Great Books Conversation

I do this for Dave and Kamran. Y’all rock!

Per the email that went out late last night:

This is your official invitation to September’s Great Books Conversation hosted by HWC Philosophy faculty Kamran Swanson and Dave Richardson.

Over the summer, Kamran came up with the idea of getting faculty together, from all corners of the building, to read and then talk about some philosophical text in order to explore some fundamental concepts and their relation to our teaching and student learning, and Dave jumped on his coattails for the ride. The first one, back on August 11th was such a delight, that we decided to try to have these conversations toward the end of every month.

For September, we have scheduled two (one on Monday, September 26th at 2pm and one on Friday, September 30th at 11am) in the hopes that if one time and day doesn’t work, the other will. Both conversations will be held in room 1046, and all faculty, full time or adjunct, administrators and staff are welcome to attend either or both!

This month we will be focusing on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The American Scholar,” which is the text of a speech that Emerson delivered to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge in 1837.  In it Emerson discusses the purpose, the sources, the characteristics, and the outcomes of a “true education.”

Ambitious conversationalists might also want to read one or more of the following texts: Emerson’s “Self Reliance” or “History,” or Adrienne Rich’s “Claim Your Education” to further their thinking on the topics and themes. All of the texts are available online (links below).

[I went ahead and revised the email, links are embedded]

Emerson’s “American Scholar”

Emerson’s “Self Reliance” or Listen to it here

Emerson’s “History” or Listen to it here

Rich’s “Claim Your Education”

It is our hope that we will be able to pick up with some of the themes that we discussed last month, as well as new ones that arise from the intersection of this text and our college. The discussion will surely be wide-ranging and theoretical, as well as concrete and practical, and even if you didn’t do the reading, you are invited and welcome and will, undoubtedly, have opportunities to contribute.

We look forward to seeing some of you there. Please write either of us with any further questions or concerns, and feel free to bring a friend. If you think you might attend (or know that you will), please send Kamran or me an email this week saying which day you hope to join us so we can have a rough idea of how many people to expect. Feel free to walk in the day of the event(s) though, even if you haven’t RSVP’d.

Hope to see you there,

Dave Richardson, Humanities
Kamran Swanson, Humanities

Peeps, ya know where to find these lovers of wisdom; by email, phone, or in person. Join them if you can.

4 thoughts on “Great Books Conversation

  1. Hi, Kamran and PhiloDave. Good luck on making this work. Will there always be an opportunity to take part in discussions here as well as in 1046?

    As ever, Emerson is at the pulpit. The American Scholar gives expression to distinctly American habits of reading and writing. Emerson urges us to “read the signs”: it’s all biblical exegesis, from Puritans to The Book of Mormon (and has anyone seen that show yet?).

    EMERSON: “He and only he knows the world. The world of any moment is the merest appearance.”

    About the Enlightenment Project, Carl Becker wrote the following: “Having de-natured God, they deified nature.” Really, though, that statement applies here as well (it is 1837). This is partly why Emerson is so down on colleges that “drill” and students who don’t read the Book (of nature). The desire to be distinctly American and not imitative and enervated (i.e. not European) is more Manifest Destiny.

    Gnosticism frames Emerson (and the essay). The essay begins with a retelling of the Adamic Fall (“One Man”), and it ends with a call to gnosis.

    EMERSON: “The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all of the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must be an university of knowledges. If there be one lesson more than another, which should pierce his ear, it is: The world is nothing, the man is all; in yourself is the law of all nature…in yourself slumbers the whole of Reason; it is for you to know all….”

    Substitute “American Gnostic” for “American scholar” and you have the substitution convention that breaks the code.

    (And what about Morretti?)

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