Week 3 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 3 | July 19–24

Morning | 10 a.m.–noon

The Poems of Emily Dickinson

Claudia Hauer and Krishnan Venkatesh
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

No other poet can compare with Dickinson in originality of thought and expression, and
no other poet has such deep philosophical insight into such a wide range of emotional
states. Her greatest poems are terse, densely knotted in thought, explosive. One of her
poems begins, “My life had stood—a Loaded Gun,” and, indeed, her poems often feel not
like poems at all but like loaded guns, subversive and dangerous, not for children or the
squeamish. Dickinson’s themes are the classic ones: love, death, God, and meaning (is
there really anything else to write about?). During this week we study three poems per
class, taking them slowly and letting them unfold in their astonishing brilliance.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Maggie McGuinness and Ken Wolfe

Ovid’s Metamorphoses is an almost overwhelmingly various text. Among many other themes and problems, it poses questions about the contours of the contiguity between human beings and what is “other” to them—whether it be object, animal, god, or a fellow person. In doing so, it recounts or invents more than 250 myths, each rich in its own poetic resources and each asking its own questions. It also admits many interpretations, providing fertile ground for a nearly endlessly branching conversation; one may not even be able to decide whether the work is predominately tragic or comic, serious or ludic. Perhaps it is this fecundity and flexibility, combined with the power of its poetry, that has made Metamorphoses so foundational to Western literature.

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde

Michael Golluber and Ned Walpin

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde might be the greatest opera in history. A love story of the most fervent of enemies, it delves deeply into the relationships of love and death, art and reason, and hopelessness and salvation, all through Wagner’s revolutionary “total work of art,” or Gesamtkunstwerk. An opera that’s surprisingly accessible with the help of a few tools (which we provide), Tristan und Isolde will overwhelm you with its astonishing beauty. We experience that beauty firsthand at a live Santa Fe Opera performance, one that is sure to be unforgettable.

Please purchase a group opera ticket when registering for this seminar. See more about the Santa Fe Opera performance.

Retrospective on World War I

Grant Franks and Martha Franks

Just over one hundred years has passed since the end of World War I, the “War to End All Wars.” Although it did not end all wars, it did end the Victorian dream that European civilization was nearing an end-state of perfect harmony. Together we read the great poets and authors who documented their experience of the war, including selected poetry of Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke, and Wilfred Owen; Erich Maria Remarque’s short novel All Quiet on the Western Front; and Robert Graves’s autobiographical memoir, Goodbye to All That, which reflects extensively on the author’s experience in the trenches in northern France.

Tocqueville’s Democracy in America

Judith Adam and Steven Forde

Alexis de Tocqueville, the masterful 19th-century interpreter of American politics, remains a guiding beacon for Americans today. He argues that the remarkable success of American democracy is not owed strictly to the nation’s political institutions but also to its culture and traditions, examples of which include religion and the ubiquity of civil and political association. We explore these themes by undertaking a close reading of selections (about 150 pages) from Tocqueville’s masterwork, Democracy in America. Assessing the health of contemporary American democracy is one concern of the seminar, and to that end we focus both on the keys to American success and on certain pitfalls Tocqueville flags, such as corrosive individualism and the “tyranny of the majority.”

Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now

David Carl and Walter Sterling

Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel follows its narrator, Marlow, as he travels up the Congo River in search of Mr. Kurtz, an enigmatic ivory trader who has broken off contact with his European colleagues and assumed a god-like role among the Africans. The result is a profound exploration of the psychological and spiritual struggles of the human heart when faced with the temptations of unlimited power, as well as a scathing critique of European imperialism. Eighty years later, Francis Ford Coppola recast Conrad’s novel as a tale of 20th-century war and violence, set in Vietnam. By charting the descent of an American military hero who becomes obsessed with his own “heart of darkness,” Coppola’s film reveals the potential of cinema to build on the vast resources of fiction while returning us to the timeless qualities of Conrad’s prose.

Afternoon | 2–4 p.m.

Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon

Andy Kingston and Maggie McGuinness

Milkman Dead, so named for his extended years at his mother’s breast and for a mistake on his grandfather’s post-slavery identity papers, is on a quest. When that quest begins, it seems to be a search for treasure, but, as Song of Solomon unfolds, Milkman discovers a family, national, and racial history full of ghosts and blood. He must learn to speak to strange and powerful women, and, ultimately, he encounters his own bare self. Milkman’s inchoate and almost half-hearted mission to find something—a sack of gold—that he believes he is owed becomes an exploration of what it is to be a person in the grips of history and a meditation on the nature and uses of freedom.

Jorge Luis Borges: Selected Fictions

David Carl and Caleb Thompson
I suspect that good readers are even blacker and rarer swans than good writers.
—Borges, This Craft of Verse

Jorge Luis Borges is not only one of the 20th century’s greatest Spanish-language poets but also one of the most important fiction writers of all time. With brilliant storytelling and innovative style that consistently rank him alongside Kafka, Woolf, and Joyce, Borges helped raise Latin American literature to international attention and created a new genre: short prose pieces that defied conventional categorization and revolutionized the possibilities of literary fiction. As we read some of Borges’s most famous “fictions,” we witness a prodigious mind exploring ideas about history, infinity, personal identity, relationship to the divine, and the importance of literature in human life.


Treasures of Scandinavian Cinema: Jan Troell’s The Emigrants and The New Land

David Townsend and Krishnan Venkatesh
Jan Troell has made the masterpiece about the dream that shaped America—a dream, and an America, fast disappearing from our views.
—Richard Schickel

Jan Troell’s diptych, The Emigrants (1971) and The New Land (1972), which effectively comprise one long film, follows impoverished Swedish peasants who come to America and attempt to set down roots in Minnesota. Based on novels by Vilhelm Moberg, these two films were not only directed but also shot and edited by Troell. The actors include several Bergman stalwarts such as Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow, both of whom can tell a story with just one glance. Indeed, the life and soul of this film lie in the accumulation of quiet, unobtrusive moments that speak without words.

Troell may be the best of the many wonderful directors of the post-Bergman generation, and critic Pauline Kael encapsulated his singular gift when she said, “Troell is a film master whose films are overflowing yet calm and balanced; they’re rapturously normal.”

Learn more about Film at Summer Classics

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


Topology: From the Seven Bridges to The Brouwer Fixed-Point Theorem

Guillermo Bleichmar and Peter Pesic

One of the most important, surprising, and delightful fields of modern mathematics, topology investigates the properties of geometrical objects that remain unchanged under continuous deformations. We study topology’s beginnings in Euler’s analysis of the problem of the Seven Bridges of Königsberg. We then use the strategic board game Hex to understand the Brouwer fixed-point theorem, a seminal result. We apply this theorem to Nash equilibrium in game theory and economics. Finally, we study how Henri Poincaré used the fixed-point theorem to argue that a given physical state may recur endlessly. Participants should like to play with mathematical concepts and not be afraid of equations.

Learn more about The Science Institute