Dean’s Lecture Series

2020–21 Academic Year Lectures

Lectures will be held virtually through 2020–21. They are free and available to the public and are followed by a question-and-answer period.

Recordings and transcripts of lectures are available on the SJC Digital Archives site.

2020 Fall Semester

Lecture Schedule for 2020 Fall Semester
Date Speaker/Event Topic
Friday
September 4, 2020
4:30 p.m. MT
Steven Forde
St. John’s College, Annapolis
“Poetry, Prosperity and the gods in Hesiod’s Works and Days
The ancient poet Hesiod was roughly contemporary with Homer, but his Works and Days seems decidedly un-Homeric. It is playful, mocking, not afraid to get its hands dirty—the “works” here are plowing, sowing and reaping. This lecture will focus on the first section of the work, which seems to be a disjointed series of rather murky episodes. Here we find the famous account of the “ages of man,” the gold, silver, bronze and iron races that Plato and other authors made use of; the parable of the hawk and the nightingale; and the story of Prometheus and Pandora. The lecture will trace a few threads through these passages. Themes that emerge include the merits of work and the best way of life, and the character and adequacy of Zeus’s providence.
Friday
September 11
4:30 p.m. MT
J. Walter Sterling, Dea
St. John’s College, Santa Fe
“‘The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself’: Reflecting with Montaigne on Liberation of the Intellect and Education in Times of Crisis”
The lecture will blend reflections on education in times of crisis, including a discussion of the founding of the St. John’s Program, with an examination of Montaigne’s understanding of education and its ends. Montaigne, who lived through plague and civil war, is one of the few authors who can stake a claim to have forged the modern individual. His response to the crises of his times was to cultivate a new literary form, the “essay,” devoted to a new topic, “myself,” and to send out a renewed or radicalized call for freedom of thought, independent judgment, and self-possession.
Wednesday
September 16
4:30 p.m. MT
Benjamin Baum, Caroline Randall, Piér Quintana, Cesar Cervantes, Martha Franks, Guillermo Bleichmar, and Walter Sterling
St. John’s College, Annapolis
Constitution Day Panel Discussion: Grutter v. Bollinger
For our annual event recognizing Constitution Day, this Wednesday afternoon a panel of faculty and staff will lead a discussion on (excerpts from) the landmark Supreme Court case, Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), in which, writing for the majority, Sandra Day O’Connor articulates a constitutional framework for, and surveys public policy surrounding, considerations of race and student diversity in the context of college admissions. This case underlies the more recent rulings in Fisher v. University of Texas (2013, 2016).

For those who wish to attend, you may find a review of encyclopedia entries or journalistic reporting on the case (and related cases such as Fisher) sufficient. However, the entire case can be found on the Justia website (among other places). We will focus on O’Connor’s majority opinion and Thomas’ dissent. We may also consider two opinion pieces spurred by recent cases, written by Ben Baum, the college’s Vice President for Enrollment, and an opinion piece by Dean Sterling—as well as St. John College’s own diversity statement, which was approved by the faculty in 2007 and reflects the last major addition to the Statement of the Program:

The aim of the education offered by St. John’s College is the liberation of the human intellect. This is an education for all, regardless of a person’s race, sex, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression. By reading great books and struggling together with the fundamental questions that they raise, students and their teachers learn from their differences and discover more deeply their shared humanity. In this and other ways, a diversity of background and experience enriches our community of learning. Because it offers an education for all, St. John’s College has sought and continues to seek to make its program of study known and available to people of diverse backgrounds. (Statement of the St. John’s College Program, p. 3)

Opinion pieces:
Friday
September 18
4:30 p.m. MT
Peter Pesic, Musician in Residence
St. John’s College, Santa Fe
“Voice of Sky, Voice of Earth: Music and Time”
Zoom Link: zoom.us/j/99277315625

Throughout history, music has been both a powerful mode of emotional expression (the voice of the earth) as well as a dispassionate transcendence of emotion, the “music of the spheres” that nurtured the sciences (the voice of the sky). This concert centers on J. S. Bach’s Art of Fugue, his final, unfinished masterpiece, along with “L’alouette lulu” (The woodlark) by Olivier Messiaen.
Friday
September 25
4:30 p.m. MT
David Carl, David McDonald, and Krishnan Venkatesh
St. John’s College, Santa Fe
Tutor Panel on Photography
How do we respond to a photograph as a work of art rather than as visual document? How do photographs move us aesthetically? How can we learn to look at photographs—learn to see what they have to show us and to think about what they might conceal? This panel will consider some of the historic, aesthetic, philosophic and cultural implications of photography in contemporary society. Three tutors will offer three different ways of thinking about these and related questions, while reflecting more broadly on the status of photography, the visual arts, and aesthetic education as part of the St. John’s Program. ​​​​​​
Friday
October 2
4:30 p.m. MT
Alfredo Corchado
Author & Journalist
A Conversation on “Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration” and the Politics of Immigration
Details coming soon
Wednesday
October 21
4:30 p.m. MT
Cary Stickney
St. John’s College, Santa Fe
Lecture on Incommensurability
Details coming soon
Friday
October 23
4:30 p.m. MT
Erika Martinez
St. John’s College, Santa Fe
Lecture on Genesis
Details coming soon
Friday
November 6
4:30 p.m. MT
J. Scott Lee A Discussion on “Invention: The Art of the Liberal Arts” 2nd Chapter
For too long the liberal arts have been neglected or diminished for other, seemingly more important, concerns in advocating for liberal education. After establishing this premise, the lecture will turn to illustrate how a concentration on the liberal arts could help to revivify education in them. To illustrate why and how a concentration on liberal arts in liberal education might lead us to invention and the future, the lecture will center on Alberti’s On Painting and on Botticelli’s Uffizi Adoration.
Wednesday
November 11
4:30 p.m. MT
Howard Fisher
St. John’s College, Santa Fe
“The Magnificent Pendulums”
With Galileo, we learn to understand the two natural motions by reducing change to constancy (constant speed, constant acceleration). But trying to understand the motion of a pendulum by Galileo’s way generates an infinite task. Instead, we look to the Form of pendular motion: the Paradigm Circle. To what extent does the Paradigm Circle tell us which properties of the pendulum are essential to its distinctive motion, and which are merely extrinsic or fortuitous?

We will look at several pendulum clock mechanisms, as well as a mechanical device that demonstrates the relation between the pendulum and its Paradigm.
Friday
November 13
4:30 p.m. MT
Martha Franks
St. John’s College, Santa Fe
Lecture on International Law
Details coming soon
Friday
November 20
4:30 p.m. MT
Bree Wooten
St. John’s College, Santa Fe
Lecture on De Anima
Details coming soon