The Heart of the Matter

Literature & Biology

July 17-23, 2022 | Annapolis, MD

“Her heart did whisper,” writes Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice. What moves the heart? The heart is lauded for bringing about great acts of love, but the heart is known equally well for being fickle and impulsive. Through great literature and philosophy by Austen, William Shakespeare, Dante Alighieri, Eudora Welty, and others, we will consider how the heart can be a cause for both suffering and joy. Through William Harvey’s treatise on human biology that culminates in the discovery of the circulatory system, we will explore the physiological function of the heart. Students have an opportunity to take a closer look at the heart by dissecting a cow heart and sheep pluck. Discover how the heart can move us toward love, vice, barbarism, truth, sacrifice, and more.

Sample readings include Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Dante’s Inferno, Montaigne’s “Of Cannibals,” Pascal’s Pensee, Welty’s “A Worn Path,” and Harvey’s On the Motion of the Heart and Blood.

General Information About Camp

Summer Academy Students in Science Lab St Johns College Santa Fe

Classes and Readings


  • Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
  • Molière, The Misanthrope
  • Dostoyevski, “Grand Inquisitor”


  • Dante, Inferno
  • Montaigne, Of Cannibals
  • Pascal, Pensées
  • Borges, Funes the Memorious


Harvey, On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals

Example Workshops

Croquet, Swing Dancing, Painting/Drawing

Example Excursions

Visits to Washington DC and local museums

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.