Week 1 Seminars - Summer Classics 2020

Take one seminar in the morning or afternoon, and spend your free time re-reading for the next day’s seminar or exploring the city and mountains of Santa Fe—as well as our beautiful campus. Take two seminars, morning and afternoon, and immerse yourself in an intensive week.

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 which meets both in the morning and in the afternoon. You can choose one (morning or afternoon) or up to two seminars a week, (morning and afternoon). The week begins with registration and a reception on Sunday. Seminars run Monday through Friday.

Week 1 | July 5–10

Morning 10 a.m.–noon

Homer’s Illiad

Eric Salem and Marsaura Shukla

“Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son, Achilleus.” So begins Homer’s epic poem, set in the tenth and final year of the Trojan War. Insulted by Agamemnon, Achilleus stays back from the fighting until his companion Patroklos is killed by Hector. He then joins the battle to avenge Patroklos’s death, knowing that doing so means he himself will die at Troy. In the course of unfolding the story of Achilleus’s anger, the Iliad presents a vision of human life that invites us to think deeply about the nature of honor, friendship, civic life, familial ties, and mortality.

Dante and Beatrice in Paradise

Michael Golluber and Tom May

Paradiso is the last and perhaps greatest part of Dante’s epic Commedia, its third and final canticle, in which the poet is guided from the summit of the mountain of Purgatorio to the very presence of God. With Dante and his beloved Beatrice we travel through the successive heavenly spheres of planets and stars to the flaming sphere of the Empyrean. We meet an array of saints (some canonized and some unknown), emperors and soldiers, monastics and mendicants, royals and commoners, prophets and martyrs, all filled with light and joy—and some with shocking yet blessed rage as well. Small wonder, then, that the poet Shelley judged this to be “the most glorious imagination of modern poetry.”

Heidegger’s Bremen Lectures

Topi Heikkero and Ian Moore

In this seminar we carefully read and discuss the influential opus magnum of Martin Heidegger’s late thought: the four lectures he delivered to lay audiences in the late 1940s under the title “Insight Into That Which Is” (also known as the Bremen Lectures). In these lectures Heidegger analyzes such wide-ranging themes as the meaning of mortality, art, and technique; the dangerous effects that planetary technology is having on our relationship to the world; and the true value of non-objectified things. Prior acquaintance with Heidegger’s thought is not required.

Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

Steven Isenberg and Mike Peters

Dostoyevsky is among the most powerfully affecting of Russian novelists, and The Brothers Karamazov is his greatest work. Set in Russia during the late 19th-century period of social and political unrest that ultimately led to the 1917 Revolution, it is in various parts murder mystery, family saga, psychological study, morality play, and philosophical and theological inquiry. Dostoyevsky presents an imaginative tableau of characters who fully inhabit their vivacity, as do the intense circumstances and eternal questions that overhang the work. Testimony to its richness and reach is the fact that a wag, when once asked for a recommended reading list for a course on fathers and sons, responded, “Read The Brothers Karamazov for an entire term.”

Hasidic Wisdom Tales

Guillermo Bleichmar and David Carl

Tales of the Hasidim, by Martin Buber, represents a Jewish storytelling tradition of great moral and theological depth, an attempt to express a view of the world as filled with divine presence, where human righteousness arises not from duty but from a kind of fundamental joy. Poignant, enigmatic, and often filled with a strange humor, these brief parables and tales give glimpses of a mysterious and forgiving wisdom. In the words of the Baal Shem Tov, regarded as the founder of Hasidic Judaism, “The world is full of enormous lights and mysteries, and man shuts them from himself with one small hand!”

Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility

Ron Haflidson and Krishnan Venkatesh

Sense and Sensibility tells of sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. As the novel unfolds, both fall in love, and both see that love come under threat. These two sisters, it seems, could not be more different, and by tracing their respective romances, readers are offered contrasting portraits of women in love. Throughout the novel, Austen explores the dynamic interactions between reason and emotion, virtue and vice, love and money, men and women, and, of course, sense and sensibility. Participants, whether longtime Austen fans or first-time readers, are sure to enjoy Austen’s singular ability to illuminate our human condition in such a way that provokes both insight and laughter.

Afternoon 2–4 p.m.

Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Michael Dink and Jay Smith

Like its better known sibling in the field of political economy, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments brings to bear, in the field of moral theory, a combination of comprehensive, systematic thinking, with careful and detailed observation of everyday phenomena. Smith not only shows how to construct an entire moral theory on the basis of our tendency to sympathize with others and our desire for others to sympathize with us, but he fills it out with a wealth of detail and a full complement of subtle and nuanced distinctions: between propriety and merit; between the love of praise and the love of praiseworthiness; and among pride, vanity, and the love of true glory.

Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain

Kathleen Longwaters and Julie Reahard

Thomas Mann set out to write a short, satirical piece on life in a sanatorium. Twelve years later, he ended up with a novel of more than 700 pages, The Magic Mountain, published in 1924. Just as its central character, Hans Castorp, comes down with a bit of a bug while visiting a sanatorium, only to be diagnosed with tuberculosis and persuaded to remain there for seven years, Mann appears to have been held in a greater grip by the elements of the novel than he first realized. And just as pilgrims brought together on a journey often share a single goal but little else, Mann’s characters, thrown together on the mountain, share disease and a confrontation with death. This commonality throws into sharp relief their differing inclinations and world views, ultimately shedding light on the intellectual and spiritual conflicts of pre-war society.


Treasures of Scandinavian Cinema: Three Masterpieces by Carl Theodore Dreyer

David Carl and Krishnan Venkatesh
Imagine that we are sitting in an ordinary room. Suddenly we are told that there is a corpse behind the door. In an instant, the room we are sitting in is completely altered: everything in it has taken on another look. The light, the atmosphere have changed, though they are physically the same. This is because we have changed and the objects are as we conceive them. That is the effect I want to get in my film.
—Carl Theodore Dreyer

Every list of the ten greatest films includes at least one by Dreyer. His most famous masterpiece is The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), a concise, searing drama with an unforgettable Maria Falconetti in the title role. Ordet (1955) is a powerful, disturbing film concerning a young man who thinks he is Jesus Christ and the repercussions on the faith of those around him. The third film, Gertrud (1964), is an often sublime study of uncompromising will and reckoning with oneself that features Nina Pens Rode as a woman who leaves her marriage in search of fulfillment. Dreyer never ceased to experiment or reinvent himself, and each of these three films is uniquely peculiar, but all of them share an otherworldly, visionary feel while still being deeply rooted in human experience and emotions. They are the work of a director unafraid of the wilder reaches of the human heart and unintimidated by questions of faith.

Learn more about Film at Summer Classics

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

The Ancient Art of Sky-Watching: Ptolemy, Brahe, and Kepler

William Donahue and Phil LeCuyer

For thousands of years, long before the invention of the telescope, people made remarkably accurate observations of stars and planets, observations that led to a view of cosmic order that shaped the entire course of Western science. How did they do it? What were the problems they had to solve? At St. John’s, we have just installed the world’s only functioning replica of one of the most technologically advanced instruments of the pre-telescopic era: the Tychonic armillary sphere. After testing Ptolemy’s older methods, we use Tycho Brahe’s instrument and see for ourselves the techniques that made Kepler’s great achievements possible. We do as much observation as weather permits, including a visit to a dark-sky site.

Learn more about The Science Institute