Great Books

Converting the Cosmos of the Mind

By |2019-08-19T22:06:59-05:00August 19th, 2019|Categories: E.B., Eva Brann, Great Books, In Honor of Eva Brann at 90 Series, Plato, Quotation, Senior Contributors, Socrates, St. John's College|

At every moment of this present life, our readiness to learn was, and is now, up to us, was and is our responsibility, and on every day our life breaks around the before and after of a life-changing choice… though all the past choices ease or obstruct the present one. Our cosmos, the place [...]

The Feminine Genius of Jane Austen

By |2019-08-16T23:08:45-05:00August 15th, 2019|Categories: Culture, Great Books, History, Jane Austen, Joseph Pearce, Literature, Senior Contributors|

Jane Austen is more than a giantess among women writers. She is also a giantess among the giants, holding a place of pride and prominence among the greatest writers of either sex and of all ages. She doesn’t merely tower above George Elliot, Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolf, and the Brontë sisters, she also towers above [...]

Socrates on Statesmanship: The Actual Intention

By |2019-07-18T13:46:22-05:00August 12th, 2019|Categories: Civil Society, E.B., Eva Brann, Great Books, In Honor of Eva Brann at 90 Series, Liberal Learning, Philosophy, Plato, Politics, Senior Contributors, Socrates, St. John's College|

Statesmanship is the craft of setting up a civic framework, a loom upon which the citizens of various temperaments, here the warp and woof, are interwoven into a cloak-like texture, which represents at once the body politic and its protective cover, as if to say that a well-interlaced citizenry will wrap itself in its own [...]

Warfare in Epic Poetry

By |2019-08-11T15:38:58-05:00August 11th, 2019|Categories: Death, Great Books, Homer, Iliad, Odyssey, Timeless Essays, War|

A culture that fails to represent, or that misrepresents its wars in all their glory, gravity, and tragedy, is a weaker polity. Epic poetry, with its stark recording of the facts and feelings of war, can give cultures and communities access to the reality of warfare and inscribe its memory on the collective consciousness [...]

Homer’s “Iliad” and the Shield of Love and Strife

By |2019-08-08T09:43:26-05:00August 8th, 2019|Categories: Great Books, Greek Epic Poetry, Homer, Iliad, Literature, Love, Odyssey, Paul Krause, Senior Contributors, War|

The human characters of Homer’s grand epic, the “Iliad,” embody what Homer is driving home at with his poem: the tension between strife and love. Achilles transforms from a rage-filled and strife-filled killer to a forgiving lover touched by the very power of love. Homer’s Iliad is the defining epic of Western literature. Its [...]

Plato’s Theory of Ideas

By |2019-08-05T21:25:16-05:00August 5th, 2019|Categories: Beauty, E.B., Eva Brann, Great Books, In Honor of Eva Brann at 90 Series, Philosophy, Plato, Reason, Senior Contributors, Socrates, Truth|

Socrates’ own chief word is ‘eidos.’ Like the word ‘idea,’ it is built on the simple past stem of the word ‘to see,’ which signifies the act of seeing once done and completed. The ‘eidos’ is knowable, but it is not knowledge. It confronts the soul and is not of it. To put it [...]

From Hector to Christ

By |2019-08-09T09:58:31-05:00August 3rd, 2019|Categories: Death, Great Books, Homer, Iliad, Paul Krause|

Hector, in many ways, is the closest to Christ in the ancient pagan world of heroes, literature, and lore. Yet, he falls short of Christ as all men do—and as all pagans did. But there is something remarkably sacramental about Hector to the Christian reader; there is something about Hector that shows glimpses of [...]

“Thoughts That Wound From Behind”: Great Books & the Power of Allusion

By |2019-07-30T22:14:33-05:00July 30th, 2019|Categories: Alfred Tennyson, Dante, Great Books, Literature, Morality, Poetry|

One value of reading truly great works of literature, works that have stood the test of time for decades or even centuries, is the opportunity such reading affords for exploring the tradition that has since built up around them. Any such truly great work—the Iliad, the Aeneid, Paradise Lost, Shakespeare’s Hamlet—will have accrued innumerable [...]

Mental Imagery

By |2019-07-29T10:53:04-05:00July 29th, 2019|Categories: E.B., Eva Brann, Imagination, Immanuel Kant, In Honor of Eva Brann at 90 Series, Liberal Learning, Philosophy, Science, Senior Contributors, St. John's College|

As Immanuel Kant says, the imagination is “a hidden art in the depth of the human soul.” It is a faculty which presupposes that somehow or other two worlds of objects are present to us, one of which seems to us to be outside, the other inside ourselves. The imagination is a puzzle not [...]

Chaucer & the Heresy of Courtly Love

By |2019-07-28T21:18:35-05:00July 28th, 2019|Categories: Geoffrey Chaucer, Great Books, Literature, Love, Mitchell Kalpakgian, Senior Contributors, Timeless Essays|

With consummate sophistication, courtly love idealizes the vice of lust as a beautiful sentiment and spiritual longing that only the so-called holy gift of “love” can satisfy. Chaucer’s satire on innovative theories of marriage and the heresy of courtly love validates the wisdom of the Church’s teaching on hierarchy, fidelity, and indissolubility. Today’s offering [...]

The Nature of Marital Happiness in “Pride & Prejudice”

By |2019-07-23T22:21:28-05:00July 23rd, 2019|Categories: Character, Great Books, Happiness, Jane Austen, Literature, Marriage|

In “Pride and Prejudice,” Elizabeth Bennet is vehement that the character of the person must be determined in order to make a good choice. While spouses may change over time in superficial ways, the essentials remain constant. While one may hope for the conversion of a scoundrel or a fool, it is not worth [...]

The Past-Present

By |2019-07-18T12:54:06-05:00July 22nd, 2019|Categories: E.B., Eva Brann, Great Books, History, In Honor of Eva Brann at 90 Series, Liberal Learning, Senior Contributors, St. John's College, Time, Tradition|

The past is, indeed, a place in which to take refuge when it is necessary to pull back, to contemplate life, and to mull things over. The present is the phase for brisk deliberation, decision, and action; for being in that sleepwalking state in which we do, more or less surefootedly, the one thing [...]

Plato’s “Symposium”: The Drama and Trial of Eros

By |2019-07-21T22:20:01-05:00July 21st, 2019|Categories: Great Books, Love, Myth, Paul Krause, Philosophy, Plato|

Plato was a moralist. An ethicist. He was concerned with the primacy of action, of engagement, in a world that was deeply iconoclastic, barbarous, and savage. Love of wisdom allows for the creation of that space where ethical and loving life is possible. Plato’s Symposium is one of the most iconic works of literature [...]