Killing Socrates: The Death of a Great Books Program

By |2019-03-09T09:22:14-05:00March 8th, 2019|

Few people know that in the early 1970s a “great books” program, founded by John Senior and two other professors, flourished at a large state university in the midwest. Even fewer know of its slow demise. Editor’s Note: Robert Carlson was a student and friend of John Senior, one of three founders of the [...]

What is a Book?

By |2019-02-25T10:49:22-05:00February 18th, 2019|

What is a Book? It is a special kind of body made to be inhabited by a curious kind of frozen but fusible soul, a body fit to mediate its own peculiar life… It is our tradition that the first lecture of the year should be dedicated to our freshmen.* They have newly joined a [...]

Odysseus: Patron Hero of the Liberal Arts

By |2019-02-25T14:28:17-05:00February 4th, 2019|

Odysseus has the art we need. I think he came by it through a rare combination of acutely honed cleverness and deep-souled imagination; we can acquire it by education. This art, the art of discovering significance, is the art of interpretation... I am to write about my hero Odysseus and to connect him to Liberal [...]

Liberal Learning, the Human Person, and Plato’s “Meno”

By |2019-02-25T14:28:30-05:00January 28th, 2019|

“First attend to the adjustment of your own soul, particularly the regulative liberal learning of your intellect, then project your internal economy on the world as social and political justice. The other way around is headless.”  – Eva Brann, The Music of the Republic: Essays on Socrates’ Conversations and Plato’s Writings Eva Brann is a [...]

The Classics and Christianity

By |2019-01-11T15:44:57-05:00January 11th, 2019|

Christians invented the classical curriculum; it is as much part of the broader Western inheritance as it is specifically part of the Christian inheritance… Why study old books? How do dusty old books written by dead men and women thousands of years ago grow my faith? Such can be common thoughts when the Christian [...]

What, Then, Is Time?

By |2019-02-25T14:29:59-05:00January 7th, 2019|

When our dean asked me to lecture this September it was because I’ve just completed a book on time, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to talk about it. There seemed to be three possible kinds of profit that I figured might come to you and to me if I gave what one might [...]

Why Read Old (Pagan) Books?

By |2018-12-30T11:08:24-05:00December 30th, 2018|

Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series affords our readers the opportunity to join Jason Baxter, as he considers why Christians should read the works of the pagans. —W. Winston Elliott III, Publisher At the end of each semester, I inevitably have one or two well-meaning students who are still unsure why they were asked [...]

An Education to Restore Wonder

By |2018-12-29T23:07:55-05:00December 29th, 2018|

We’ve reached a time when fewer and fewer on the outside know what the liberal arts are, or the value of them to the individual person, an organization, and the marketplace of ideas. In an age when people are so focused on science and technology via “STEM” subjects, we’ve lost our sense of wonder… [...]

Talking, Reading, Writing, Listening

By |2019-02-25T14:30:41-05:00December 10th, 2018|

I imagine that on Parents’ Weekend there might be some parents attending this once weekly occasion when the college assembles to hear a lecture. By its very name, a lecture is read—but read out loud, delivered in the writer’s voice. Thus, the sequence goes: I thought, I wrote, I read, I speak. Although this is the principal way of [...]

An Annunciation on the Battlefield

By |2018-12-01T00:26:51-05:00December 1st, 2018|

It is the encounter with beauty, all-consuming beauty, the infinite, which directs the human soul back to God. The sky calls us up; the earth drags us down... On December 2, 1805, the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte achieved his most spectacular victory at the Battle of Austerlitz against an allied army of Russians and Austrians. [...]

Jane Austen Forever!

By |2018-11-28T21:34:42-05:00November 28th, 2018|

Pick up a Jane Austen novel, and you will discover that behind the long gowns and country dances, people in her era struggled with the same weaknesses we struggle with today. Well-written stories like Austen’s bring to life the human drama that is played out in every age, in every heart… I’ve been reading [...]

Can We Be Friends? Spirit, Duty, & Our Canine Companions

By |2018-12-01T10:05:00-05:00November 26th, 2018|

If people and dogs have common ground of a higher order than animal needs, it must be in the territory of the spirit. Spirit is, just as Aristotle says, where friendship is at home. Now among us humans, this capability of the spirit is both an accomplishment and a work in progress, and so [...]

Do You Know What an Odyssey Is?

By |2018-11-21T08:38:33-05:00October 22nd, 2018|

My title is a question: “Do you know what an odyssey is?” I am asking each of you to ask yourself: “Do I know what an odyssey is?” In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around [...]

Welcome to Colonus: The Theban Plays of Sophocles

By |2018-11-21T08:38:37-05:00August 13th, 2018|

I’m uncertain of the joy of reading the Theban plays of Sophocles—the story is just too monstrous—but in accord with the awe. This translation conveys it… Sophocles: The Theban Plays, translated by David R. Slavitt (256 pages, Yale University Press, 2009) This is the most stripped-down version of the three Theban plays of Sophocles [...]