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Community Seminar Series

Community Seminars are an opportunity to read and discuss great works in the unique St. John’s manner. Our discussion-based learning model provides participants a fresh experience remarkably different from typical learning venues. The small, intimate setting ensures spirited dialogue where all participants have a voice. Seminars are open to curious minds from our surrounding community, including high school aged students and adults of all ages.

Single-Session Seminars

Shakespeare’s Prospero: Poet or Scientist?

Tutor: Natalie Elliot
Saturday, September 24, 1 to 3 p.m.
Cost: $35

Readers and audiences of the Tempest have long regarded its hero either as a representative of the poet and his art, or as an image of the Renaissance magu—a proto-scientist who practices alchemy and dark magic. For this seminar we will turn to the text and the stage to explore these contrasting interpretations of Prospero. Participants will be expected to prepare a careful reading of the play, and view one screening of the Tempest in advance of the seminar. Any edition of Shakespeare’s Tempest is acceptable.


Please prepare a careful reading of the Tempest in advance of the seminar. Please either attend the screenings of the performance or view on your own prior to the seminar. St. John’s College will offer a screening of the Tempest. The exact time and location for the screening on the morning of Saturday, September 24, will be shared with registrants.

Register Online

Aristotle on the Justice and Injustice of Each Regime

Tutor: Allison Levy
Sunday, October 23, 1 to 3 p.m.
Cost: $35

In this seminar, we will discuss Aristotle’s classic analysis of political regimes. We will consider the advantages, disadvantages, and claims of justice of each particular form of government as well as what is common to all; through this study, we hope to clarify Aristotle’s understanding of the purpose of political life and the difficulties of attending it.

Aristotle’s Politics, Oxford World’s Classics, translated by Ernest Barker, ISBN-13: 978-0192833938 or ISBN-10: 0192833936


Part of Book 3 of Aristotle’s Politics: 1278b6 – 1288b2

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Multiple-Session Seminars

Tolkien, The Return of the King

Tutor: Krishnan Venkatesh
Saturdays, 10 a.m. to noon; October 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29 and November 5
Cost: $210

This is our third season of study devoted to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it is not necessary to have taken the previous two seminar series to be able to participate in this one. All that is necessary is to have read the first two volumes. The Lord of the Rings, we have found in our discussions, is a book written for grown-ups. Frodo Baggins, a hobbit in his 50s, is jolted out of his comfortable life to become the main player in a cosmic drama of good and evil. What are good and evil in Tolkien’s world? What is happiness, and what is misery? The final volume of the trilogy presents us with several versions of heroism, but most moving of all is the growing tension between Sam and Frodo, and the culmination of the passion of Gollum. The Return of the King is one of the masterpieces of epic fantasy and sets the standard for the genre. We hope you can join us in our exploration.


  1. Book 5, Chapters 1 to 3
  2. Chapters 4 to 8
  3. Chapters 9 to 10; Book 6, Chapters 1 to 2
  4. Chapters 3 to 6
  5. Chapters 7 to 9
  6. Discussion of the whole trilogy

Register Online

Selected Classic American Photographs

Tutor: Philip LeCuyer
Tuesdays, 5 to 6:30 p.m.; November 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29 and December 6 and 13
Cost: $245

There will be seven sessions which will meet on consecutive Tuesdays from November 1 to December 13. The meeting time will be 5 to 6:30. At each session three photographs will be discussed, all of which are viewable cost-free on the internet and will be projected during the discussions.

The photographers whose work will be studied are Alfred Steiglitz (2), Edward Steichen (2), Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine, W. Eugene Smith, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Gary Winogrand (2), Lee Friedlander, Paul Strand (2), Nick Nixon, Mary Ellen Mark, Berenice Abbott, and Robert Adams.

Readings excerpted from Thomas Aquinas (on the question ‘what is an image’), James Joyce, Ansel Adams (on technique), and essays on the work of Dorothea Lange and Paul Strand by Robert Adams will be provided in hand-out form. Robert Adams’s book Beauty in Photography, the title essay of which was originally presented as lecture here at St. John’s College in 1976, will be available in the campus bookstore.


Session I: Pictorialism

Alfred Stieglitz, Sunlight and Shadows Paula Berlin 1889
Edward Steichen, Flatiron Building 1904
Alfred Stieglitz, Flatiron Building 1903

Reading: excerpts from Thomas Aquinas and James Joyce

Session II: Clarification

Edward Weston, Shell (front view) 1927
Edward Steichen, Greta Garbo 1927
Ansel Adams, Moonrise over Hernandez 1941

Reading: Ansel Adams excerpts

Session III: Documentation

Jacob Riis, Blind Beggar 1888
Lewis Hine, Spinner in Whitnel Cotton Mill 1908
W. Eugene Smith, Welsh Coal Miners 19??

Reading: Robert Adams’ chapter ‘Photographing Evil’

Session IV: Documentation

Walker Evans, Allie Mae Burroughs 1936
Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother 1936
Diane Arbus, Woman on a Bus 1957

Reading: Robert Adams essay on Dorothea Lange (hand-out)

Session V: Street Life

Gary Winogrand, Seals in Central Park Zoo, New York City, 1967
Gary Winogrand, American Legion Convention Dalles 1964

Lee Friedlander, New Orleans, 1968

Session VI: Portraits

Paul Strand, Mr. Bennet, 1944
Nick Nixon, Brown Sisters, New Canaan Connecticut 1975
Mary Ellen Mark, Tiny, Halloween, Seattle, 1983

Reading: Robert Adams’ essay on Paul Strand (hand-out)

Session VII: Lifescapes

Berenice Abbott, Blossom Restaurant
Paul Strand, Toward the Sugarhouse, Vermont 1944
Robert Adams, Genoa, Colorado

Reading: Robert Adams chapter ‘Beauty in Photography’

Register Online

More Information

For more information, please contact Carolyn Kingston by phone at 505-984-6118 or e-mail at

Information and Policies

Teacher Discount

Full-time teachers with proof of current employment can enroll in a Community Seminar at a 50-percent discount. Community Seminars are free to 11th- and 12th-grade high school students (limited spaces available).

Purchasing Materials

Texts are available for purchase at the St. John’s College Bookstore. Unless otherwise noted, participants are expected to obtain the reading materials and read before the seminar.

Cancellation Policy

Refunds are available to participants who cancel at least one week prior to the first seminar meeting.

Gift Certificates

Give the gift of education. Gift certificates available.