Accepted Panels

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Title of proposed panelAbstract of proposed panel
Prudence, Knowledge, and the Human GoodThis panel will explore the place of prudence in its relation to knowledge and the human good through presentations on Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Burke, and The Federalist. Special attention will be given to the tension between opinion and knowlege, opinion and virtue, the highest good and the limits of politics, and ultimately of the tension between the claims of the active versus the contemplative life.
Shakespeare After All at 20On the 20th anniversary of Shakespeare After All , a discussion of Marjorie Garber’s interpretation of several plays, including: The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, and Macbeth.
Oikos and Polis: The Domestic Roots of PoliticsOur panel examines the role of household and family in political philosophy, especially insofar as political orders are often downstream from domestic orders. These papers explore the way private customs and small domestic institutions, which differ based on time and place, can radically shape the regimes that comprise them.
Speaking Publicly: Topoi as Places We Go To Think

Rhetoric is often treated as a misleading or superficial art. Actually, it was and has been developed as much as any other liberal art in ancient and modern core texts, with an intellectual achievement that is technical and spans thought and words through public speaking and writing. Central to that development is the place of topoi, loci, enthymemes and discourse of reason, developed as “commonplaces” early in Greece, Rome, and Jerusalem. The topoi of ancient rhetoric, perhaps surprisingly, are useful today in teaching the public scope of rhetoric, its discourse with modern as well as ancient topics, and its invention through to our students’ future. This panel is an outgrowth of ACTC’s summer seminars of 2019 and 2022 on Rejuvenating and Reinventing the Liberal Arts. Parties interested in developing the liberal arts are invited to attend. We have asked Joshua Parens, ACTC’s President, to chair.


Philosophy and the Cult of Home and HearthThis panel will examine the relationship between place and law in classical political philosophy. Our panel will feature papers on Plato’s Alcibiades I, the Minos, Plato and Xenophon’s treatment of Meno, and on Herodotus’s commentary on Persia, Egypt, and Greece. Our First Paper, “Socrates as Kingmaker or Socrates as Teacher,” will examine the nature of man’s attachment to the city, and why this attachment may provide the proper grounds on which to begin a genuine education while, simultaneously, posing limits which that same education go beyond, if it is to be “genuine.” Our Second Paper, “The Argument and the Action of Plato’s Minos,” analyzes the interplay of the dramatic action and theoretical arguments of the Minos. It will argue that Socrates’ efforts to mix correctness and opinion in the Minos points towards the nature of law as that which wishes to be the discovery of what is. Our third paper, “Herodotus’ Analysis of Law,” explores Herodotus’ conception of the nature of law through a comparative analysis of his inquiry into Persia, Egypt, and Greece. Our Fourth Paper, “Abandoned in Hostile Lands: the Socratic Meno and the Absence of Civic Education,” will synthesize Plato and Xenophon’s depictions of Meno, which together explore the shortcomings that accompany a politically virtuous youth who is reared with an education that is altogether distinct from the city.
Leo Strauss’ The City and Man and A Revisiting of the Ancient Presentation of ScienceOn the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Leo Strauss’s book The City and Man, we continue to locate insights into our contemporary world via the three ancient thinkers Strauss presents there – Aristotle, Plato, and Thucydides. This includes a hidden, but present, theme now receiving more attention in Strauss’ writings – how the presentation of ancient science may offer us insights into contemporary scientific and theological debates. Given Strauss’ continued return to the Greeks as a source of illumination into present problems, ancient science appears far from obsolete, surpassed by its mathematical, technological, and seemingly all-powerful successor. Despite the emphatically political nature of The City and Man, which Strauss himself signals in his Introduction, scientific and theological debates are bound up with, and arise within, the political questions his essays overtly treat – the nature of Aristotelian science via a consideration of Aristotle’s “political science” in his Politics; Plato’s metaphysical “doctrines” within the search for justice in his Republic; and Thucydides’ reports of religious mania and superstition within episodes of war’s violent necessities in his History. Such scientific and philosophic problems are key themes in Strauss’ reading of these obviously political books – books that provide us access to the ancient presentation of key metaphysical and ontological questions left unanswered or unappreciated by the new orientation of our contemporary science – along with aiming to show the parameters of what any science may discover and teach.
Classical Political Philosophy & FoundersThis panel will treat the theme of founding in Core Historica, Political, & Philosophical texts. We will look to account of Cyrus the Great, Romulus, and Lycurgus, as well as to Plato’s account of political founding in his great work, The Republic.
“(Re)Placing Aristotle’s Poetics and Rhetoric in the Contemporary Core”The fields of rhetoric and poetics have come down to us from Aristotle little changed and little challenged. The Aristotelian terms ethos, pathos, and logos (cf. Rhetoric 1.2.4-6) have so persistently shaped our understanding of argumentation that we still use them in their original forms. Literary terminology is similarly imbued with Greek terms taken straight from Aristotle’s Poetics, e.g., catharsis, hamartia, and peripety. Other Aristotelian ideas strongly associated with tragedy include unity of action and evocation of the audience’s pity and fear. Yet, even as Aristotle’s historical influence on our understanding of art and argumentation can hardly be overstated, how helpful are his concepts to undergraduates as they experience classical Greek literature for the first time? This panel will explore this question by revisiting, revising, and repurposing ideas found in both the Poetics and the Rhetoric. The three papers of this panel are: “Katharsis and Wonder in Aristotle’s Poetics”; “Ethos and Pathos in Teaching Literature: Rich Resources or Manipulations?”; and “A Look Beneath the Scars Left when Aristotle Separated Poetics from Rhetoric.”
Liberal Education Without Borders IWhile it is unlikely that anyone believes liberal education to occur exclusively in institutions–let alone only those institutions that self-avowedly belong to the academic desmense–it is nevertheless salutary to be reminded of the manifold and varied places that liberal education can spring up and flourish. This panel considers those “other” places. From intimate relationships with texts to friendships, from adversarial relationships to the plumbing of one’s own self–the sundry places of liberal education yield surprising fruit.
Liberal Education Without Borders II**Please see the panel description for the first panel of the same title**

Accepted Papers

 (Panel Assignments TBA)

Legendre on Least Squares: the Role of Place from Dunkirk to Evaux to MontjouyIn 1805 Legendre invented the technique of least square regressions. This technique has become the workhorse favored by modern statistical practices ranging from econometrics to clinical trial evaluations. After developing this mathematical technique, Legendre offers an example of its application to a problem in geodesy, an application which is designed to show the method’s “simplicity and fruitfulness in the full light of day”. This application involves computing the length between cities along the latitude shared by Dunkirk, Evaux and Montjouy. I discuss the role that place played in Legendre’s application of his method. Though the math does not require it, Legendre sets up the equations in ways that privilege Evaux. Does Legendre think measurements from Evaux are more trustworthy than those from other cities? Should Legendre think that? In general, what role should place play in our trust of scientific measurements and the calculations we perform using them? Does the way we apply a mathematical technique vary by its place of application? If so, should the application vary in this way?
Thoreau’s “Walden” and Walden: Text as Place and Place as TextHenry David Thoreau’s book “Walden” is about a place. It is a specific place in a particular time. While Thoreau lived in a small cabin near Walden Pond for two years, two months, and two days, he was a visitor to the pond throughout his short life. He went there to live to conduct some business, that is to write a book in memory of his brother (“A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers”). But Walden Pond was more than just a place to live and write. It was also a text for his life.
My paper investigates Thoreau’s interaction with Walden on a particular day years after he left the cabin and finds that Walden Pond was more than simply a geographical destination to visit, but rather it was a place where he went for wisdom. Walden Pond was a “text” for Thoreau that he not only wrote about but one that he “read” and gave him guidance on how to live a life in the face of extinction.
A Sense of Place in Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to FindFlannery O’Connor’s collection of short stories A Good Man Is Hard to Find makes use of Southern Gothic tropes to highlight the contradictions at the heart of the American South. For O’Connor the religious writer is akin to a prophet with inspired vision whose insight comes through experiential knowledge grounded in the particulars of time and place. The writer as prophet speaks through images and story-telling, and not through abstract doctrine about an abstract place. In her essay “The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South” O’Connor claims that the religious writer needs to be particularly grounded in a place, because religious themes are developed in fiction in response to the concrete lives of people. This paper aims to highlight the importance of place in O’Connor’s short stories.
Reading the Parable of the Talents with Capitalists and MarxistsThis paper reads the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), considers competing interpretations of the text, and examines certain dynamics at work when it comes to appropriating or applying whatever message Jesus may have wanted to convey—dynamics that are at work in some fashion whenever we read classic/core texts. I will reflect on what is peculiar to reading the Bible in a Great Books courses and what tends to happen when reading any classic/core text.
Prudence in Aristotle’s PoliticsPrudence (phronesis) is a central element in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics; there, it is particularly focused on the individual. The Politics, however, primarily discusses the regime. How important is prudence to the regime, its rulers, its citizens? Is it tied most closely to the ruler, particularly to the pambasileius, or to the aristocracy? Is the prudence of an aristocracy different from the prudence of an individual?
The Appearance of Nature in Plato’s MenoPlato’s Meno is apparently about the being of virtue, but the question of virtue’s genesis opens the dialogue and continually intrudes upon the question of its being. The being of virtue seems inseparable from its becoming, which makes it odd that nature, in which one finds both form and motion, makes so few appearances in the dialogue. This paper will look at the function that those rare appearances of nature have in the dialogue, arguing that they indicate that the human place is not simply in nature or in the city.
American Exiles: The Role of Place in The Sun Also RisesThe concept of expatriation in Hemingway’s works have been duly studied, as have the ideas surrounding a foreigners love of their adopted home. But The Sun Also Rises also presents an opportunity to look deeper into what it means to have a place of one’s own. Is this primarily concerned with physical location? community? romantic relationships? By examining the geography of Jake Barnes’s story, the various places that matter to him shed light on the kind of metaphysical “places” that define his pilgrimage from Paris to Pamplona, from San Sebastian to Madrid. Hemingway’s first novel shows how the problem of expatriation persists in the digital age, and how we might think better about solutions to alienation.
Hesiod, the Dao De Jing, and Humanity’s Place in Nature: A Cross-Cultural Approach to Teaching Ancient (and Modern) CosmologiesThe place of humans in nature is both a high-level philosophical question and one with significant practical implications. In this paper, I discuss my approach to this issue in a freshman core texts seminar, using a comparison between Hesiod’s Works and Days and Lao Tzu’s Dao De Jing to help students understand the link between a society’s cosmological worldview and its approach to environmental management. We discuss Hesiod’s portrayal of a chaotic creation process where humans are insignificant victims of vast divine and natural forces, and how this flows into an environmental ethic focused on exploiting natural resources and defending against uncertainty. We contrast this with the Dao De Jing’s belief in the passive emergence of all creation from the Dao, and its consequent suggestion that humans are part of nature and should passively allow it to unfold. By connecting these approaches to modern environmental debates, the class shows students how seemingly abstruse religious questions can have major impacts on how people actually live in the world. This cross-cultural comparison therefore enables both an abstract exploration of humanity’s relationship to nature, and a philosophically informed discussion of how we ought to live in our own particular places.
The Wanderings of St. AugustineOne point of contention between the poets and the philosophers in their ancient quarrel concerns the importance of place for human fulfillment: whereas the poets often feature wanderers, philosophers tend to be domestic creatures. An Odysseus or Aeneas cannot find wisdom without traveling to foreign lands and encountering supernatural creatures, while a Socrates or a Plotinus can escape the cave of human ignorance without leaving the confines of the city. Though St. Augustine arguably is more the philosopher than the poet, his wanderings are central to his growth in wisdom. This paper seeks to develop an Augustinian account of the importance of place and of travel for human fulfillment.
“To live in a new house would kill me”: Dracula’s Encounter with the True England

Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” although taught in college courses, is often marginalized as a “fantasy” or “supernatural” work and not placed in surveys of 19th-century literature or read as a key Victorian novel. This paper will ask that it be seen not as a tale of the macabre but as a story of the virtues of friendship, self-sacrifice, and trust, and that it is these virtues that define England and defeat the vampire, since, despite his intensive study of that country, he cannot comprehend what it truly is.

Why I Teach John Mandeville’s Travel NarrativeDespite its immense popularity in the Late Middle Ages, the travel memoir supposedly authored by an English knight who self-identifies as John Mandeville gradually became regarded as the invented fable of a bygone storyteller, losing ground to more serious travelogues. Even today, John Mandeville’s narrative seldom finds its way into the classroom due to its fantastical nature. This oversight, however, obscures the text’s potential to engage students in critical thinking about discourses of difference and models of identity formation. In this paper, I will demonstrate how this text provides not only a valuable entry point for discussions on representations of otherness, but is also a compelling example of cultural self-criticism within the Western intellectual tradition. Through his descriptions of other places, the author brings awareness to hypocrisy within his own place of origin—Western Christendom—challenging assumptions of cultural superiority inherent in the medieval worldview.
Place of Horror or Space for Hope? : Sterling A. Brown’s 1936 Poem “Remembering Nat Turner”The events of August 21-22, 1831, in the town of Jerusalem in Southampton County, Virginia were so horrific that the inhabitants in charge changed the town’s very name—from Jerusalem (place of another important human sacrifice) to Courtland (a placename that wishfully connotes ‘protected by law’). In a 48 hour “stab for freedom” (Brown’s own words for the slave revolt in his poem), Turner had led a band of about 50 Black slaves who murdered about 55 of their owners (not discriminating among men, women, and children). The event has been immortalized in some of Turner’s own words: The Confessions of Nat Turner, The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, VA. by Thomas R. Gray, 1831; and in a much-contested novel by white novelist William Styron (also called The Confessions of Nat Turner, 1967). There is a critical book in backlash to that novel called William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond (1968), and there has also been a Nat Turner film (2016) by Black director Nate Parker who unexpectedly drew his title from one of the most contested films in history: Birth of a Nation (1915), equally about race. But this paper is a close reading of Harlem Renaissance poet Sterling Brown’s free verse poem set as a 1930s-era touristic trip to the place itself, Southampton County, by a first-person plural speaker (the poet/traveler and perhaps some of his family). No one has better captured the sense of horror, denial, and unspoken, ironic jubilation–still wafting through the site of the infamous/famous slave revolt.
Nietzsche’s Timeline of Philosophers and MoralitiesMorality, or the question about the good, must be the primary phenomenon investigated by the philosopher because opinions about good and evil, more than any other, affect one’s view or interpretation of the world and life. At least this is the case with Nietzsche, who wrote, “All experiences are moral experiences” (Gay Science 114). As he understood it, the entirety of his philosophy, starting with The Birth of Tragedy, has had one fated task or goal: the revaluation of values (Twilight of the Idols “What I Owe to the Ancients” 5; cf. “Maxims and Arrows” 44). Nietzsche’s philosophy from beginning to end targets morality first and foremost, and therefore his philosophy is primarily a philosophy of morality. This paper is about the centrality of that moral philosophy for Nietzsche. Yet what is perhaps uncustomary about this paper is that it does not follow the usual course of understanding his philosophy of morality through a reading of On the Genealogy of Morality, the seemingly obvious work to which to turn for Nietzsche on morality. Instead, this paper will examine Nietzsche’s moral philosophy and the natural and historical antagonism between morality and philosophy by proposing and piecing together a timeline of philosophers important to Nietzsche and the customary moralities with which these philosophers contented. This theoretical timeline begins with the unnamed and deeply ancient philosophical precursors and morality of custom written about in Nietzsche’s Daybreak. Socrates, that exemplar of ancient philosophy, and Nietzsche’s thoughts on him occupy the middle of the timeline. And finally, the timeline concludes with Nietzsche’s untimely and genealogical mediations on the modern as captured by Schopenhauer. These three locations from the history of philosophy (philosophical precursors, Socrates, and Schopenhauer), together with the morality of each time period, constitute the beginning, middle, and end of a philosophic and moral timeline as traced by the proto-postmodern Nietzsche, a timeline which helps us to understand Nietzsche’s overall moral philosophy and the antagonism between philosophy and morality he ultimately sees.
Poetry in the Landscape: Simon Armitage and the Stanza Stone TrailIn 2012, Simon Armitage, the current UK Poet Laureate, completed a project in which a series of new poems were carved into stones in Yorkshire. These stones are connected by a 47-mile walk now known as the Stanza Stone Trail. This geographical location gives the collection of poems a special character for a core text because understanding them cannot, in an elemental way, be disentangled from their place in nature. I argue that, ultimately, the need to consider the physical placeness of these poems, to consider them as linked moments of reflection along a walking path, enables a temporal reflection, which passes from deep time to the present and to our climate future, that is not immediately present in the poems when taken either singularly or as primarily existing on the page.
Teaching Christine de Pizan’s City of Women in a World Literature CourseI will discuss how I teach Christine de Pizan in my course on world literature from Antiquity to the Renaissance. I emphasize place insofar as I contextualize this work with rexpect to other writers we have read, especially Ovid and Boccaccio. I also emphasize the ways in which the work apparently attempts to forge a new role for women in the medieval context, but ultimately falls flat due precisely to that context. Incorporating Christine de Pizan in the curriculum further opens up a place for women in Great Books courses.
Penelope’s Oikos and Kleos: Place and Faithfulness in the OdysseyIn the Odyssey, the inside and outside spaces of Odysseus’s and Penelope’s house correspond to the different roles of the wife and husband in the oikos, the household community. Penelope controls the inside of the household, conveyed by her physical presence within its interior spaces. Her association with the interior of the house identifies her role in the oikos as the guardian of its core relationships. Furthermore, using the imagery of pillars and posts, the poem shows Penelope’s second role in the household as one who sustains the existence of the oikos. Therefore, through her place in the house and corresponding role in the household, Penelope knowingly displays her inner virtue of faithfulness in order to receive glory, kleos.
Diaspora as Exile and Promise: Jacob and His ChildrenThe history and mythos of the Jews is diasporic from beginning to end, a consequence somehow of God’s promise to preserve them in a land of their own. No where is that muddle of a fugitive birthright more stark than in the story of Jacob forcing his claim to a place and ending his days in a strange land. This story of diaspora was played out again and again from the Babylonian Exile, the Roman Galut, and the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal, to the Shoah of Nazi genocide. The Zionist project in contemporary Israel aims to end that history of Exile, to emulate instead the settler colonialism that forged America as a new Promised Land. In many ways, however, it may be that Israel is simply playing out Jacob’s destiny again—or so I shall briefly argue.
Prudence in Aristotle’s PoliticsText: Aristotle’s Politics
Prudence is presented in Aristotle’s Politics in an entirely different way from its presentation in his other works. He says, “But prudence alone is a virtue proper to the ruler. For all the other virtues would seem necessarily to belong in common to ruler and ruled, But there is no virtue of prudence in the case of someone who is being ruled; he has right opinion instead.” Pol. 1277b25-29.
We shall examine this surprising statement, and a number of others on prudence in the Politics.
A Redemption From Decadence: Socrates’ Parting Myths to GlauconThis paper will provide an overview of Socrates’ final discussion with Glaucon in Books 9 and 10 of Plato’s Republic. Special attention will be paid to the exceptionally poetic character of Socrates’ argument, in light of the drama of the dialogue as a whole. The ultimate aim will be to understand the relationship between Socratic rhetoric and Platonic poetry, as it emerges in this final stretch of the dialogue.
Civic friendship and reconciliationOne way in which place matters is that we live together with neighbors and fellow citizens. Aristotle argued for the importance of friendship between citizens, which lawgivers “care for more than justice” (Nicomachean Ethics VIII.1). My paper is premised on the idea that we gain a closer understanding of civic friendship by engaging with literary texts. The paper explores the theme of civic friendship in Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country. Set in the prelude to apartheid in South Africa, the novel deals with the relationship between two neighbors who are miles apart in terms of ethnicity and social class but thrown together in terms of place and circumstance.
Outside Place and Time: Tocqueville’s Democratic OdysseyDespite American political hubris regarding ownership, democracy is not a place, nor does it sit static in time at the end of history. In Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, America is not the hero of the piece. To borrow from Homer, Tocqueville’s democracy is not a place, such as the home port of Ithaca, but rather the hero Odysseus. It won the formal battle against aristocracy as the Greeks defeated Troy; but Troy lives on, as do non-democratic forms. Does democracy have a place? Does it have a time? Is there a secure homeport for democracy or are rival suiters its timeless destiny? Despite its certain attribution to this place more than that place in international democratic indices and voting law debates in the United States, discussion of democracy’s past, present, and possible future remains uncertain and speaks to the timeless question: “How do we live together in place and time?”
Denis Diderot and the Enlightenment’s Sexual RevolutionDenis Diderot’s Supplement to Bougainville’s Voyage to Tahiti is a work that reflects the Enlightenment’s preoccupation with ushering in a new sexual ethic for European civilization. Building off the First and Second Discourses of his sometime friend Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Diderot depicts Tahitian society as a sexual utopia free from the deadening and illogical proscriptions and conventions surrounding sex and married life imposed by the Catholic Church. Structuring the work around mini dialogues where one interlocutor defends European civilization and the other the Tahitian, “natural” ideal, Diderot aims to show that the Church’s positions on procreation and marriage are, in fact, unnatural and keeping Europeans in a state of oppression and material privation. Centering his work around materialist arguments that emphasize growing populations and economic growth as a sign of a society’s success, as well as how strange Church positions such as priestly celibacy seem in light of such arguments, Diderot aims to show that general enlightenment, and alongside it political liberation, cannot only come through a diffusion of knowledge and eliminating intolerance, but must also encompass sexual liberation. Thus, Enlightenment and sexual liberation are not separate projects but go hand in hand in seeking to unleash the freedom of the human person and mind.
Pascal’s Pensees and our place in the worldIn the paper, I will discuss Pascal’s views on our place in the world, and I will show that Pascal does not believe that we are at home in this world. The source of our unhappiness is rooted in the alienation from God, in Original Sin. Because of this, we experience boredom, listlessness, and above all, inquiétude. I will then show that Pascal’s Pensées is not an apologetic work, and that his main addressee is the Enlightenment project, and in particular, against the Esprit Forts who followed Montaigne and Descartes. Pascal tries to show a world transformed by modern rational science that it needs to search for God. In other words, Pascal defends the Augustinian understanding of life in the face of liberalism, and he believes with Augustine that “inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te.”
A place of meaning?My paper addresses the experience of teaching Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning in an interdisciplinary course on Health, Resilience, and Human Flourishing. The course is co-taught with teachers in biology, medicine, and sociology. In the paper, I discuss how Frankl conceptualized ‘resilience’ as a specific attitude towards circumstances and suffering. I then ask the question how the text connects – or not – to the other sections in the course, and whether Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning has helped to make the course a place of meaning for the students.
The Dark Knight Returns: A Graphic Novel in the Transformative Texts ClassroomAlthough the graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Returns has been widely celebrated as a landmark within its genre over the nearly forty years since its publication, it would not normally be included on lists of classic or core texts. However, in this presentation, I will discuss the advantages of teaching this graphic novel in the transformative texts classroom. Set in a future time, the further slide of Gotham City into corruption and crime has convinced Bruce Wayne (at the age of fifty-five) to return to his role of “Batman” after a retirement of ten years to face old and new enemies, as well as a public that is certainly not uniformly enthusiastic about his presence. Not a children’s story by any means, the complex and often violent story touches on deep philosophical themes and tensions such as heroism versus vigilantism, justice versus vengeance, and freedom versus authority. Reading this graphic novel in a transformative texts classroom, alongside other works such as Beowulf, Gilgamesh, and Jekyll and Hyde, creates enriching opportunities for students to engage those themes across multiple kinds and periods of literature. This presentation will bring out the salient comparisons between the graphic novel and those other works as well as demonstrate the value of including such unconventional, popular culture readings alongside classic core texts.
Reflections on Michael Oakeshott’s A Place of LearningMichael Oakeshott’s 1975 lecture “A Place of Learning” describes why place matters for higher education. Universities, Oakeshott argues, must be “places apart” from the word of commerce and politics to foster attention to the peculiar questions and answers of academic learning. Universities have increasingly surrendered their character as places with a distinctive academic mission that requires a remove from the hurly-burly of the mundane world. They instead promote themselves as places where students “encounter the world” through curricula grounded in contemporary cultural and political contexts that “meet students where they are”; prepare for lives of activity through service learning, internships, and practicums; and graduate prepared for activism as “global citizens.” My paper will be an account Oakeshott’s essay and how it calls those of us in higher education to counter pressures to make universities ever more deeply part of the everyday worlds of commerce and politics.
The Novelist’s Sympathetic Rendering of Place: Nhat Linh’s Xom Cau Moi (The New Bridge Hamlet)This paper will introduce to the western reader the largely unexplored literary flavor of Vietnam through her greatest 20th century writer, Nhat Linh. His realist style and Vietnamese soul deftly capture the distinctiveness of the Vietnamese people despite their thousand year struggle with Chinese domination and almost one century of French colonization. The New Bridge Hamlet, which I have recently translated into English, will leave the western reader with no doubt: the place is unmistakably Vietnam.
Shakespeare on Tragedy as failed ComedyThough Shakespeare never wrote an explicit theory of tragedy, I claim that such a theory is implied in the structure of his plays. I examine how two of Shakespeare’s plays A Midsummer Nights Dream, a comedy which achieves its comedic effect by avoiding tragedy, and Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy which achieves its tragic effect by failing to be comedy, and explain how tragedy understood as a failed comedy can evoke a catharsis. Shakespeare’s tragedies evoke a catharsis by means of a change of genre. Initially, a tragedy displays comedic scenes, encouraging the audience to hope for a happy ending. While a happy ending may initially seem plausible, it becomes increasingly unlikely as the plot unfolds. Once the audience recognizes the inevitability of a catastrophe, their hope for a happy ending vanishes. This disappointment is strong enough to invoke a catharsis in them. As I take it, Georg Benda’s opera adaption of Romeo und Julie, which concludes with a happy ending, exemplifies this disappointment about the tragic ending of the original text.
Place as a third term between Individual and Community in Sophocles’ Antigone and Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding SweetgrassHegel reads Sophocles’ play Antigone as a conflict between individual ethics and communal law, in which tragedy occurs over conflicting versions of justice or the good. The claims of equally valid and opposed ethics lead to tragedy. This paper will examine the concept of place in Antigone and in selected chapters from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s essay collection, Braiding Sweetgrass, (both of which are read in the Saint Mary’s College first year Seminar) to offer an account of place that offers ways to deepen our sense of the debate between communitarian and individualist approaches to ethics. When Antigone’s claims to the land of Thebes are juxtaposed to the terms of the homeland described in Kimmerer’s work, the sometimes opposing claims of the individual and the community can be seen as a contiguous geography, rather than opposed to each other. Place provides an opportunity for a generative dialog between individual and community.
Situating the Rhetoric of Jesus’ ArgumentsSituating Jesus’ arguments with his opponents in the Gospel of Matthew is made difficult by theological and hermeneutical traditions that are not grounded in Hellenistic rhetorical or Jewish legal practices. This paper demonstrates how orienting a reading with topoi and enthymemes can facilitate a productive reading of the textual landscape of the arguments. The paper is an illustration of a pedagogical approach that introduces students to basic rhetorical concepts that can reveal easily overlooked facets of what may be familiar terrain of a biblical text.
Duty, Tragedy and Justice in the Women of SophoclesWhat can we learn from Sophocles by comparing Antigone and her mother/grandmother Jocasta? How do they view family, duty, and fate? By drawing together the stories of the Three Theban Plays, we can examine the moral and ethical scenarios that Sophocles creates for us the actions of his female characters. How much is daughter like mother in these stories, or is Antigone more her father’s daughter?
Publius’ Prudence in the Federalist PapersWritten for the people of New York in the years 1787 and 1788, the Federalist Papers offer a uniquely American perspective on the question of political prudence. After years of inefficiency and dysfunction under the Articles of Confederation, it was clear to many that reforms were needed if the fledgling nation was to survive. However, the changes recommended by the Constitutional Convention, such as a large republic and an energetic executive, seemed to run counter to the experience of both classical republics and the Colonies themselves. Nonetheless, throughout the Federalist Papers Publius sets forth and defends a “new science of politics” which takes into account both human nature and a calculating sense of the realities which the United States would face. In this way, the Federalist Papers present the proposed Constitution as a deeply prudent document designed to safeguard American liberty by preserving the existence of the Union on which that liberty would depend.
Epictetus’ “Power of Speaking” and the faculty of moral purpose in the Discourses.Abstract: At about the same time that Quintilian argued that rhetoric involved the “Good man speaking well,” Epictetus argued much the same in the Discourses, which were later recorded by Arrian. This paper will argue that Epictetus’ Discourses constitute a relevant contribution to undergraduate education in general and thinking about speaking in specific terms. With his concern about sensory evidence, the extent to which it can be trusted, and the ontology of the knower, Epictetus’ inquiries sound remarkably modern. They make more than a modern contribution when we consider his use of moral purpose and his connection of it to rhetoric. This paper will further suggest how Epictetus enables faculty in various subject areas to conceptualize assignments involving speaking.
Swords into Ploughshares/Bayonets into Badminton Rackets: Iconic Images of The American Dream and the Dream Deferred in Willa Cather’s My Antonia and in The Art Diary of Takuichi FujiiPlace matters, placenames matter, in a course I teach on American literature of immigration. This a particularly the case when I bring Willa Cather’s great feminist novel, My Antonia—our Aeneid, I have argued, if not our Georgics—in dialogue with the recently discovered Art Diary of Takuichi Fujii, which records in words and images the forced removal and incarceration during World War II of Fujii, a first-generation Japanese immigrant and his family from their home in Seattle to a concentration camp in the Southern Idaho desert. In my paper, I will put in dialogue significant and evocative words and images of place and displacement from both texts, to highlight how they speak to us and to each other about the places we inhabit and sometimes make holy, by what we suffer as well as by what we achieve.
The Bayeux Tapestry: the Mystery and Motives of PlaceAs a core text the Bayeux Tapestry is invaluable on many different levels. It is not just a vivid visual narrative of the Battle of Hastings and the complex political events that led up to it, but more to the point, like any good core text it lends itself to multiple interpretations, keeps opening new vistas of research, engenders endless scholarly debate spilling oceans of academic ink, and has even inspired the creation of other significant works of art.
Some of the most enduring questions raised by studying the Tapestry are; who commissioned it and why, who actually made it, when and where was it made? Only the first question primarily concerns us here although all of these questions are inter-linked. For centuries the commission and patronage of the Tapestry was popularly attributed to Queen Mathilda, wife of William the Conqueror. Then starting slowly in 1824 and gaining strong scholarly traction by the 1950’s, a compelling case was made for William’s half-brother, Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux, who does figure prominently in the tapestry. This hypothesis seemed to sweep all before it, summarily brushing aside Queen Mathilda. Granted a strong case can be made for Odo’s patronage, but not so strong as to eliminate, as I will argue here, an equally strong case for Mathilda as prime mover of the Tapestry. The argument in her favor needs to be examined anew with more rigor than before.
In keeping with the theme of our conference, place does indeed matter. The events depicted in the Tapestry are set in very real places, not just southern England, but more particularly Normandy including Bayeux itself. In examining any hypotheses relating to the Tapestry we must allow the geographical setting, place, to have its voice heard. Place provides human beings with context, and we cannot begin to fully assess their actions and motives separate from the context in which they lived and moved.
Virtue and Violation: Deception, Truth, and Nature in King LearWilliam Shakespeare’s King Lear presents the audience with a dramatic conflict between those committed to traditional virtues of order, respect, and loyalty and those who reject such virtues as outmoded conventions inhibiting their longing for power and control. For the latter, established bonds and habits of social and political existence are malleable, if not disposable, so long as they can acheive the results they desire. By the end of the play, these opposing forces, virtue and violation, have almost annihilated each other, and survivors of the lies and the bloodshed find words inadequate to express the horror they have lived through. This paper examines King Lear as study in lying–to oneself and to others and the moral chaos that ensues when deception motivates human nature, the family, and the state.
Al-Ghazali in Agony: The Role and Value of Struggle in the Islamic Intellectual TraditionWe often associate the relationship between core texts with a kind of agon or productive tension between authors, traditions, and ideas. However, this contention across traditions is harder to find among the Christian and Muslim authors of the Middle Ages. In many religious corners, monism and unity trumped debate and speculation was viewed as counterproductive. For this reason, it can be difficult to incorporate the theologians of this period, especially those outside of the “West.” Yet the prolific Muslim theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazali wrote several works that not only treat classical philosophy, but he also attempted to sift what he believed was compatible and incompatible with the Islamic faith in classical philosophy. More importantly, he argued for the value of wrestling with the doctrines of one’s tradition in order to know things for yourself rather than through received wisdom. This paper will present passages from several of al-Ghazali’s works that advocate for the interrogation of tradition, rethinking of beliefs, and the personal experience of truth. It will conclude by offering ways to compare al-Ghazali’s arguments to more common authors from the core texts tradition, including Augustine and Descartes.
The Use and Abuse of Love Potion in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s DreamThe use of plants for medicinal purposes has been prevalent in Western culture. Consider the lotus eaters in the Odyssey or more ‘recently’, the love potion in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For a play that is filled with magical beings who are ostensibly capable of supernatural tasks, the real deus ex machina in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the juice from a flower which makes one fall in love with the first thing one sees. The majority of the plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is driven by the effects the love potion has on both humans and the fairy queen. Why did Shakespeare use this as a plot device? I will be exploring the role of the love potion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and how Shakespeare uses this potion to reveal something about human nature and love.
The Spider and the Bee: Universities Must Put Modern Tools in the Service of Ancient WisdomSwift’s Battle of the Books is a devastating critique of early modern thought, which largely discarded the inherited wisdom of the past and replaced it with new and improved scientific understanding. A similar battle is playing out in classrooms across the country, which makes the “Battle of the Books” and the larger quarrel it depicts a useful lens through which to examine current-day curricula. Truth-seeking and the desire to put knowledge to good use are not mutually opposed goals. But they should not be treated interchangeably. This paper presents a vision of balance in higher education. Universities need to restore the cultivation of wisdom to its central place and put modern tools in the service of ancient wisdom.
RePlacing the Canon: Perspectives on Diversifying the Core TextsTrying to substitute out traditional core texts in a course built around those traditions can be challenging: it can be difficult to figure out which of the “great” core texts could suitably be dropped in favor of new candidates and why such changes would be improvements. In this presentation I offer three ways to think about the place of a core text in such contexts: (1) how core texts were written from a very different place than they are currently being read; (2) how core texts play a role in an academic setting which ultimately needs to serve the people in that place; and (3) how the notion of a canon of core texts serve to shape the identity of those who read them. From these perspectives I suggest some rationale for replacing core texts with potentially very diverse alternatives in traditional core text courses, with specific anecdotes from my Early Modern philosophy course, and from the Passover Haggadah.
Place and Cultural Appropriation in Ralph Ellison’s “The Little Man at Chehaw Station.”Place and Cultural Appropriation in Ralph Ellison’s “The Little Man at Chehaw Station.”
Peter McNamara
Arizona State University
Ellison’s famous short story is a reflection on American democracy: its promise, progress, and problems. A very deep part of his account are the themes of place and cultural appropriation. Tuskegee is a place. Now a very famous place. But it was also a site of cultural appropriation. Ellison thinks there is a good form of cultural appropriation and a bad form. One elevates the soul. The other form is dehumanizing and an insult. This essay tries to explore this distinction.
Du Bois on the Limits of Liberal Arts EducationWhen “The Souls of Black Folk” is taught in core text programs, W.E.B. Du Bois is often presented as an enthusiastic advocate for liberal arts education. This way of framing Du Bois focuses on the earlier chapters of “Souls,” especially Chapter III where Du Bois contrasts his pedagogical aims of intellectual training, cultural development, and political advocacy for Black Americans with Booker T. Washington’s program of vocational training and political accommodation. This is the Du Bois who claims: “the true college will ever have one goal—not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim of that life which meat nourishes” (V) and who says: “I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not” (VI). However, the later chapters of “Souls” are more explicit about the limitations of liberal arts education for both Blacks and Whites who live in a racist society. This paper will focus on Chapter XIII: “Of the Coming of John” and how Du Bois depicts the liberal arts education of both Black John and White John as contributing to their untimely deaths. My aim is to highlight the Du Bois who when Black John is asked: “does it make every one—unhappy when they study and learn lots of things?” has him reply: “I am afraid it does” (XIII).
Tragic Simplification & The Merchant of VeniceIn The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare poses a question: What does it mean to be human? In the tension that Shakespeare creates between the people of Venice and Shylock the Jew, we are given an opportunity to look closely at questions of human dignity and human value. Is Shylock simply a Jew? Are the Christians in the play more fully human? How does Shakespeare expose the violence of tragic simplification by dramatizing a Venetian society that marginalizes others based on religious identity?
Seeing at Home: Place in Jose Saramago’s “Blindness”Most of Jose Saramago’s “Blindness” occurs in communal spaces: a doctor’s office, an asylum, a grocery store, a church. While a small group of characters facing a pandemic of “white blindness” forms close bonds in such environments, they also face hostility and harm from other characters both within and outside those spaces. Once the group finally makes their way to the apartment of the doctor and the doctor’s wife, however, they experience a safe–and arguably sacred–space as they share a candlelit meal around the dining room table. This paper will explore the way “Blindness” uses space to explore and challenge ideas of community and connection, which offers insights about our own society’s recent experience with the coronavirus pandemic.
Terry Whitmore’s Memphis-Nam- SwedenIt all started in Memphis with young Terry Whitmore facing the draft in the early days of the Vietnam war. Whitmore’s memoir has an early chapter entitled “Runaways” describing Terry and his friend Cliff climbing onto a train’s open coal car in Memphis and ending up near the Kentucky border before being rescued by Cliff’s father some 175 miles to the north. It all concludes with Stockholm where Terry ends up as a deserter from the war after having received the Purple Heart from President Lyndon Johnson himself while recuperating in a hospital in Japan and having made his way across Russia to Sweden, an unknown country for him. Peace activist Jeff Loeb calls the book published in 1971 by Doubleday “one of the most remarkable memoirs to come out of the Viet Nam War,” and it is Loeb who is responsible for the reissue of the volume in 1997 by the University of Mississippi Press. Whitmore’s story belongs in a Memphis conference on place; and, despite its often raw street language, it could enhance a core program’s offerings by providing a completely different take on the turbulent time in America it describes.
Between Opinion and Knowledge: The Place of Phronesis in Plato’s MenoIn pursuing the question over the unity of the virtues in conversation with Meno, Socrates arrives at three conclusions: that of the virtues enumerated, phronesis or practical wisdom occupies the top position in that it is the excellence responsible for ordering the other virtues towards a goodly end, that phronesis does not entail “knowledge” but only right opinion, and that right opinion is the prior state of apprehension allowing for learning as a subsequent act of recollection. Phronesis or practical wisdom thus appears to be that manner of minding the world that spans the two poles of opinion and knowledge, allowing for the possibility of coming to know. In this presentation I consider this place of phronesis as it appears in the Meno in light of John Henry Newman’s account of phronesis as a species of his illative sense, that excellence of concrete and therefore informal reasoning, which is prior to and not reducible to subsequent theoretical apprehensions, but which is nevertheless fortifier by such subsequent reflections.
Coriolanus At Home

The place this paper will consider is Rome, more specifically the Rome of the early Republic depicted in William Shakespeare’s last tragedy, Coriolanus. The play dramatizes the aristocratic general Caius Martius Coriolanus’ failure to attain the consulship, his subsequent defection to Rome’s enemies, and his death at their hands after he breaks his promise to destroy the city. Coriolanus is one of the great Romans of his generation, and he talks much about his ambition to lead the city and what he has suffered on its behalf. However, I will contend that he hates Rome, and has always hated it, and not simply because it flouts his ambitions and is filled with commoners he regards with arch-patrician disgust. He hates it because it is home and home always entails particular costs—the suppression of certain desires and, most potently, the exposure of certain vulnerabilities. This most scarred and hardened of Rome’s warriors cannot be vulnerable. The famous episode in the forum, where he recoils from showing his battle wounds (vulnera) to the plebians whose political support he is there to solicit is merely the most vivid example of this aversion to being obligated and known. His dream is for a deracinated autonomy and the play makes plain that one cannot be fully autonomous and still at home.

NB—This paper comes from my current book project, Shakespeare at the Still Point, which examines the Christian doctrine of love in more than a dozen of Shakespeare’s plays.

Laozi as the Author (Function) of the DaodejingThis paper proposes an answer to the question “What is Doaism?” In brief, I will argue, the question must be answered by way of a prior question: “Who, or what, is ‘Laozi’?” With a brief review of current conceptions of the historical origins of Daoism in the centuries leading up to the establishment of the Qin dynasty, I will maintain that the evolution of “Daoism” per se has taken its bearings since the Qin according to various conceptions of the authorship of the Daodejing. This text I present as the earliest common ancestor to all ‘Daoisms’ since and opinions concerning its authorship as good proxies for arguments concerning the ontological status of the “Dao” itself as the object of the discourse “Daoism.”
Stop Waiting for Godot: Modernity, Uncertainty, and DistractionWaiting for Godot is a play in which, conspicuously, the protagonists do not know what to do with time. They are suspended between a mysterious origin (how did life come to exist) and an uncertain end (what is the telos of life). Beckett’s absurdist play dramatizes the modern predicament of broken-down metanarratives which leave the characters essentially narrative-less, paralyzed at the interstice of conflicted structures of meaning. Only the arrival of Godot, the lynchpin and telos of narrative, can clarify the narrative of arc of life, but the protagonists, Vladimir and Estragon, cannot be certain that Godot will ever come (or that he will not come). This uncertainty destabilizes the possible meaning of each given moment, generating the anxiety that drives the play. In response to this anxiety, Didi and Gogo retreat from meaningful action in the world. Because inclusion within a narrative arc is what gives meaning to moments in time, Didi and Gogo can only experience time as a loop of boredom and distraction, and seventy years after the publication of the play, the modern problem of disengagement from time in response to uncertainty has only escalated. Although the play offers no resolution to this cultural pathology, it contains a philosophical alternative: the mysterious tree that anchors the place of waiting.
The Problem of Succession in Xenophon’s PersiaMy paper identifies key problems with founding and maintating a regime like “Old Persia” from Xenophon’s Education of Cyrus. I will comment on these problems in a way that also illuminates certain limits in Cyrus’ perspective and education.
Should Socrates’ Discovery of the Primacy of Form be Construed as a “Theory of Forms”?My paper examines key features of Socrates’ autobiographical account of his discovery of form in Plato’s Phaedo. I relate these features to larger questions regarding the status of Socrates’ philosophic activity as he understands it, especially its claims to knowledge.
One Founder? Two Founder? (Three Founder? More?) Livy on Romulus and NumaIn a further installment of an ongoing series of ACTC papers on the first pentad of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, I present a reading of the Romulus-Numa sequence, focussing in particular on the ‘generational dynamic’, the contrast between the ways of war and the ways of peace, the identification of the ways of peace with law on the one hand, and piety on the other, and Livy’s comments indicating a necessity to this sequence. As always, one secondary concern is to correct Machiavelli’s abusive reading of Livy.
Augustine and the Goldilocks Problem of Human HappinessWhereas many accounts of human happiness pack too little into the concept, many others go wrong in the opposite direction by packing too much into the concept. Augustine’s account of human happiness in Book 1 of On Free Choice of the Will is example of the latter. This paper shows how Augustine’s account of human happiness there goes wrong in the direction of too much.
Searching for new roots: notes on The Decameron, by G. BoccaccioThe young protagonists of “El Decameron” flee deadly Florence in search of salvation. Self-exile is necessary for them to produce a regeneration of life, of their own lives. In this search, the young people that Boccaccio shows us decide to enter nature and create a new reality that will somehow redeem them from widespread death and decay. This presentation inquires about the way in which the protagonists of the Decameron connect with nature, what it offers them (or what they find in it) and the transformation that they experience.
A new way of being alive emerges when the young protagonists discover -or create- a new place to reside, in intimate connection with nature.
Likewise, I am interested in exploring to what extent the events narrated in the Decameron relate to current reality, especially with the vital processes that university students experience. Crisis, regeneration and place will be the central elements of my analysis.
Augustine and Boethius on the Liberal ArtsWe usually associate the Seven Liberal Arts with the scholasticism of the High Middle Ages, but much of the liberal arts curriculum had taken shape by Late Antiquity. In this paper I will put into conversation two of the most seminal thinkers of Late Antiquity/Early Middle Ages: St Augustine and Boethius. Did they share a common vision of what a liberal education was to be? I will focus on passages from a handful of Augustine’s works, particularly On Order and On Christian Teaching, as well as Boethius’ enormously influential The Consolation of Philosophy.
The Consolation of the ConsolationPlato established a long tradition of questioning earthly illusion and instead orienting toward spiritual truths, explaining that “philosophy is the study of death,” and therefore, a “true disciple of philosophy…has in fact been always engaged in the practice of dying…” (Phaedo 232). Christian thinkers extended this perspective by arguing that followers of Christ must be in the world but not of it, and in fact, must die to themselves and be reborn spiritually in Christ. In the late Middle Ages, political prisoner Anicius Boethius continued the mission of Christian neoplatonism, penning The Consolation of Philosophy as he sat awaiting execution in a Roman jail. In the text, Boethius describes himself as initially tempted into fear and a “certainty of loss” (4) that approaches as he nears his seeming end; yet, when the specter of Lady Philosophy materializes, he is reminded over the course of their interaction that philosophy is the one thing that will not fail those who seek it and that God, behind true philosophy, “pilots all things toward good” (86). Thus, Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy offers important Christian neoplatonic insights for living and dying well.
Teaching Rhetoric in Core Text Courses: Seeking Thought in Public Topoi.ACTC’s conference theme on “place” is propitious for it can help to address the academic criticism, workaday skepticism, and popular bafflement as to what liberal education and our programs impart. The Greek word for “place” was topos – or, plural, topoi. From this, we get our English word, “topics.” Both Aristotle and Cicero invented topics, topoi, — often translated as “commonplaces” — through the arts of rhetoric and dialectic. We can teach how they did that. Knowing the structure of rhetorical art, what constitutes persuasion, and the function of topoi in those are all useful in engaging public questions of today. For our students to learn these is to make them more artful and inventive in today’s, as well as yesteryear’s, questions for discussion and debate. This paper will examine Aristotle’s Rhetoric with a view to inventing topics and a recent editorial in the St. Louis Post and Dispatch on AI and Journalism.
Wilderness through the feminine lens of Mary AustinA dominant narrative of wilderness in the American West is separation between humans and nature. According to American policy and practice, wilderness is where humans aren’t, at least permanently: “leave no trace”. It is a wild and hostile place: “be prepared”. Mary Austin, a contemporary of John Muir, spent several years living on the edge of the Sierra Nevada and Mojave Desert. She set forth a contrasting vision of wilderness in The Land of Little Rain. Her desert isn’t deserted; it is a home for living things, including humans. Humans don’t control land; rather, “the land sets the limits” for all its inhabitants. Austin advocates we figure out how to live in relationship with the land. She identifies this a feminine relationship with nature, contrasting it with the masculine domination and preservation relationships advocated by Muir and others. This paper will show how this perspective influences her natural history writing about the plants, animals, and land of the Owens Valley.
Pascal on amour-propre and Smith on the desire for approbationPascal speaks of amour-propre as the desire to be the object of the love and esteem of others and paints its consequences as exclusively negative. Smith distinguishes among different species of the desire for approbation, at least one of which is the foundation of virtue.
The Bard of Avon meets the Bard of Compton: Notes on Teaching William Shakespeare and Kendrick LamarEngaging with the conference theme of “Place Matters,” this paper explores pedagogical approaches to teaching William Shakespeare and Kendrick Lamar in a core curriculum course. By pairing Shakespeare’s The Tempest with several of Kendrick Lamar’s Shakespearean “concept albums,” it argues that these texts prompt students to interrogate with fresh eyes the artistic rendering of vernacular language, the generic modes of tragedy and comedy, and the foundational course themes of truth, goodness, and beauty. Finally, the paper explores the benefits and drawbacks of using the poetics of hip hop to help students fully appreciate Shakespeare as a paradigmatic core curriculum author.
Making Character through the autobiographical Confessions: Implied author, narrator, and “Augustine.”In Augustine’s Confessions, we have three Augustines: the implied author, the narrator, and “Augustine”-the-character whose life is the object of this early autobiography. In Chapter X (of XIII) Augustine states his book’s overarching purpose is to reveal his character: “So as I make my confession, wish to learn about my inner self, where they cannot penetrate with eye or ear or mind. Yet,… the love in them believes me… To such sympathetic readers I will indeed reveal myself… They will take heart from my good traits, and sigh with sadness at my bad ones.” His good and bad actions have been previously reported. How, then, are we to derive the, perhaps, new traits from the rest of the book? I suggest that Augustine-the-character begins to collapse into Augustine the narrator and to the implied author, as well. For the “acts” we now read of are the making or completion of the book itself. True all along, but the book’s course changes. It becomes philosophic in two different senses: the speculative and the possible. The former reaches into questions like those surrounding time and eternity. The latter builds a character and “plot” which neither the implied author nor the audience had seen, yet; only with the completion of the book could the character not only be revealed, but actually come into existence. In short, the character’s, the narrator’s, and the implied author’s character is a made thing, unified by the work – a work of the liberal arts.
“Does the eagle soar at your command?” (Job 39:27): Exploring the Interplay between Environmental Degradation and Humanity’s Relationship with the Natural World in the Creation Theology of the Book of Job.Why does a righteous and benevolent God, who created everything, permit evil? This is the question at the heart of the Book of Job, which links evil and suffering to creation and divine providence (Fyall 2002). Pelham (2012) recently proposed that the world portrayed by Job and his friends, where a dominant figure rules and everything is orderly, is different from the world God represents in the text. God’s world is untamed and magnificent, while Job envisions a circumscribed and limited world. God invites Job to embrace and inhabit the divinely created cosmos. However, Job struggles to do so because the world he knows, no matter how degraded, feels familiar to him. Building upon Pelham’s theory, my paper explores the inherent conflict between the “human” world inhabited by Job and the “natural” world created by God to determine whether the text allows for a relationship, an existential coexistence, between God’s vision of creation and humanity’s perceived role and domination of that created space. This topic also has important implications for our ongoing pedagogical discourse on environmental issues, as it highlights how we can continue to engage with ancient texts to understand how they articulate the relationship between humans and the world they inhabit.
Why Place Matters and then Again Why Place Doesn’t Matter“Place” can be used to refer to one’s space, to a particular geographical land, it can also be used when referring to one’s particular abode, and even be used when referring to the specific and particular culture of those whom inhabit a place. It can also be used in a perlocutionary as when someone tells another to stay in your place.
In my upper division Philosophy of Sports class, I use certain canonical core texts, such as Democracy in America, to contrast the observations and insights made by Tocqueville when he explored the place of our New World with those writing on the nature of sports in America and the “place” sports has in our contemporary life.
Michael Novak for instance notes, correctly, that for those serious sports fans who root for their “home team”, do so because to love one’s own is to be rooted in one’s home.
These and other points of connection between what Tocqueville saw and what we experience in the contemporary sports scene will be addressd.
Machiavelli’s Martial Critique of the Renaissance in the MandragolaAt the beginning of his Discourses on Livy, Niccolò Machiavelli chides his contemporaries for emulating the ancients in law and medicine but failing to do so in the more fundamental arts of war and politics. Machiavelli’s radical critique of Renaissance humanism extends to his literary works as well. The Mandragola, Machiavelli’s play of cuckoldry and corrupt priests, contains a critique of Florence’s political and cultural elite for lacking martial valor and failing to create an empire. Their politics are a petty and domestic sort, lacking the cunning and will to engage in the grand politics of their Roman ancestors. Machiavelli’s critique culminates in an indictment of Renaissance political education, which attributes the excellence of ancient polities to the moral and rhetorical teachings of the classical philosophers, rather than the harsh political practices of ancient statesmen and generals.
Thomas Aquinas Refuses to Bless the Aristotle-Osteen Partnership in General EducationMany Christian or otherwise conservative-leaning colleges promise to deliver a general education curriculum founded on a pure Aristotelian pedagogy in which knowledge is studied for its own sake; the post-gen ed curriculum is then informed by a prosperity-gospel ethic that functions as an implicit apology to various university constituents—students, deans and chairs of professional schools, administrators, parents—who view the initial purist curricula as, at best, a tedious but necessary signal of academic rigor and integrity, or, at worst, an obsolete apprenticeship that delays the commencement of practical education. This essay will review a handful of contemporary commentators who try but fail to pull off this philosophical stunt. I will then develop a less duplicitous philosophy of general education, which will be predicated on Thomas Aquinas’ discussion of corporate bodies that must articulate intrinsic and shared notions of the common good before defining ends that are external to the body itself.
Sourcing Ultimate Authority for Revolution: Jephthah in Locke’s Second TreatiseAlthough Locke’s Second Treatise legitimizes popular uprisings against tyranny (and thus justifies both the Glorious and American Revolutions, and any other we can think of), I would say we are disinclined to imagine “the people” as ever having bothered to read the book itself; instead, they have relied on its distillation by elites in more accessible documents like the Declaration of Independence – with at least one particular exception: the phrase “appeal to heaven,” which Locke employs several times to justify irresolvable controversies between equal and noncontracting parties, and which also came to be adopted as the motto for American naval vessel flags during the Revolutionary War – and then when it came to be re-adopted during the anti-Obama Tea Party movement of the 2000s. Locke introduced the phrase to explain bellum iustum in §20, and in the next section provides a biblical instance of Gileadite commander Jephtha parleying unsuccessfully with Ammonites to settle a boundary dispute (Judges 11:27); as a result, the terms “appeal to heaven” and “Jephtha” tend to imply each other throughout 2T. But who was Jephtha, and how does his story, on Lockean terms, come to justify not merely violent conflict but revolution? This paper explores Jephtha as an exemplar of Lockean revolution, with particular regard for the resurgence of interest in the phrase and flag “appeal to heaven.”
The Place of Zionism in George Eliot’s Moral ImaginationThis paper will examine George Eliot’s surprising treatment of the Zionist cause in her last novel Daniel Deronda against the backdrop of the moral peaks (heros and heroines) evident in her other novels. A central theme of the paper will be Eliot’s assessment of the world that was coming into being in the latter half of the 19th century and the possibilities foreclosed and opened for human depth and flourishing.
“War and Peace” in War and Peace: Disciplinarity in the Context of Core Texts PedagogyOne of the paradoxes of Core Texts education lies in faculty expertise. Instructors in Core Texts courses and programs are, with rare exception, the beneficiaries of specialized training in a defined discipline (Russian literature, in my case), but are called upon to teach texts that fall outside of their disciplinary focus; what is more, we teach students who themselves may have little interest in the sort of disciplinary expertise we command, even when they are fully invested in the texts they are reading. I seek to explore this tension in Core Texts pedagogy by referring to my use of Tolstoy’s War and Peace (which falls within my area of expertise) and Homer’s Iliad (which does not) in Huron University’s Global Great Books course “War and Peace.”
The “Secret Lover:” The Importance of Self-Knowledge and Definitions in Plato’s PhaedrusThis paper offers an interpretation of the connection between the first two speeches in Plato’s Phaedrus and Socrates’ palinode. Lysias argues in his speech for the superiority of the non-lover over the lover, claiming an eromenos will have greater benefits with a non-lover. Lysias presents his non-lover as controlled and rational, able to bestow gifts on his eromenos in exchange for gratification. At first glance, it may seem that Socrates agrees with Lysias in the supremacy of the non-lover in his first speech. Yet, Socrates has just stated the primacy of rationalizing not religious myths but to “know myself” (229e.) Socrates’ argument for the non-lover, who is really a secret lover merely “pretending not to be,” is cleverly designed to reveal Lysias’ real intentions (237b.) Socrates’ description of the secret lover as a “wolf to a lamb” illustrates not only the reality of Lysias’ non-lover who does not know himself, but is additionally a poor definition of divine love (241d.) The secret lover reveals the danger of not “knowing yourself” while Socrates’ palinode corrects the issue of a proper definition of “love” that all other forms of love must measure against. The real danger is not how to avoid entanglements in love, but rather, not knowing yourself well enough to understand your motivations and desires and calling them “love” when they are not. The gods did not give men divine madness to obsess over boys or over their own gratification, the gods give men divine madness towards pursuit of the good and beautiful. All other so-called loves miss the mark. These loves unlawfully control the individual rather than provide necessary desire to pursue the good.
Gabrielle Suchon on Women’s Right to the Philosophical LifeIn this paper, I discuss early modern proto-feminist philosopher, Gabrielle Suchon (1632-1703), on her arguments for women’s right to the philosophical life. I focus primarily on Part II of Suchon’s Treatise on Ethics and Politics (1693), which deals with the nature of knowledge and its role in human flourishing. Suchon’s central claim in Part II of the Treatise is that men and women possess equal capacities for knowledge and that women’s customary deprivation of knowledge is a violation of natural and divine law. My paper reconstructs Suchon’s arguments for this claim. I show that Suchon offers two types of reductio ad absurdum argument: a philosophical and a theological one. On the philosophical register, Suchon exposes the absurdity of denying that men and women possess the same rational soul and the same natural law. On the theological register, she exposes the incoherence of simultaneously affirming that men and women are equally created in God’s image on account of their intellectual nature, while also upholding customs that restrict women’s fulfillment of that nature. Finally, my paper makes the case for reading Suchon’s Treatise as a text that explores the theme of place: Suchon attempts to understand our humanity in terms of placeless and eternal truths while simultaneously attending to the ways that custom and environment can shape our access to those transcendent truths about our nature.
The Place of Plato’s Crito in American Political Discourse

The Socratic dialogues originated in places foreign to the experiences of our students, but their content raises questions that are germane to our students’ studies. The Crito, set in a jail cell in Athens in 399 BC, is an example of a work that engages students to think about the roles of government and law in their political community as well as their civic and political responsibilities. After Socrates is found guilty, as presented in the Apology of Socrates, his friend Crito urges him to flee the jail where he awaits his punishment of death. Socrates has an exchange with Crito and continues with the laws when Crito can no longer respond regarding whether Socrates should stay and accept the punishment or flee Athens to continue his life elsewhere.

The conversations address many questions. Is Socrates choosing the easiest course by staying in jail, as Crito claims? Is life worth living when the laws under which one lives have been corrupted? Is it just for Socrates to flee or will he destroy the laws and the city should he do so?

Socrates’s responses invite contemporary American comparisons. The first of two examples is whether an unjust verdict (or law) should be obeyed, recalling the difference between Abraham Lincoln’s Lyceum Address and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail on observing or disobeying bad laws. The second is whether dialogue is a means to educate citizens about their own political community, engaging the documents that inform American governance (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights) in a conversation much like Socrates had with the laws of Athens.

The response to the question, Why read and teach texts that come from places foreign to the experiences and personal histories of our students?, is that such texts initiate discussions about questions that speak directly to living in a political community – questions that raise issues of broad applicability that cut across time and culture.

In a different place. Does reading classics help with reading a modern epic novel — The Iliad, the Poetics, and Shogun?The liberal arts can teach us to perform intellectually, practically, and productively. Part of intellectual work is appreciating, not just interpreting works of art. This paper selects devices, actions, and characters from classic works to appreciate the accomplishment of James Clavell’s “epic” novel. Through reading for techniques and powers of arts, we can slowly grow the appreciation of our students for more modern works. This is not to suggest that Shogun is a great novel, notwithstanding spanning two different tv series 50 years apart while all that time remaining in publication, but it is a powerful work worth reading and enriching us for that, whether inside of a core text program or in later years as a return to liberal artistry. Two intertwined plots, with a determined, cultured, loving, Japanese heroine, a ship’s captain out of Tudor times, colonial threats to Japan’s sovereignity, and the intrigue leading up to Japan’s civil war and acceptance of a Shogun — it’s pretty good.
The traveller and the space: going home as indicatorHomer’s Odyssey is considered the paradigm of a traveller’s destiny in literature. An accurate reading shows that the arrival is not the real end of the adventure: many chants are devoted to the “recognition”. In literary history, precisely this end – which fulfils the travel’s sense – is modified, maybe also subverted: not only in Joyce’s Ulysses or in Kavafis Ithaca, literary works that share protagonists with the Odyssey, but also in relevant literary works presenting travellers like Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kröger or Paul Auster’s The music of chance or Moon Palace. Also these novels will be analysed briefly in order to show the aforementioned shift of paradigm.
Why Ursula K. Le Guin’s Masterpiece, “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Is Not a Utopia

Ursula K. Le Guin was the daughter of Alfred Kroeber, a cultural anthropologist who did fieldwork among several different Indian tribes in the American Southwest. Her mother, Theodora Kroeber, was the author of “Ishi in Two Worlds,” a celebrated book about the last surviving member of the now extinct Yahi tribe, who was found starving in the northern California mountains in 1911. Given this background, it is hardly surprising that Le Guin learned at an early age to appreciate the strange, discombobulating experience of encountering an alien culture.

Le Guin’s masterpiece, “The Left Hand of Darkness,” was published as science fiction in 1969 but has since been elevated to canonical status by Harold Bloom, among others. For the past few years I have made it the final reading in a seminar called “Do the Virtues Have Gender?” The main character, a male Earthling named Genly Ai, is a lone envoy sent to a frozen planet called Gethen in the hope of persuading its two antagonistic civilizations to overcome their differences and join an enlightened interstellar organization known as the Ekumen.

A curious fact about Gethen is that its human inhabitants have no permanent biological sex. Instead, they become male or female during an estrus-like cycle of sexual activity called kemmer. They have no choice in the matter, and being female in one kemmer does not preclude being male in the next. As a result, the families, communities, religions, and political regimes of Gethen operate without any notion of gender.

This complicates Genly Ai’s mission because, despite his diplomatic training, his deeply rooted expectations of masculine versus feminine make it hard for him to read, or trust, any Gethenian—most significantly, the novel’s other main character, a high official named Therem Harth rem ir Estraven. Part political intrigue, part romance, part tragedy, the story unfolds in the fraught but fascinating interaction of these two very different individuals.

My paper would consider a change I have witnessed in my students’ response to “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Not long ago, they were eager to de-gender the traditional virtues in order to understand and appreciate them better. But as the traditional virtues have faded not just from syllabi but from minds, students seem more inclined to read Le Guin’s fine-tuned description of the yin and yang in every human soul as a prescription for a genderless utopia that (as the novel demonstrates) exists nowhere, not even on Gethen. And more troubling, the students seem less able than ever to distinguish between virtues and concepts like “gender fluidity” which, however interesting to think and talk about, are not virtues.

History, Legend, and the Mediterranean in Tirant lo Blanch

I propose to discuss the role of the Mediterranean as a place of contact and connection in a fundamental work of medieval literature produced in the Iberian Peninsula, Tirant lo Blanch. Along with discussing the depiction of the Mediterranean within the novel, I also propose to outline some of the ways that the text could be used to introduce students to Spanish history and literature.

Written by a Valencian knight, Joanot Martorell, in the 1460s, Tirant lo Blanch was one of the most important and popular chivalric romances composed in medieval Iberia as well as an important influence on Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. In the text, a knight, Tirant, travels from Spain to England, where he is integrated into Arthurian legends, before travelling to Constantinople and eventually becoming emperor. Although Tirant lo Blanch is a work of fiction, the author expertly uses the narrative to engage with Spain’s history as well as moving the world of chivalric literature from an imaginary England of King Arthur to a fictionalized version of the historical Mediterranean in a few different ways.

First, Tirant’s journey to England allowed the authors to embed the knight into specific legends related to Guy of Warwick, which was one of the most popular fifteenth-century continuations of the story of King Arthur. Second, Tirant’s journey to the Byzantine Empire and the Eastern Mediterranean closely mirrors that of Roger de Flor, a historical figure who led a group of Catalan mercenaries to fight for the Byzantine Empire against the Turks in the early fourteenth century. Finally, Tirant’s installation as emperor of Constantinople seems to be a direct response to the Ottoman conquest of the city in 1453 and the ensuring tensions that arose between the Crown of Aragon and the Ottoman Empire in the 1460s and 70s.

Along with engaging with some of the deeper meanings of Tirant lo Blanch, I also propose to demonstrate how the text can be used effectively as a model for introducing students to Spanish history as well as some of the most important elements of Spanish literature. In particular, the text facilitates a discussion on the development of the Christian Iberian kingdoms during the Middle Ages, the conflict between Christianity and Islam, and the overall role of the Mediterranean as a place of conflict, contact, and cultural exchange. Moreover, the text also shows the impact of Arthurian literature in the Iberian Peninsula as well as providing an early example of a genre that would come to dominate Spanish letters in the following centuries, the chivalric romance.

Tuberculosis as Influence on Orwell and his Novel 1984According to novelist John Green, “Tuberculosis is about everything, and everything is about tuberculosis.” When Green shared his tuberculosis reading list in early 2023, lay readers began to view familiar works, including the core text 1984, through a tubercular lens. Additionally, in the last 20 years, historical and scientific findings have revealed more about the influence of tuberculosis on Orwell as he wrote this novel, as well as elements in the novel that relate to his experience of the disease. Tuberculosis, as one approach to this novel, can both invigorate one’s teaching and engage students in previously unexplored ways, particularly since antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis remains a global public health issue today.
Public Rhetoric in Newman’s The Idea of a UniversityThis paper is intended for the proposed panel “Writing Publicly: Seeking Thought in Public Topoi.” It examines John Henry Newman’s use of deliberative rhetoric in his eloquent defense of a liberal education, The Idea of a University. When invited to give a series of speeches on education aimed at justifying the establishment of the first Catholic University in Ireland, Newman enthusiastically launched himself into a controversy. Those who invited him to speak sought a specifically religious university in response to a proposal to create secular universities in Ireland. Instead of towing a line, Newman articulated a third option on the relationship of religion and university, rejecting the proposal to secularize the university while arguing that theology’s necessary inclusion in university education should not make the university an organ of the Church. This series of public speeches, which would later be compiled and expanded to form The Idea of a University, gave Newman the opportunity to develop and refine his educational views. Drawing particularly from Cicero, as well as Aristotle, Newman’s rhetorical acumen effectively disguises his intention to wrestle with pressing issues and to persuade his audience of his own approach. This paper displays a pedagogical approach that introduces undergraduate students to the public scope of rhetoric in a timely, modern way as Newman grappled with many evergreen issues in higher education, such as the establishment of areas of specialization (majors/minors) in universities.
The Autobiography and Franklin’s Myth of Self MakingBenjamin Franklin’s father receives relatively little space in his Autobiography. Josiah Franklin appears in only the opening section and is primarily remembered for his decision to withdraw the gifted and precocious Benjamin from school after only two short years. But the brevity of the account and the drama of his withdrawal belie a more complex story. A careful consideration of Josiah’s actions, including the how young Benjamin is removed from school, the manner in which Josiah fills his newly vacant hours and the religious readings young Franklin ultimately rejects, reveals a subtle assessment not merely of fathers and sons but of identity formation in the newly emerging American order. Benjamin Franklin’s rendering of the manifold ways in which his father appears to draw qualities out of his son, encourage his most obvious aptitudes, discourage his equally apparent frailties, and teach him the arts of democratic discernment, all serve to subvert the myth of the self-made man. In attending more careful to portrait portrait of Josiah Franklin we find, in place of a myth of self making, a nuanced account of what “the rising generation” and the soon to be born Republic owe to their ancestors. More still, Franklin affirms by his own early example, that as he famously put it “An empty bag cannot stand upright”
“The Gospel and the pagan Wilde”: Uses of the Bible in Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince”

There has been a tendency to sideline the religious aspects in Oscar Wilde’s writing or to read his writing simply as a critique of organized religion. Recently, work by scholars like Jarlath Killeen and Joseph McQueen has engaged with the possibility of sincere religious conviction in Wilde’s work; however, little attention has been paid to his interaction with the Bible in his fiction. I will examine the possibility of biblical intertextuality in Oscar Wilde, following recent trends in postsecularism arguing that supposedly heterodox Victorians adapted religious thought for the new needs of modern culture through creative engagements with biblical and faith narratives.

My reading will focus on how Wilde’s popular fairy tale, “The Happy Prince,” reinscribes traditional biblical themes of incarnation and redemptive suffering in a new narrative. Wilde’s biblical intertextuality defamiliarizes religious themes for a late Victorian society that was saturated in biblical messaging and gives his readers a textual space to rediscover the significance of these themes. I will pay particular attention to the significance of the garden and city as sites of action in the narrative, and how this choice of locations focuses our attention on the tale’s religious resonances. This presentation will expand our understanding of how Oscar Wilde engaged with the Bible as a repository of renewable stories while also highlighting the significance of his fairy tales, which like his religious convictions, are all too often ignored or sidelined.

The Ambition of Jefferson’s Second Inaugural

Jefferson’s Second Inaugural address is perhaps the most understudied text in the early repblic. The recent publication of the drafts of the address confirm that Jefferson spent considerable effort drafting an address would addresss philosophy, religion, and freedom of the press. In its final form, the section on philosophy was replaced by a passage on Native peoples, and in that passage Jefferson went further than any president in acknowleging the injustice of their experience. That passage in turn prepared the way for an extended discussion of the freedom of the press in the context of a politics where misinformation runs rampant. The result is serious text that requires our attention.

This paper will reintroduce the Second Inaugural, opening space for future consideration by students and scholars of the period.

Something Understood’: Metaphor and the Riddle Tradition in George Herbert’s ‘Prayer (I)’This essay is an investigation into the form of “Prayer (I)”. Unique among the poems in The Temple for its structure as a list of metaphors for prayer, this poem makes use of a Welsh literary device called “dyfalu.” This technique, the rapid fire sequence of images and metaphors, has its primary use in telling riddles. In other words, the form of “Prayer (I)” invites the title to be read as the answer to which the whole poem is the question. Herbert’s use of this device has been noted by the likes of Louis Martz and Donald R. Dickinson, both in this poem and as a significant feature of Herbert’s poem “Sunday,” but so far the form has not received adequate critical attention as it connects to Herbert’s larger theological project. This essay, then, situates the poem in the context of the medieval “Riddle Tradition,” in which the two primary uses for riddles were games and contemplative practices, and in doing so, argues for the reading of this poem as a contemplative practice and gestures towards a broader “poetics of contemplation” being developed in further work, using Eberhard Junngel’s theology of metaphor.
“Prudential Men and Regimes: Phronesis in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War”In his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides offers recognition and praise for arete, the excellences and virtuous acts of his subjects. This paper will focus on the ancient historian’s recognition of phronesis—prudence or practical wisdom—or its opposite, in his descriptions and assessments of individual men and regimes.
At Home with DeathPlace matters not only for the living but also for the dying and the dead. This paper will consider death and dying in Wendell Berry’s Port William, where home deaths and grave digging “fit” into ordinary life. This paper will explore the coherence of Berry’s exploration of death and dying practices in his fictional, agricultural community, with reference to Berry’s poetry and prose. Why are nursing homes, hospitals, and cremation outliers in Berry’s imagination of wholeness?
Putting down roots: a reading of ‘Republic’For Socrates in the Republic good men do not pursue honors or money (347a), so they do not seem to have any real incentive to rule. At first glance it seems that they only agree to rule threatened by punishment (539e). Does this not imply, as Socrates’ interlocutors in the dialogue suggest, that the just ruler is the most unhappy man, enslaved in the city and deprived of choosing his way of life?
Paradoxically, something similar happens to the Tyrant. The Tyrant is so dominated by his desire for power that it becomes his only desire and interest (572e). But if by misfortune he comes to dominate a city, the Tyrant ends up as if locked in a prison of fear and distrust, suspecting that those around him seek to seize power from him as soon as they can (579b). The Tyrant is thus constrained to constant vigilance.
Both the Guardian Philosopher and the Tyrant are obliged to remain in the city, but the necessity experienced by the former is of a very different nature from that of the latter. Although Plato uses the same word to express this obligation (ἀνάγκη, ἀναγκάζεσθαι), but in different senses. To further clarify what Plato has in mind, I think it is useful to explain the concept of necessity from the categories of rootedness and rootlessness. The just takes root in the city and flourishes by making it flourish. Tyranny consumes the city as if it were a plague foreign to it.
Aristotle’s Topics: Powerful thinking or dangerous sophistry?(This will be part of a panel submitted by Scott Lee.) In the Topics, Aristotle considered topics (that is, argumentative strategies) effective not just for inventing persuasive speeches, but also debating points. For Aristotle, even though key topics are shared between rhetoric and dialectic, dialectical topics are more logically rigorous. I will explore this claim, showing how dialectical topics are extremely powerful, not just for inventing debating points, but also for understanding arguments, such as Socrates’s. In the process, I will consider whether there is educational value in teaching students dialectical topics, e.g., in seminar in analyzing texts and in arguing with each other. Ultimately, Aristotle thought that all topics were unsuitable for arriving at truth. If we teach dialectical topics, are we teaching students the rigorous critical thinking they need today or are we potentially educating a generation of dangerous sophists?
Re-Reading CreonThe tendency to explain Creon’s tyranny in Sophocles’ Antigone as a manifestation of his personal moral failings reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the political commentary Sophocles offers. Creon’s descent into tyranny is an illustration of the failure of a state precipitated by a wrong relationship among the elements of the polis – the normative (the divine), the existential (the family), and the situational (the government). Creon desires to balance the needs of the divine, the needs of the family, and the needs of the government. However, in his zeal for the state, Creon elevates the needs of the government above the needs of the other elements of the polis. Tyranny, in this formulation, results from a relational imbalance, wherein government is elevated over household and nature. Creon does not fail the state because he is evil; Creon fails the state because he cannot motivate the appropriate relational harmony to cultivate and sustain virtue. The crucible that reveals these competing interests is the burial practice, and in particular the importance of place to ancient Greek burial rituals as a signal of state approbation.

There is perhaps one “place” where more public thinking and speaking occurs today than anywhere else: the internet. As online discourse increasingly shapes what passes for public argument, it behooves scholars and teachers of rhetoric to understand the symbolic logics that animate such discourse. To that end, this paper argues that polysyndeton—as exemplified in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis—operates as a master trope for public reasoning online, providing a rhetorical foundation through which to ground the ever-shifting topoi that characterize the conversational conventions of social media. This claim, in turn, offers insights for understanding the generative, immersive nature of online discourse as a place where we, and our students, increasingly go to think.

Topology and Aristotle’s Place in ItWhat do we mean when we say “where?” And where, after all, is the universe? Aristotle examines these questions, and other puzzles about place, in the fourth book of his Physics.
At first glance, Aristotle’s treatment of place could seem hopelessly mired in an outated cosmology. His remarks, however, and the medieval tradition of commentary on them, pair remarkably with the modern mathematical discipline of topology. One fruit of this pairing is that young, technical mathematics is drawn into conversation with an ancient tradition and a central text. Obversely, the older text, illuminated by modern mathematics, becomes a little less obscure.
Finding Meaning in Change: The Story and the StudentTo borrow from the Canadian genius of Rush’s Tom Sawyer, “He knows changes aren’t permanent. But change is…
History is a collection of transformational moments. Whether it is religious upheaval, intellectual awakening, the displacement of colonialism, or the extensional dread of the post-modern world, change is the thread that ties it all together. The humanities classroom becomes a place to explore the changes of the past through relatable stories. Short stories are used as a framework to examine the human experience through time, focusing on transitional periods and personal transformations. Readings such as Luther’s 95 Theses, Chopin’s The Story of an Hour, Musui’s Story by Katsu Kokichi, and Garcia-Marquez’s A Chronicle of a Death Foretold help students connect to the past meaningfully. Short stories and historical content integrate, allowing students to navigate the past and identify the humans in the study of humanities.
Socratic Philosophy and the Importance of Place in Plato’s CritoIn Plato’s dialogue the Crito, Socrates argues that he is morally obligated to remain in Athens and accept his sentence of death even though he has been wrongly convicted. Some scholars have maintained that in this dialogue Socrates argues in favor of the citizen’s unconditional obligation to obey the political community and that his position is thus inconsistent with arguments put forward in other dialogues including the Apology. In this paper, I will argue that the theory of political obligation in the Crito, which Socrates presents through a personification of the Law of Athens, is in fact conditional upon the particular characteristics of Athens as a political community and Socrates’ particular history as a member of that political community. In the end Socrates contends that his philosophical project is highly dependent upon Athens as a particular political project. Socrates’ philosophical method is dependent upon a high level of social trust between himself and his interlocutors and is not simply transferrable to another political community with a different set of traditions and practices. Socrates could not simply transfer his philosophical project to another place and another people and this fact plays a role in his ultimate decision to stay and suffer his fate.
Armchair Philosophizing: Descartes, Doubt, and Displacement

Descartes’ choice location for his project in the Meditations evokes a now infamous paradigm: He sets aside all other concerns to philosophize in a chair by the fire. Despite this clear attempt to step outside of the world of influence, his use of examples clearly betrays his adoption of certain lasting influences. Notably, he brings to the chair mathematics, ancient philosophy, and the Christian tradition. Despite this, how does Descartes’ choice of place perhaps influence his investigation? Or, if the true place of his investigation is in his mind alone, does the solitude of his location play no role? The consideration of such questions is made considerably more difficult given his method of doubt in his inquiry. How could the solitude of an armchair influence an investigation which might all be a dream–a figment of his imagination? This paper explores the influence of Descartes’ place of thought on the investigation in the Meditations by taking seriously his claims about the relationship between things and our ideas of them.

On Homecoming in ‘Hannah Coulter’Many of the greatest works of literature consider the phenomenon by which the young depart their homes, travel, discover, and eventually return to become the cornerstones of their community. In some cases (such as Homer’s Odyssey or Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), the itinerant may discover that their home has changed in unspeakable–and perhaps irreparable–ways. Yet in the modern era, it seems that the cultural narrative of departure rarely considers an obligation to return home. In this brief paper, I reflect on the agrarian novelist Wendell Berry’s ‘Hannah Coulter’ as a poignant depiction of this phenomenon. In the face of economic and social pressures that siphon the human lifeblood away from the communities they sustain, what can be done?
Haec Est Domus Ultima – Hades Is Our Final Home

In Ovid’s telling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the mourning musician travels to the depths of the underworld to plead for the return of his bride. Ornamented by the plaintive plucking of his tuneful harp, Orpheus’ request is granted, although his rescue is ultimately frustrated.

One can be sure that the bard accompanied his poetic plea with a melody worthy of his mother-Muse. The rhetorical richness of this plea, certified by its effectiveness, is due in part to an unexpected idea: the idea of Hades as the eventual home of humankind, the ‘domus ultima’ of ‘humani generis’. This thought is distinctive to Ovid’s account, especially when contrasted to Sir Orfeo, the 14th century retelling of the same myth, which images Orpheus to have succeeded in his rescue.

In what ways does this idea of Hades as a home pervade Ovid’s account? Could it serve to soften the tragedy of Eurydice’s famous ‘double death?’ What implications does this idea contain regarding the purpose, nature, and destiny of humanity? And could the Christian ethos of the Medieval retelling serve to combat Ovid’s pagan ideas of the afterlife, of the domus ultima?

Re-Placing Modernist Epic: Gwendolyn Brooks’s Annie Allen Reads The Waste LandThis paper examines Gwendolyn Brooks’s 1949 poetry collection Annie Allen through its generic engagement with epic and with epic’s paradigmatic modernist revision in T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Especially in its tellingly titled central movement, “The Anniad,” but also in the shorter poems that surround it, I trace the ways in which Brooks’s volume simultaneously honors, draws on, plays with, prods, and punctures the traditional formal and thematic devices of epic alongside, and through, The Waste Land’s retrieval of Augustan mock epic and distinctly early-twentieth-century nexus of pastoral longing and the anthropological gaze. This work takes place in notable part through the direct dramatization of reading practices and is inseparable from the book’s intimate concern with place: with the seen and touched world and lived rhythms of the Black Chicago community in which it is set. As a reading of Annie Allen, this paper situates Brooks’s book as a modern core text in its own right in the epic tradition. It also suggests ways in which Annie Allen might speak to and inform encounters with other epic texts in and outside the conventional canon, with modernism, and with The Waste Land in the many and diverse places of twenty-first-century liberal learning.
Whales and Aliens: The Place of Place in the worlds of Herman Melville and Ray Bradbury.

To flee the “damp, drizzling November” in his soul, whaler-narrator Ishmael takes to the ship, changing his place from land to sea. As his imaginative exploration bring him deeper and more intimate acquaintance with the whale, Ishmael extends the cosmos beyond the terrestrial and into the upper and lower reaches, the firmaments of the waters that had been divided at creation. He sees the whale as key to a return to a re-hallowing of the physical world:

If hereafter any highly cultured, poetical nation shall lure back to their birth-right, the merry May-day gods of old; and livingly enthrone them again in the now egotistical sky; in the now unhaunted hill; then be sure, exalted to Jove’s high seat, the great Sperm Whale shall lord it. (Ch. 79. The Prairie)

Ray Bradbury wrote the screen play for the 1956 film adaptation of Moby-Dick, and also wrote poems that consider the prospect of space exploration in the light of the whale wisdom contained in the novel he unabashedly admired. In one of his poems, ‘Old Ahab’s Friend and Friend to Noah Speaks His Piece,’ the whale speaks to men in the future, exhorting them to journey into space:

Remember Moby here, this dream, this time which does suspire…
I kept you well. I languish and I die.
My bones will timber out fresh dreams,
My words will leap like fish in new trout streams
Gone up the hill of Universe to spawn.

This collision of conceptions, as embodied by the whale as he swam in the imagination of authors a century apart, raises the questions of where humans came from, where they are going, and where is their proper home. If, as the whale of Bradbury’s poem maintains, humans are meant to live on other worlds than Earth, the question of whether those world are already inhabited becomes an urgent one. Ishmael himself, thinking of the “grand hooded phantom” haunting the oceans upon which he will embark, mused, “it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in.” (Ch 1 Loomings)

This paper will consider questions of place and person in Melville’s Moby-Dick and the poems of Ray Bradbury, asking questions of where we as human belong, and what is our relation to the inhabitants of these realms, aquatic, terrrestrial, and extra-terrestrial.

Tensions of Creation: Seeking Order in Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones

In the novel Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, the final thoughts of Marcus, who is the narrator of the novel and an engineer, are represented through stream of post-consciousness as he suffers a heart attack. This strategy which allows his ghost to manage “the temporal and spatial variations in the novel and, in so doing…overcome the tension between fragmentation/collapse and coherence/organization” (Altuna-Garcia de Salazar 88). Through this strategy, Altuna-Garcia de Salazar argues that the novel “explores the individual’s organization and collective collapse of the Celtic Tiger years” in Ireland in the year 2010 (98). Although I agree with his general analysis, I disagree with his interpretation of the final lines of the novel (“keep going/ keep going to fuck” (217)), in which he argues that Marcus is fearful of an unavoidable “individual and common collapse” in Ireland during this period (91). I disagree with this interpretation because it is in stark contrast to his ghost’s statement at the end of the novel that he has “known to be a sacred and beautiful place, hallowed by human endeavor and energies, crossed with love and the continual eave of human circumstance” (McCormack 215). Because of Marcus’s positive perception of both the world and the creative energies which create the harmony within it, I believe that Marcus does not despair at the end of the novel.

Just so, I will argue that there are two impulses present in the novel: Marcus’s desire for coherence within his personal and professional life, and the desires of others to create under their own idea of coherence, such as Moylette, the public official, who desires to bypass Marcus’s sound engineering advice regarding laying the foundation for a school. By examining this tension, I will be able to note instances in which others, who are invested in the same project as him, do not follow Marcus’s idea of order, thus causing future disorder. However, I will also note instances in which Marcus recognizes order and harmony within others’ creations. Ultimately, I will be able to conclude that Marcus’s final lines are not despairing at all but, rather, a call to continue to create and seek coherence and order as he did during his lifetime.


Hannah Arendt on Place and Power

Hannah Arendt is clear that one cannot simply transplant ideas, especially on politics, from one place to another. Through an investigation of her allusive and elusive concept of power in both The Human Condition and On Revolution, this paper will explore why Arendt, a noted critic of the nation-state and a writer deeply concerned with phenomena of immigration, argues that political ideas do and must change to fit the community in which they are to have impact. For Arendt, power is defined as “action in concert,” a deceptively short definition for a phenomenon that encompasses the interplay between political actors, spectators, shared commitments, and conflicting narratives. In addition to the key passages of On Revolution and The Human Condition, this paper will explore how Arendt uses Thucydides’ multi-perspectivism in her Between Past and Future to present a way forward for a political community of diverse— and even directly opposed— actors in a shared political world.



Freedom in Rousseau’s Pure State of NatureRousseau’s Second Discourse offers a nuanced discussion on freedom in the pure state of nature. In Part I of the Second Discourse, Rousseau seems to argue, on one hand, that man in the pure state of nature lives a simple and solitary way of life prescribed by Nature and is thus free due to his self-sufficiency and independence. On the other hand, however, he also depicts this natural man as a free agent with the faculty of perfectibility who can deviate from what is prescribed by Nature. This suggests that Rousseau presents two contradictory notions of freedom in the pure state of nature. My purpose in this paper is to argue for an understanding of Rousseau’s notion of freedom in the pure state of nature that tries to reconcile the two seemingly contradictory notions of freedom in Part I of the Second Discourse. In contrast to the interpretation that argues for a latent kind of free will, I argue that in the pure state of nature, man’s freedom to choose is actualized but only at the level when and where Nature is silent and the freedom to deviate from what Nature prescribes remains as potentiality. And I argue that man’s freedom to perfect himself is developed to a degree that is useful to his self-preservation but not superfluous or becoming a burden to him, raising the natural man above the level of beasts’ instinct and compensating for his instinct to serve for his self-preservation.
Miracles and Testimony in Early Modern EnglandThe intellectual and societal environment of England and Scotland in the early modern period presented a new and unique challenge to the traditional Christian belief in miracles, and particularly the rationality of trusting testimony regarding miracles, which was rooted in the church politics of the time as well as early modern anglophone epistemology. This paper will consider the way that both Shakespeare and Hume engage the question of the trustworthiness of testimony about miracles, putting The Winter’s Tale and King Lear in conversation with Hume’s Essay. In both The Winter’s Tale and King Lear, Shakespeare engages the possibility that believing a testimony about a miracle, even if the testimony is not true, can cause genuine redemption. The majority of the paper will be spent unpacking the odd apology Shakespeare makes for testimony in these plays, and situate it in the context of early modern anglophone epistemology as it comes to its final fruition in Hume’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
FOMO, or Why that girl looking over your shoulder would rather be someplace else, accounted for in light of de Tocqueville’s Democracy in AmericaI contend that there is a sickness of soul peculiar to the man who is consistently unable to enjoy an evening with friends for fear others may be enjoying themselves more. The person who is suffering from this ‘fear of missing out’ does not say: I am enjoying myself here, but I would enjoy myself more there. The person suffering from such a fear says: I cannot enjoy myself here because it could be better anywhere. It is this chronic state of discontent, of worry that there is a better place to be, better people to be with, a better thing being done where I am not – which I hope to explain.

Two-hundred years ago, de Tocqueville wrote:
At first sight there is something surprising in this strange unrest of so many happy men, restless in the midst of abundance. The spectacle itself is however as old as the world; the novelty is to see a whole people furnish an exemplification of it…He who has set his heart exclusively upon the pursuit of worldly welfare is always in a hurry, for he has but a limited time at his disposal to reach it, to grasp it, and to enjoy it.

By examining several such passages in Democracy in America, I will expose how the ‘fear of missing out’ (or FOMO, as it was coined in the aughts) is a by no means new phenomenon, and one which is attributable to factors identified by de Tocqueville nearly two centuries ago. Detrimental as it was then, such a phenomenon bears significant implications in a 21st-century context where social media has, now more than ever, revealed to the man-on-the-street all that he stands to miss.
Tocqueville on Religion and PoliticsThrough a close reading of Democracy in America, this paper will attempt to spell out the subtle dynamics by which the spirit of religion supports political liberty. It attempts to discover the role of religion that Tocqueville envisions in the emerging democratic age, whether the salutary role of religion is unique to the American democracy, or, in other words, whether Tocqueville’s assessment of American Christianity offer any generalizable insight to the relationship between religion and politics, so that it may be applicable in, for example, France. If generalizable, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America would provide a healthy and perhaps more viable alterantive to the mainstream visions of the role of religion in the modern state, namely the total privatization of Locke, the secular humanism of Marx and the civil religion of Kant and Rousseau.
Strauss’s Portrait of Socrates in His Chapter on Aristotle in City and ManIn City and Man, Strauss characterizes Socratic political philosophy as that political philosophy which, broadly understood, is “first philosophy.” As part of a larger project on Strauss and Benardete, I will explain what it means and what the warrant is for this apparently strange claim in their interpretations of Plato’s Socratic political philosophy.
“Groundhog Day: A Parable of Self-Authorship in Small Town America”Since its release in 1993, the romantic comedy Groundhog Day, has come to be seen as a film that merits serious interpretation. It’s protagonist, played by Bill Murray has been compared to Sisyphus in the underworld, a soul in purgatory, a lonely man facing Nietzsche’s eternal return, a bodhisattva, and Jesus Christ. I argue in my paper for an interpretation that is less grand, but no less serious: a parable of self-authorship in small town America.
Lycurgus, the Legendary Lacedaemonian LawgiverThis paper is a part of a larger project that aims to understand the scope of Cyrus’s ambitions, and to judge of the success of his attempt to be a founder of an empire on the grandest scale. In this paper, I turn to Xenophon’s account of Lycurgus, another mythical founder, in the hope that a comparison will prove illuminating.
Core Text: Xenophon’s Regime of the Lacedaemonians
The Tragedy of Patriotism in AeschylusWhile patriotism and love of one’s place are often seen as good and noble, they often accompany grave injustice. Ethnic violence, prejudice, and war are all caused by the same sentiments that inspire heroic self-sacrifice and courage, which presents a conundrum of the true nature of patriotism and whether it is truly just. Throughout his corpus, Aeschylus deals with several issues pertaining to this problem, such as immigration in the “Suppliants”, imperialism in the “Persians”, and civil war in “Seven Against Thebes”. In treating of these issues, Aeschylus does not merely use them as background for the tragic plot, but as the central part of the tragedy itself. In this way, these plays offer insight into the true nature of patriotism and love of one’s place. In this paper, I argue that in these plays Aeschylus presents patriotism and love of place as essentially tragic, that is, as a just and good thing that inevitably entails committing injustice. This is not only a commentary on the normal course of civic virtue, but an understanding of patriotism’s actual nature as a noble, unjust, and tragic necessity.
The Heart and William Harvey in Descartes’s Discourse on MethodIn Part V of the Discourse on Method, René Descartes gives a long account of the motion of the heart and blood. He cites William Harvey’s discovery of circulation to support this account. However, Descartes’s version of the heart and blood’s true motions fundamentally disagrees with Harvey’s account. Why? This paper offers a two-part explanation. First, Harvey’s version could not be reconciled to Descartes’s physical laws, and thus could not be accepted. Second, since he had withheld from publishing The World, Descartes was now committed to using anatomy rather than cosmology to demonstrate the explanatory power of his natural philosophy.
“The Play’s the Thing”: representing theatricality in two early films by Jacques RivetteThis paper examines the use of nested drama in two films from near the beginning of Rivette’s career as a director. The first instance of this nesting are the scenes of rehersal for Shakespeare’s Pericles in Paris Belongs to Us (1961). The second instance is the staging of elements from Henry James’ The Other House in Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974). As the films are separated by more than fifteen years, and a significant change in Rivette’s own ideas about filmaking, the use of this device would be expected to be quite different in each, and to serve different ends. While this is true, there is also a shared significance in both instances, one that seems to bear on the way in which meaning can be both conveyed and parodied by theatrical staging. I explore this in reference to some of the claims Hans-Georg Gadamer makes about play and drama in Truth and Method.
(w/ Emma Cohen de Lara) Can virtue lead us to attack the place where we live? Platonic and Aristotelian reflections on Shakespeare’s CoriolanusSometimes, it’s clear when virtue calls on us to stand against the corrupt ethos of our community. But what about when it’s not clear? By what standard do we judge when our community has gone so far that we are justified in attacking it? How do we know that we have the integrity or wisdom to make this judgment at all? In this paper, we will analyze the case of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, considering whether he is justified in turning against his home, Rome, whether his virtue calls him to it, or whether he has virtue at all. We will explore these questions by considering Plato and Aristotle’s reflections upon thumos, anger, love, courage, civic virtue, and civic education.
If Plato were a Roman: “Traces of the old flame” in Marsilio Ficino’s Latin translation of PhaedrusThe paper explores the Latin translation of Plato’s Phaedrus by the fifteenth-century Florentine scholar, Marsilio Ficino. As with all of his translations of the Platonic corpus, Ficino’s Latin Phaedrus is usually very faithful to the Attic oiginal. However, Ficino consistently departs from Plato in his preference for words relating to fire, such as ‘spark’, or ‘burning’, when describing erotic passion. This can be best understood in terms of Ficino’s preference for a translation that evokes the poetry of Virgil, specifically Book Four of the Aeneid. Ficino believes that every language must be informed by its greatest poets and that, in consequence, a Latin translation of Plato must echo Virgil in the same way that the original text echoes Homer and Hesiod.
Is There a “World Elsewhere” for Coriolanus?At the moment of his expulsion from Rome by the common people, Coriolanus proudly proclaims, “There is a world elsewhere.” He then flees to his former adversary, Aufidius, for refuge and recognition, and is accepted as a general, at least for a time. I am interested in two questions. First, on what grounds can Coriolanus remain himself in his adopted city and not simply be treated as a traitor? His skill, pride, and reputation are transferable but his history must be set aside in order for the Volsci to accept him. Second, on what grounds does his mother, Volumnia, succeed in persuading him to call off the attack on Rome? Unlike her son, she refuses to abandon her “neighbors,” and recalls him to civic love. Although this play is not read at St. John’s, I find it to be a particularly challenging one for us, as liberal arts colleges must ask whether they are enabling students to live in particular communities or as global generalists–to value what is their own, or to seek a world elsewhere.
Hamlet and the End of the RenaissanceThis paper arises from doing recruiting tours for my university for our core text program, the Foundation Year Program. I will argue that the play seemingly studied in every high school in Canada can be read as study in the breakdown of Renaissance sense of the self that would seek to make itself active in the world. The play begins with Hamlet torn between his deep melancholy that would have him withdraw from the world and his familialand poltical duty to revenge his father’s death. The argument of the paper is to situate this dilemma in alarger sense of what the Renaissance “self” is and how the play explores the crisis of conscience that overwhlems this self and its capacity for action. What the play points to, though, is not simply the impossibility of this self, but also the way beyond the Renaissance account of the self which leads us to a new account of self-hood that will emege in its own terms in the properly modern accounts of thinkers such as Descartes.
Place and Time on the Magic MountainThomas Mann calls our attention to the importance of place immediately with the title of his great novel The Magic Mountain. There is something about this place – the mountain itself, the International Sanatorium Berghof – that posesses a myseterious, power over the residents. In this paper I will attempt to understand something about this magic by examining the relationship between place and time, as time on the Magic Mountain has a peculiar quality very different from the time of the flatlands. What is the relationship between place and time on the mountain? How does this relationship shape the community and individuals who live there? In addressing these questions, I will also draw substantially on the definition of time in Aristotle’s Physics.