Exploring Human Nature

Literature, Poetry, and Drama

June 27–July 3, 2021 | Annapolis, MD

From Aristotle’s Poetics: “As to the origin of the poetic art as a whole, it stands to reason that two operative causes brought it into being, both of them rooted in human nature. Namely one: the habit of imitating is congenital to human beings from childhood… and so is two: the pleasure that all men take in works of imitation”.

These are questions ancient and arcane: Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life? Is there a universal formula to the human experience? If so, can it be preserved, transcribed, and transliterated? Centuries of playwrights, writers, and poets have undertaken the task of imitation; the peculiarities of each era captured in pages of accidental chronologies.

Yet, for their differences, they are not wholly disparate—there is something conclusively human in every work ever penned. In this summer academy session, we will aspire towards defining that which underlies the human condition. From Sappho to Shakespeare to Woolf, across cultures and centuries, we will look upon these lyrical reflections of humanity, and ask how much of ourselves we might see looking back.

Student Reading Summer Academy 2019

Classes and Readings

For more information, the college urges students and parents to review expectations and policies, a campus map, and additional need-to-know details about Summer Academy in Annapolis.


Sophocles: Oedipus Rex

Euripides: Bacchae

Aristotle: Poetics


A selection of poetry


Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway

Example Workshops

Croquet, Swing Dancing, Painting/Drawing

Example activities

Visits to American Visionary Art Museum and National Aquarium Chesapeake Bay Boat Tour

Summer Academy in Annapolis

At the St. John’s College Summer Academy, the community formed among students is a natural extension of the friendships and ideas formed in the classroom. To this end, Summer Academy students experience life at St. John’s by taking lessons in croquet, swing dancing, sailing, and choral singing. Students’ conversations about justice, nature, and law will continue as they are taken on a tour of the Maryland State House and attend a performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest by the Annapolis Shakespeare Company.