Week 2 Seminars - Summer Classics 2019

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 2 | July 14–19

Morning 10 a.m.–noon

Machiavelli’s The Prince

Judith Adam and Warren Winiarski

“We are beholden,” said Francis Bacon, “to Machiavelli and others that wrote what men do, and not what they ought to do.” In The Prince, Machiavelli writes, at first glance, about the rule of princes. But, in the process, he also speaks about the character of ruling of all kinds. He is therewith enabled to reveal the fundamental character of political life itself as the reflection of human nature. In our discussions we pursue, through Machiavelli’s eyes, the fundamental character of political life and human life as a whole, as they are illuminated by the relation between what men do and what they ought to do.

William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!

James Carey and Frank Pagano

Absalom, Absalom! is William Faulkner’s greatest novel. It confronts directly the fundamental American paradox: that it was possible for democrats who naturally adhered to the Declaration of Independence to become devoted slave-owners. The man who undergoes this transformation, Thomas Sutpen, is the central enigmatical figure of the novel. In the course of establishing the largest plantation in Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, he condemns his family to the temptation of incest and the tragedy of fratricide. No other work in American letters explains the roots and effects of American slavery with such veracity.

Selected Poems of W. H. Auden

Janet Dougherty and Sarah Stickney

W. H. Auden was one of the greatest English-speaking poets of the 20th century, admired both for his technical virtuosity and his broad-ranging intellect. Born in England in 1907, he became an American citizen in 1939 and lived in New York until his death in 1973. His poems are informed by reflections on literature, art, social and political theories, and scientific advances, as well as deeply personal matters. Auden was an enthusiast of formal verse and employed a wider variety of forms than any other poet of his time or since, yet his work often contains the improvisational, conversational feel that we associate with contemporary poetry. We read a selection from Auden’s poems varying in form and subject matter.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

Ron Haflidson and Krishnan Venkatesh

The perennial popularity of Pride and Prejudice undoubtedly owes much to its captivating heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, a fiercely intelligent, witty, and independent woman who considers herself a discerning judge of character. Over the course of the novel she definitively discovers that she is not so discerning after all, neither about herself nor others. The twists and turns of the plot eventually bring Elizabeth to make a startling declaration: “Till this moment I never knew myself.” The nature of self-knowledge, among other perennial questions, is likely to be a topic of our conversation. Participants, whether longtime Austen fans or first-time readers, are sure to enjoy the author’s singular ability to illuminate our human condition in such a way that provokes both insight and laughter.

Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

David Carl and Lise van Boxel

A fierce and poetic vision of the ruthless violence that helped shape the American frontier, Blood Meridian is widely considered Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece. Unfolding along the Texas-Mexico border during the early 1850s, the novel follows an unlikely teenage protagonist (“the kid”) as he falls in with the Glanton gang. While riding with Glanton, the kid witnesses and participates in ruthless acts of violence, forges unlikely alliances, and meets one of the most enigmatic and terrifying characters in Western literature. The kid’s journey serves as an occasion for profound meditations on the physical and spiritual devastations wrought by violence, as well as the possibility of redemption after a life of solitude and destruction.

With Dante in Love and Hell

Michael Golluber and Tom May

Dante’s encounter with Beatrice Portinari and her enduring effect upon his heart, soul, and imagination provide the impetus of his quest for self-knowledge and the highest possible poetic achievement. In La Vita Nuova, with its unique alternation of poetry and prose, Dante relates and reflects upon his initial encounters with Beatrice. She also inspires the subsequent arduous journey he undertakes with his guide Vergil in Inferno, where a succession of remorseless sinners are placed in high relief against the drama of individual moral choice, human history, and divine judgment.

Afternoon 2–4 p.m.

Keats’s Lyric Poems

Robert Abbott and Susan Stickney

Are beauty and truth attached? If so, as Keats asserts at the end of his most famous poem, how? Is it a trustworthy coupling? Keats writes intimately of his experience in nature but just as intimately and directly of the experience of reading great poets. Both themes lead him into realms that at first seem perfect, transcendent, but turn out to be more unsettling than one would expect in a so-called Romantic poem. Whether he is lamenting the transience of beauty, wondering at the dual inspirations of tradition and nature, or contemplating the threat of a young death, Keats is always trying to understand what the poetic imagination is and what extraordinary possibilities poetry extends to us from the page.

Italian Cinema and Politics

Rebecca Goldner and Krishnan Venkatesh

Do we have an unbreakable moral core, or is there always a breaking point? In the ocean of political pressure and social transformation, do we swim or drown? Three stylistically different films engage these questions and raise many more. General della Rovere (Roberto Rossellini, 1959) stars Vittorio De Sica as a con man forced by the Nazis to impersonate a general in the resistance. Rocco and His Brothers (Lucchino Visconti, 1960), filmed in operatic neo-realism, is a complex epic about a family’s disintegration after migrating to the big city. Finally, Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970) features many allusions to Plato and a deep consideration of moral dilemmas and the nature of politics. It is also one of the most visually extraordinary films of all time, and every expressive frame rewards contemplation.

Learn more about Film at Summer Classics

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

East Meets West

Charles Bergman and David Townsend

Come participate in a rare opportunity to examine leadership lessons from the past in the context of the present. This seminar examines the points of view of Thucydides (“The Melian Dialogue” from The Peloponnesian Wars); Shakespeare (Henry V); Mencius, China’s “second sage”; and Han Feizi, chief author of China’s Legalist school of philosophy. We consider the range of practical leadership tactics and techniques as applied by the five authors, surveying political and military strategies for building consensus, motivating allies, outfoxing enemies, bolstering tradition, and innovating in the face of changing circumstances. This intensive examination of Western and Eastern classical traditions illuminates the enduring principles of leadership and the ways in which they relate to our own moment in time.

Learn more about Lessons in Leadership

Quantum Entanglement: Bell’s Theorem and the Bohr-Einstein Controversy

Phil LeCuyer and Peter Pesic

Quantum theory is arguably the most radical aspect of modern physics. Though it has met every experimental test during the past century and has led to our present “wired” world, quantum theory still challenges comprehension. Albert Einstein argued that it led to correlations between distant events that, in his view, were “spooky,” because they seemed to violate fundamental ideas about causality and action at a distance. We study his arguments and his ensuing dialogue with Niels Bohr, who defended quantum theory against his critique. We then consider a theorem by John Bell that led to experimental tests of Einstein’s arguments, concluding with ongoing attempts to interpret quantum theory in terms of many worlds, as well as other interpretations.

Learn more about The Science Institute