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Week 2 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, which meets both in the morning and in the afternoon. The week begins with registration and a reception on Sunday. Seminars run Monday through Friday.

Week 2 | July 8–13

Morning 10 a.m. to noon

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics

Judith Adam and Warren Winiarski

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics presents us with the question of the human good and the nature of our happiness. It then leads the reader through an exploration of those characteristics that we call virtues. Some that are familiar: courage, moderation, and justice. Others that are more surprising: magnificence, greatness of soul—and wittiness! In the seminar, we focus on Aristotle’s treatment of these virtues, along with the vices relative to each. We give particular attention to his robust and penetrating account of friendship, which seems to be a culmination of the good life.

Orwell’s Burmese Days and Kipling’s Kim

Steve Isenberg and Mike Peters

Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell were both born in India and spent considerable time in the East. Their writing illuminates the colonial experience, its exotic settings, and ancient cultures at times of tension with outside forces of ambition and authority. Kipling’s Kim (1901) takes place during the 19th-century clash of British and Russian aspirations in Afghanistan. The novel centers on a boy whose mixed identity, ability, and insight make him a valuable British asset in “the Great Game.” Orwell’s Burmese Days (1934) focuses on British colonial bureaucrats, centering on their club and the one member who stands as an outsider. It is a story of seething emotions and the abrasions that come with petty corruption, misunderstanding, and condescension. No one, British or Burmese, comes out unscarred.

Cervantes’s Don Quixote

Guillermo Bleichmar and Rebecca Goldner

In Don Quixote, first published in 1605, Cervantes gave birth to the modern novel and produced one of the most unforgettable figures in world literature: the “knight of the sorrowful figure,” a man whose strange and noble madness leaves in its wake a reimagined, possibly a recreated world. All that Cervantes—who had been a soldier, a captive of Barbary pirates, a down-and-out man of letters—had seen of life went into the book and into its uncommon hero, whose encounters with windmills, giants, shepherds, galley slaves, actors, and death itself subject reality to the high test of the imagination.

William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury

James Carey and Frank Pagano

William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, following the Shakespearean quotation in the title, begins as a tale told by an idiot. Benji, the youngest son of the Compson family, is the narrator of the first tale and the putative idiot of the novel. This is a brilliant beginning even by Faulkner’s standards. The tales in the novel are told by members of an aristocratic family in wholesale decline. All the tales focus on Candace Compson and her revolt against the social expectations defining the Southern woman. It is through the reaction of her brothers to Caddy’s rebellion that the novel maps the fall of the Southern family. The South becomes a land that has lost its last justification.

Tolstoy’s War and Peace

Litzi Engel and David Townsend

War and Peace may be the greatest novel yet written—a titanic mosaic of fiction, history, psychology, and philosophy. How, Tolstoy asks, are we to remain whole as we struggle with dialectics of both love and rage, poverty and abundance? While questioning the meaning of the individual in family, society, love, war, sickness, and death, Tolstoy makes us feel every scene deeply, intimately, and essentially: the startling white bodies of soldiers swimming in a muddy cattle pond, the calm glow of a crescent moon shining through the smoke of a bombardment, or the wrenching struggles of a tyrannized young woman waiting for her lover or her father. Throughout, Tolstoy boldly asks why. Why do we do what we do? Are our choices actually our own? How do individuals affect historical events? Finally, Tolstoy addresses the questions of history, freedom, and necessity in two stunning epilogues.

The Wine of the Beloved: Hidden Women in the Diwans of Goethe and Hafiz

Mary Di Lucia and Julie Reahard

Many know Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as Germany’s greatest poet, his Faust unparalleled in style and depth of philosophical thought. But despite current American and European interest in the culture of the Middle East, few are aware of Goethe’s West-East Diwan, an inter-cultural poetic dialogue with the vital, sensual ghazals of the Persian poet Hafiz. We explore the intertwined lyrics of these two men, their mirrored visions born of love and poetic game. We also encounter, beneath this unique interaction of spirit, the voices of “hidden women,” real life companions to Goethe and Hafiz. Each poet’s diwan owes its existence to antiphonal resonance with the poetic voices of women.

Afternoon 2 to 4 p.m.

Lucretius’s “On the Nature of Things”

Seth Appelbaum and Andrew Romiti

In his philosophical poem “On the Nature of Things,” Lucretius claims “to set out the deepest workings of the heavens and the gods, and to reveal the first beginnings of things.” The account he gives is one of atoms and void, and in expounding that account he touches upon a wide range of subjects, such as the structure of the cosmos, the nature of the soul, the development of civilization, and whether one should fear death. An encounter with Lucretius’s dazzling array of explanations gives rise to many questions about the nature of his philosophical endeavor and provides an opportunity to explore the basis of a comprehensive, material account.

The Origins of Film Noir in the 1950s

David Carl and Marsaura Shukla

In The Origins of Film Noir in the 1950s, we explore how film noir began challenging the themes of its early years, introducing a wider range of characters, conflicts, and psychological possibilities. From John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. to Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat and Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil, some of America’s greatest directors turned their attention to this well-established but still full-of-surprises genre. We end the week with a study of Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter, featuring amazing performances by Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish, and Shelley Winters.

Learn more about Film at Summer Classics

Morning and Afternoon
10 A.M. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m.

Quantum Theory

Grant Franks and Peter Pesic

Quantum theory is arguably the most radical and important innovation of 20th-century physics. We study its foundations by building small but faithful models of quantum states using simple devices with polarized light in order to present and discuss texts by Richard Feynman and Julian Schwinger, pioneers of modern quantum theory. Assuming no prior study of this material, all the needed mathematics is built up from the foundations.

Learn more about The Science Institute