbach lecture on the topic of Buddhist metaphysics.
  • April 19: Tutor Llyd Wells will deliver “Clima(c)tic Change: Twenty Million Hands and the Living, Wavering Globe.”

Climatic change demands of us climactic change. We have yet fully to admit it. Perhaps we never shall. Can we be serious about climate change? How? That’s the core of this lecture, which will try to be serious scientifically, philosophically, and literarily.

  • April 26: Steven Crowell, philosopher and professor emeritus at Rice University, will deliver “The Challenge of Heidegger’s Approach to Technology.”

Of all the writings Heidegger published after Being and Time,“The Question Concerning Technology” (1950) is surely the most widely taught and discussed. It is not hard to understand why. Since 1950, our dependence on technical devices, and the environmental consequences of technological manipulation of nature, have only become more oppressive, and Heidegger’s essay provides an intuitively powerful expression of the uneasiness we feel. All the same, the text is one of Heidegger’s most obscure, and so it is not easy to assess what Heidegger says about technology and his stated hope of establishing a “free relation” to it through a “thinking” that is other than philosophy. How should we take the measure of a kind of thinking that seems to shun traditional measures like reason and logic for one that has been forgotten since the time of Parmenides? This is the challenge of Heidegger’s approach to technology. My lecture will address this challenge by discussing two strands in Heidegger’s approach: a phenomenological strand, which defines what Heidegger considers the “matter” for thinking, and an historical strand, which contextualizes the phenomenological strand in a “History of Being,” according to which philosophy itself is responsible for nihilism. I will argue that the phenomenological strand — which highlights the connection between meaning and thinking — is independent of the historical strand and should be preserved, while the latter is a distraction. The argument is organized into three sections: Phenomenology, the Danger, and Thinking.

Visit the Dean’s Lecture and Concert Series on the Santa Fe Campus for more information and additional lecture details. To learn about other events at St. John’s College, see the Events Calendar.


St. John’s College is the most distinctive college in the country due to our interdisciplinary program, in which 200 of the most revolutionary great books from across 3,000 years of human thought are explored in student-driven, discussion-based classes. By probing world-changing ideas in literature, philosophy, mathematics, science, music, history, and more, students leave St. John’s with a foundation for success in such fields as law, government, research, STEM, media, and education. Located on two campuses in two historic state capitals—Santa Fe, New Mexico and Annapolis, Maryland—St. John’s is the third-oldest college in the United States and has been hailed as the “most forward-thinking, future-proof college in America” by Quartz and as a “high-achieving angel hovering over the landscape of American higher education” by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more at

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This schedule was updated on February 19, 2024.