Week 3 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, 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 3 | July 21–26

Morning 10 a.m.–noon

Plato’s Lysis

Seth Appelbaum and Michael Golluber

Plato wrote an entire dialogue on the subject of friendship, and Aristotle devoted an entire fifth of his Nicomachean Ethics to the subject. Modern philosophy, however, appears to be unconcerned with the significance of friendship for human life; Hobbes, for example, reduces friendship to a relationship of power. We examine the ancient conception of friendship through a careful study of Plato’s Lysis. Socrates enters into a dialogue with two young friends, Menexenus and Lysis, as well as the older Hippothales, who is an unrequited lover of Lysis. Engaging in a discussion of eros and philia, the dialogue ends with the question of the nature of the human soul.

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

Litzi Engel and David Townsend

“Happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” So Tolstoy begins this complex novel, investigating reason and imagination, love and fear, desire and obsession, law and custom, virtue and weakness, and—as La Rochefoucauld said—the ways in which “men love women and women love the love of men.” Do you identify with Levin, Kitty, Vronsky, Dolly, Stiva, or Anna herself? And how different do you find the elements of Tolstoy’s Russia to be from those of your own family, society, and country?

Montaigne’s “Apology for Raymond Sebond”

John Cornell and Natalie Elliot

Just as Socrates fetched philosophy down from the heavens and settled it in the city, so Montaigne took the study of the soul out of the cloister and installed it in the drawing room and the library. Breaking an age-old taboo, he wrote exhaustively about himself—a new, more mindful and sociable kind of human being. But in his most famous essay, “Apology for Raymond Sebond,” Montaigne makes his subtle attack on human presumption explicit. He pulverizes pride with an examination of ignorance reminiscent of Socrates. The radical question “What do I know?” becomes his motto. This seminar studies the essay in which Montaigne undertook the Socratic demolition work that cleared the way for the modern era.

Henry James’s The Golden Bowl

Patricia Greer and Krishnan Venkatesh

The Golden Bowl is often regarded as Henry James’s greatest masterpiece. This complex story is told in two parts: Part I, “The Prince,” is imagined from the point of view of the Italian Prince Amerigo, and Part II, “The Princess,” is imagined from the point of view of Maggie Verver, an American traveling with her art collector father through Europe, whom the Prince courts and marries. The Golden Bowl is told in the exquisite prose, subtle elegance, and wit infused with erotic tension for which James, “the Master,” is esteemed. At the novel’s core is mystery: can we ever bring to light the inscrutable secrets in the lives of those with whom we are most intimate?

John Rawls’s Justice as Fairness: A Restatement

Michael Dink and Jay Smith

In his appropriately famous work A Theory of Justice, Rawls explores the possibility and limits of a rational approach to determining the shape of a democratic and just society, in which rational actors are shrouded by a veil of ignorance, i.e., they are to suppose they do not know their position in the society they are constructing. Rawls attempts to ground the first principles of such a society without appeal to metaphysical or religious principles. The assigned text is a late-in-life restatement wherein Rawls responds to many of the criticisms of A Theory of Justice, addressing a major shortcoming by supplying for fairness a background concerning the more traditional tensions of a democratic and just society.

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard

David Carl and Walter Sterling

Considered one of the greatest historical novels of all time, Lampedusa’s The Leopard, from 1958, inspired the great Italian film of the same name, made by Luchino Visconti in 1963. Both explore the life and times of Italian prince Don Fabrizio during the Italian Risorgimento and the rise of Garibaldi. The story explores personal power and rampant appetite, social change and political upheaval, violent revolution and economic development, while addressing themes of romanticism, nationalism, and patriotism, as well as jealousy, betrayal, loyalty, and the collision between state and family. We study both novel and cinematic interpretation, looking closely at literary and visual details of the two works and comparing these two visions of one of world literature’s most compelling characters.

Afternoon 2–4 p.m.

Father and Son: The Trials of Franz Kafka

Guillermo Bleichmar and John Cornell

Franz Kafka, one of the most iconic writers of the 20th century, never expected world fame. Indeed, he intended most of his works to be destroyed. But he did make one request of his publisher, namely that a few of his stories be printed together, because of what he called their “secret” connection. By reading the three stories he singled out—“The Judgment,” “The Stoker,” and “The Metamorphosis”—along with the “Letter to His Father,” we seek to shed light on the inner meaning of these famous tales.

Italian Cinema: The Good Life

Seth Appelbaum and David Carl

Our tour of Italian cinema ends with works that span 1960 to 2010 and explore visions of “the good life.” We begin with two from 1960: Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and L’Avventura, by Michelangelo Antonioni, who was influential in the development of international cinema. Dino Risi’s Il Sorpasso, made two years later, offers an investigation of the comic and tragic elements of the exuberant Italian penchant for fast cars, beautiful women, expensive wine, and fine dining. We finish with a look at Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte, from 2010—a quiet, philosophic, and deeply poetic mediation on a radically different view of the good life, one that highlights cosmic harmony and the timeless cycle of nature.

Learn more about Film at Summer Classics

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

General Relativity: A Trip to the Fourth Dimension

Peter Pesic

Most popular expositions of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity avoid dealing with his actual equations. This limits any deeper understanding. In contrast, we study the math involved in his equations, discussing in detail how they are derived and what they mean. If you are comfortable with high school algebra, have taken a beginning calculus course, and are not afraid of equations, you can do it. We go through a concise exposition of Einstein’s field equations by Lillian Lieber, which Einstein himself “warmly recommended” as “clear and vivid.” Her book is a classic that embraces the mathematics other books avoid, highlighting its beauty and intelligibility. In addition, we read sections from Einstein’s 1916 paper that introduced general relativity.

Learn more about The Science Institute