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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 in Weeks 2 and 3, which meets both in the morning and in the afternoon. If you take any other two seminars, morning and afternoon, you will receive a discount for immersing yourself in an intensive week. Seminars run Monday through Friday. Optional evening events—lectures, panels, socials—will be added throughout the week.
The genre of autobiography was effectively inaugurated by Augustine’s Confessions, a stunning account of the life of an African teacher and leader struggling to find his identity and calling during the turbulent decline of the Roman Empire. Through deeply moving personal narrative, the author investigates the meaning of sensation, childhood, idea, free will, time, the practice of reading, and the very nature of language. As it charts the emerging life of a great soul, this great book challenges its readers to distinguish love from lust, freedom from fate, and truth from appearance. You are cautioned that your relationships to family, friends, children, and parents—as well as your sense of love itself—may be altered as you explore what it means to be a human being in the world.
In The Ambassadors, Henry James posits that an American man who wants to learn about women must travel to Europe. But Mr. Strether, the novel’s protagonist, is on a mission. The woman he intends to marry has sent him to Paris to recover her son from what she believes to be a life of debauchery. Strether’s fascination with European ways opens up possibilities he never before could have imagined. In this highly acclaimed turn-of-the-20th-century novel, James explores the subtlety of human relations while contrasting the refinement of Europe with the upright morality of America.
Flags in the Dust is Faulkner’s first novel in the Yoknapatawpha chronicles. It is directly connected to his later novels, especially The Unvanquished, As I Lay Dying, and Sanctuary. It is in many ways the essential key to the underlying Southern theme of most of his novels. Young Bayard Sartoris returns from World War I to the city of Jefferson unscathed, but his twin brother died in an aerial dogfight. Bayard cannot come to terms with his own survival. This is the South. It cannot come to terms with its survival from the Civil War. Did it survive? Or does it live on in a half-death? Nowhere else in Faulkner’s corpus is the problem revealed so clearly.
A wonderful beach read that will also get one through the long winter nights, Moby-Dick is surely a major contender for the title of Great American Novel of the 19th Century, and together we discuss it 27 chapters at a time, tackling the epilogue on the seminar’s fifth day. As a former whaler himself, Melville writes brilliantly both about what he knows and about what we all don’t know: who we are, where we are, and what we are really doing. There is no other book like it.
This seminar is also offered in the afternoon.
Never has the political thought of Hannah Arendt been more urgently relevant. We begin with three famous essays from her Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), reading first “Perplexities of the Rights of Man,” which brazenly charges the liberal institution of human rights with complicity in the rise of totalitarianism (of which Nazism is an instance), and then “Total Domination” and “Ideology and Terror,” where Arendt categorizes totalitarianism as an entirely new political modality, distinct even from tyranny and characterized by “radical evil.” We close with the ferociously controversial book Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), in which Arendt reflects upon the moral and legal enigmas that arise in the attempt to judge a war criminal whose form of evil she would now call, notoriously, “banal.”
Love in the Time of Cholera is the story of two lovers who are alternately brought together and pulled apart during a period of radical cultural change in South America in the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries. Against the backdrop of a love affair which sustains itself over five decades hovers the constant threat of cholera which plagues this Caribbean port city. In Spanish “colera” can refer to both the disease and the emotion of passion. This passion/disease allows our two lovers to confront the conflict between the realities of physical love and the ideals of spiritual love. As the events of the novel span the lifetimes of its two main characters, the work also develops into a sustained reflection on death and dying, and the values—both real and illusory—that sustain us through life.
Though 17th-century Japanese writer Matsuo Basho was a master of various forms of poetry and refined prose, he is perhaps best known as a haiku (hokku) poet. Journeying on foot was central to his art and to his inner quest, and we begin our seminar week by reading a variety of his travel journals, culminating with The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Oku no Hosomichi). In this, his most well-known travel journal, Basho describes a 1500-mile journey in the northeastern Honshu in a manner that weaves haiku into delicate prose narrative. Throughout, a sensitive depiction of nature commingles with deep insight into the human soul.
This luminous poetic work, The Waves, interweaves the lives of six characters—Bernard, Jinny, Louis, Neville, Rhoda, and Susan—from childhood through maturity, through their own voices and thoughts. As we explore every corner of the resulting literary tapestry, a beautiful pattern emerges in the warp and woof, one of complementary and analogous color. A genre-smashing book that has been listed among the dozen best novels of the 20th century, The Waves may be Woolf’s most accomplished work.
This seminar is also offered in the morning.
We begin with the discovery of galaxies beyond the Milky Way and the expansion of the universe through the observational work of Henrietta Leavitt, Edwin Hubble, and others. Using the current framework Einstein’s general relativity gives us, we study the observations and arguments that imply the existence of dark matter and dark energy. Yet what these really are remains completely unknown at present though they comprise about 95% of the universe, compared to the remaining 5% composed of ordinary matter and energy. Though we have not yet discovered this wider universe, we now know it is there.
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