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Week 1 Seminars - Summer Classics 2018

Choose up to two seminars from the choices below in order to spend the week delving into one or two seminar topics in-depth. A seminar includes a morning series of classes or an afternoon series of classes in a given week, with the exception of the Science Institute and Lessons in Leadership, which meet both in the morning and in the afternoon. The week begins with registration and a reception on Sunday. Seminars run Monday through Friday.

Week 1 | July 1–6

Morning 10 a.m. to noon

Epictetus’s Discourses

Ken Wolfe and Alan Zeitlin

A former slave in the Roman Empire, Epictetus became a Stoic philosopher and teacher with many prominent students, one of whom, Arrian, wrote down the Discourses of his master and preserved them for posterity. These lectures and discussions deal with how to find happiness, freedom, and peace of mind amidst life’s ongoing questions, challenges, and disturbances, such as death and disease, injustice and oppression, war and strife.

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

Andy Kingston and Maggie McGuinness

A groundbreaking work of the Harlem Renaissance and one of the seeds of 20th-century African-American literature, Invisible Man is also a deeply personal and stylistically radical novel about a young man coming of age alongside his country and his culture. It is an examination of how individuals and society confront and shape one another. It stands as one of the great American novels: a story about drugs and music, communism and capitalism, race and identity, food, fashion, passion, ambition, desire, social responsibility, and social betrayal. It is beautifully written, philosophically provocative, funny, critical, insightful, and illuminating—and, like all great works of fiction, it is as piercingly relevant to the issues and concerns of American society today as it was in the era in which it was written.

Melville’s Short Fiction: “Billy Budd,” “Benito Cereno,” “Bartleby the Scrivener”

Robert Abbott and Raoni Padui

Although he is universally known as the author of Moby Dick, Melville was also one of the masters of short fiction. Among his greatest short works are these three stories. Each depicts an apparently unremarkable but actually uncanny relationship—between sailor and officer, servant and master, clerk and employer. Billy Budd is bound to his envious superior by a hidden desire. The real relationship of Cereno to his servant is only revealed in the final pages of the story. Bartleby’s maniacally persistent reply, “I would prefer not to,” nearly drives his employer mad. How does our understanding of someone’s place in society change how we see them? What does it mean to depend on someone for your identity?

Jane Austen’s Emma

Ron Haflidson and Krishnan Venkatesh

The title character and heroine of Emma is an intelligent young woman who is confident in her skills at matchmaking. The novel follows her as she meddles in the lives of others—always, she justifies to herself and others, with the best of intentions. Participants in this seminar, whether long-time Austen fans or first-time readers, are sure to enjoy her singular ability to illuminate our human condition in such a way that provokes both insight and laughter.


Patricia Greer and David Townsend

The Yogavāsiṣṭha, composed in Kashmir between the 9th and 13th centuries CE, is one of Hinduism’s most important Sanskrit texts. It contains stories and mystical teachings given by the ancient sage Vasis. t.ha to young Prince Rā mā (of the Rāmāyana) while he is in the depths of spiritual despair and doubt. Traces of all the major schools of Indian philosophy, including Buddhism, can be found here, yet it is not a work of philosophy as such. Indeed, the Yogavāsiṣṭha is rather beyond classification, bending as it does time, reality, the self, illusion, and dream into a kind of cosmic knot. We read five stories from an abridged version of this massive work.

Afternoon 2 to 4 p.m.

The Book of Exodus

Ron Haflidson and Marsaura Shukla

What does it mean to be free? How are freedom and obedience related? The Book of Exodus, the second book of the Bible, tells the story of how God liberates the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and gives them a new moral code, the Ten Commandments. Given Exodus’s remarkable influence, many of us are likely familiar with at least one or two its vivid moments or iconic images, such as Moses and the burning bush and the parting of the Red Sea. In this seminar we have the rare opportunity to read and discuss Exodus from beginning to end, seeking to understand how these remarkable stories fit together and what they may have to say to us today about divinity and humanity, liberation and oppression, right and wrong.

The Origins of Film Noir in the 1940s

David Townsend and Krishnan Venkatesh

In The Origins of Film Noir in the 1940s, we examine five of the most influential examples of early film noir, from five of its greatest directors. We begin with three films that focus on powerful female characters who helped define and challenge the filmic trope of the femme fatale, from Otto Preminger’s Laura and Michael Curtiz’s Mildred Pierce to Charles Vidor’s Gilda. We end the week with a careful study of two films often referred to as the greatest examples of film noir: Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past and Carol Reed’s The Third Man.

Learn more about Film at Summer Classics

Morning and Afternoon
10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m.

The Origins of Calculus

Phil Bartok and Guillermo Bleichmar

Developed by Newton and Leibniz in the 17th century, the branch of mathematics known as calculus has played a critical role in modern science and engineering. But what is calculus, and how was it developed? We begin with Newton’s forays into differential and integral calculus in his Principia Mathematica, then turn to Leibniz’s more abstract treatment of the same ideas. We examine the fundamental theorem of calculus, which asserts a surprisingly deep connection between the basic concepts of the derivative and the integral. Finally, we consider Bishop Berkeley’s famous critique of infinitesimals. Along the way, we study fascinating applications of calculus to real-world problems in science and economics. No prior knowledge is required, as we build our understanding from the ground up.

Learn more about The Science Institute

East Meets West

Charles Bergman and David Carl

What do Western and Eastern classical traditions have to teach us about leadership? Can principles that have endured over the centuries be applied to our own present moment? In Lessons in Leadership from the Classics: East Meets West, participants delve into texts by four authors from distinctive cultural and historic traditions: Plutarch, Confucius, Sun Tzu, and Machiavelli. We consider the range of practical leadership tactics and techniques as applied by the four authors, surveying military and political strategies for building consensus, motivating allies, combating opposition, bolstering tradition, and innovating in the face of changing circumstances. By placing these texts in dialogue with each other, we both deepen our understanding of them and discover how to connect them to today’s world, examining leadership lessons from the past in the context of the present.

Learn more about Lessons in Leadership