Academic Year Seminars


On Becoming Somebody: Attachment and Responsibility 
R. J. Snell
The Witherspoon Institute

Many of us expect a life of mobility, moving from one opportunity to the next, always in search of something better. Of course, this often does lead to new and better opportunities and can be very good—but it also can come at a cost, including a loss of a sense of home or place. In this seminar, we consider the freedom of being able to live “anywhere” in distinction to the obligations and rootedness of staying put, or settling “somewhere.” How do we live wisely and well when we’re very likely to be moving soon?

Open to all Princeton undergraduates, the seminar will meet twice per month on Fridays, 12:45-3:00pm, lunch provided.

Location: The Witherspoon Institute, Whelan Hall.

Dates: 9/21; 10/5; 10/19; 11/16; 12/7.

For more information, contact at R. J. Snell at rsnell@winst.org.

 

 

Passion and Freedom: C.S. Lewis and The Abolition of Man
R. J. SnellThe Witherspoon Institute

In The Abolition of Man, now a minor classic, C.S. Lewis explores the importance of our emotions in living well, and the moral realism required to order our passions and emotions in reasonable ways. He also suggests–correctly or incorrectly?–that our current forms of education tend to disorder the passions, turning us into “men without chests.” If it’s not enough to simply think rightly, how do we go about feeling rightly?

Open to all Princeton undergraduates, the seminar will meet twice per month on Fridays, 12:45-3:00pm, lunch provided.

Dates: 9/28; 10/12; 11/9; 11/30; 12/14.

Location: The Witherspoon Institute, Whelan Hall.

For more information, contact at R. J. Snell at rsnell@winst.org.

 

Heroes and Saints: Myths and Legends
José Pérez-Benzo, The Witherspoon Institute

I want a hero: an uncommon want.’ Though ours is an age suspicious of the very notion of heroism, this seminar will argue that human nature contains within itself an ineradicable desire for heroes. We will examine heroism not primarily as a concept in the abstract, but rather we will witness how people both historical and fictional have embodied the concept of heroism in history. Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, Augustine and Abelard, Cesare Borgia and Thomas More—these figures and many others we will study both exemplified and shaped their respective communities and cultures, simultaneously illustrating both how heroism changed from the Ancient to the Medieval to the Modern periods and how the need for heroes endured despite such changes. Through readings taken from Homer and Plato, Plutarch and Cicero, Machiavelli and More, we will survey the present day in search of heroes who reflect and shape our contemporary world. Everyone has heroes. It behooves us to know who our heroes are, because we become that which we admire.  

Open to all Princeton undergraduates, this seminar will meet twice per month on Wednesdays from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, dinner provided.

Dates: 9/19; 10/3; 10/17; 11/14; 12/5.

Location: The Witherspoon Institute, Whelan Hall.

For more information, contact José Pérez-Benzo at jperezb@winst.org.

 

Rhetoric: Living Well and Speaking Well
José Pérez-Benzo, The Witherspoon Institute

Rhetoric today has become synonymous with mere skill or style whose purpose is victory rather than truth. Rhetoric, classically understood, placed the arts of persuasion at the service of the truth. The rhetorician’s persuasiveness depended not merely on stylistic excellence, important though that was, but on the cogency of his arguments, the integrity of his character, and the sincerity of his emotional appeals. In other words, classical rhetoric depended upon the triad of logos, ethos, and pathos, which in turn presupposed a thick account of ethics and philosophical anthropology. This seminar, then, will investigate the principles and practices that make a person a good orator. The first couple of sessions will draw from Plato, Aristotle,  Cicero, Quintilian, and Augustine’s explications of the principles undergirding the classical conception of rhetoric. We will devote the later sessions to reading aloud selections of speeches from the great orators of history from Pericles to Churchill, and analyzing how they conform to or deviate from the principles of rhetoric expressed in the classical tradition.

Open to all Princeton undergraduates, this seminar will meet twice per month on Wednesdays from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, dinner provided.

Dates: 9/26; 10/10; 11/7; 11/28; 12/12.

Location: The Witherspoon Institute, Whelan Hall.

For more information, contact José Pérez-Benzo at jperezb@winst.org.

 

The Witherspoon Shakespeare Society

The Witherspoon Shakespeare Society seeks to approach Shakespeare’s plays not as texts to be dissected, but as dramas to be enacted. The Society will perform live readings from beginning to end, without worrying about forgetting half-memorized lines or constantly consulting footnotes. Using Harold Bloom’s magisterial Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human as a foil and a guide, the Society will perform a judicious selection of plays designed to examine and challenge Bloom’s Nietzschean reading of Shakespearean characters, or rather, persons, who are on Bloom’s reading fundamentally free artists of themselves for whom the act of speaking is a kind of contempt. Through performance and subsequent discussion, we will question whether Shakespeare’s plays hinge on a plenitude of meaning, or whether they are nothing more than a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. In other words, for the purposes of this Society, “To be or not to be: that is the question.”

 

Calendar of Plays:

Oct. 4: Henry IV Part 1

Oct. 11: Henry IV Part 2

Oct. 25: Henry V

Nov. 15: As You Like It

Dec. 6 and 14: Hamlet

For more information, contact José Pérez-Benzo at jperezb@winst.org.