An Association for Core Texts and Courses Summer Seminar

“Rejuvenating and Reinventing the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century: an introduction to the texts of the trivium, from the ancients to modernity.”

At the University of Chicago Campus, Chicago, IL

Funded by the ACTC Liberal Arts Institute, the Bradley Foundation, and a private donor who wishes to encourage thinking about and using the liberal arts.

This syllabus and schedule is designed to give you a fairly detailed sense of the topics and readings for our seminar, as well as understanding of how we will structure our time together. We will supplement this syllabus later with information regarding required editions and materials that are available free and online. We will read and discuss what is listed each day. These are primary readings. Supplemental readings extend the lines of inquiry for the present and future but they are not compulsory.

Tentative Syllabus and Schedule

Sunday July, 17, 2022

Arrivals, Registration at Hyatt Place Chicago South Hotel and Welcoming Plenary Dinner

Monday, July 18

Morning, 10:00-12:00

  • Josh Parens: Art and the Liberal Arts: the nature, scope and ground of arts: art as intellectual work.
  • J. Scott Lee:  Additional remarks on the depth and breadth of the term, “art.”
  • Readings:
    • Plato, Gorgias, 447a-466a
    • Plato Republic VII

Afternoon, 1:30-3:30

  • Readings:
    • Aristotle, Physics Bk. II, Chap. 1, 2, 8.
    • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics Bk. VI, Chap. 1, 3-7.
    • Aristotle, Topics Bk. 1 Chap. 1-2.  
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric I, 1-5 to 1360b17; II, 1-4, 26; III. 13, 17, 19.
    • Aristotle, Poetics Chapters: 1-6, 9, 24.

Tuesday, July 19

Morning, 10:00-12:00: Building the techné of a liberal art: re-grounding rhetoric in speech.

  • Readings
    • Cicero.  De Inventione.  Bk I i-iv, vii-ix (par 12), (14)-xv (20). 

Afternoon, 1:30-3:30: Applying the techné of a liberal art to everyday life: the value and history of practical rhetoric and how the elements of the trivium work together to form a process of thought and expression.

  • Readings:
    • Cicero, Pro Archia
    • Seneca, Prefaces of Controversiae. From, Books 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10.
    • Gorgias, Encomium of Helen

Wednesday, July 20,

Morning 10:00-12:00: The identity and difference of arts and sciences.

  • Readings:
    • Aristotle, Categories Chap. 1-5;
    • Aristotle, Posterior Analytics I. 1-6; II. 1-2, 8-11.
    • Porphyry, Isagoge
    • Boethius, On Division

Afternoon, 1:30-3:30

  • Readings:
    • Plato, Cratylus 383a-399d, 423c-440e.
    • Suetonius: On Grammarians and Rhetoricians.
    • Terentius Mauris.  De                

Thursday, July 21

Morning 10:00-12:00: Relating the liberal arts in a comprehensive education

  • Readings:
    • Hugh of St. Victor.  Didascalicon.  Preface, I Chap 1-4, 9, 11; II 1-2, 20, 28-30; III 3-5, 8-9.
    • Christine de Pisan.  The City of Ladies. Chap 1-4

Afternoon:  1:00-4:30: Thinking anew about the limits of the liberal arts

  • Readings
    • Leon Batista Alberti. On Painting.
    • Botticelli.  Five pictures of the Adoration of the Magi, concentrating on the del Lama commissioned altarpiece.

Friday, July 22

Morning, 10:00-12:00: A new tradition of constant innovation in the arts

  • Readings
    • Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning II. 5-9
    • Francis Bacon, The Great Instauration
    • Francis Bacon, Organon, or True Directions Concerning the Interpretation of Nature. Preface, I, aphorisms 1-74, 95-107, 109-110.  Bk II 1-3.

 Afternoon:  1:00-4:00: Which are primary, liberal or mechanical arts?

  • Readings
    • Rene Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Rules 1-7, 10-12
    • Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method. Parts 13.
    • Rene Descartes, Geometry.

Saturday, July 23

Morning, 10:00-12:00: Products of the liberal arts

  • Institutional Teams’ Prepared presentations/discussions on the following readings:
    • Thucydides, Peloponnesian War, Pericles’ “Funeral Oration.”
    • John Quincy Adams. Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory.
    • Abraham Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address.”
    • W. E. B. Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk. Chapters IV, "Of the Meaning of Progress," and Chapter V, "Of the Wings of Atalanta
    • Martin Luther King.  “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Afternoon, Free Time

Sunday, July 24

Morning, 10:00-12:00: To rejuvenate and reinvent the liberal arts in the university and college; to bring or not to bring the liberal arts back into universities and colleges:


  • José Ortega y Gasset.  Mission of the University, pp. 22-33, 60-66, 78-81
  • Robert Maynard Hutchins.  The Higher Learning in America, Chapters 2 & 3.
  • Harry D. Gideonese.  The Higher Learning in a Democracy.

Afternoon, 1:00-4:00 PM: Re-inventing the liberal arts in the 20th and 21st centuries:


  • Longinus. On the Sublime.
  • Susan Sontag: “Against Interpretation”

Monday, July 25

Morning, 10:00-12:00

  • Team Presentations on liberal arts curriculum development for faculty and students.  Discussions by participants of their plans to use the seminar in course and curriculum development.  Exploration of possible addition of seminar texts to core text courses.  Twenty-minute presentations by individuals or teams, extending over two sessions.

Afternoon, 1:30-3:30

  • Team Presentations on liberal arts curriculum development for faculty and students.

Evening, Plenary Dinner, closing seminar.

 Tuesday, July 26: Departures

Supplemental Readings, by session:

  1. Isocrates. Antidosis.  Widely available.
  2. Plato. Phaedrus, Symposium, Ion.  Widely available.
    1. Aelius Donatus.  Ars Minor and Ars Major (From Medieval Grammar and Rhetoric. p. 83-98.)
    2. Priscian.  Institutiones Grammaticae and Institutione De Nomine Promine Verbo (From Medieval Grammar and Rhetoric. p. 167-189.)
    3. Richard McKeon. “Criticism and the Liberal Arts: The Chicago School of Criticism,” in Profession 82, Modern Language Association.
    1. Isadore of Seville. Etymologie. Book 2, xviii.
    2. Quintilian. De Institutio Oratoria.  X.2, XI.10
    3. J. Scott Lee,“ACTC, Liberal Arts, and Invention. Botticelli’s Adoration (1475)”
    4. Jan van Eyck, “The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin” (1430-1434) 
    5. Diego Velázquez, “Las Meninas”  (1656)  Online
  5. Galileo Galilei.  Starry Messenger.  Stillman Drake, tr.
    1. Emily Dickenson.“There is no frigate like a book,” “The Bustle in the House,” “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.
    2. Helen Vendler. “Inside Emily Dickinson’s Revealing Lost Papers.”  New Republic.  March 21, 2014. 
    3. Virginia Woolf.  “Letter to a Young Poet” and “A Room of One’s Own.”
    1. John Henry Newman. An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent.
    2. Owen Jones. A Grammar of Ornament: A visual reference of for and color in architecture and the decorative arts.
    3. Karl Pearson. A Grammar of Science.
    4. Ferdinand Saussure.General Course in Linguistics.  Chap. 1-4
    5. Kenneth Burke. A Grammar of Motives and A Rhetoric of Motives.
    6. Wayne Booth.  A Rhetoric of Fiction.