This course is open to all. It is not a repeat of the my previous course on Flannery O’Connor, nor is that course a prerequisite for this course. We will read and discuss O’Connor’s first novel Wise Blood and three of her short stories not covered in the earlier course. I have in mind “Greenleaf,” “The Enduring Chill,” and “The Displaced Person.”

Why are so many of us in the modern world so soft and sensitive to the touch? Why do so many young people require "safe spaces" where their feelings might be preserved from assaults of reality? Why has our culture lost its virility? Which character traits have we lost in recent times that allowed those who went before us to endure not only the grand inevitabilities like sickness and death with equanimity, but also to shoulder common burdens that accompany ordinary living and learning? Might Stoicism, one prevailing philosophical outlook of the classical world, point a way out of this dilemma and help to restore our dignity as human beings? These questions and many more we shall address as we read and discuss the informal journal entries of Marcus Aurelius, the last of the "Five Good Emperors" of ancient Rome from the 2nd century A.D.

This five-week seminar will look at the life and work of the incomparable Oscar Wilde, weaving biographical facts with a critical analysis of his work:

Week One: The Life and Work of Oscar Wilde, from 1854 until 1890
Week Two: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Week Three: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Week Four: The Life and Work of Oscar Wilde, from 1891-1900
Week Five: Wilde's Last Will and Testament: De Profundis

Western culture has produced a body of music unsurpassed in expressive force and beauty.  Grounded in the science of Pythagoras, forged in early Christianity, and refined by Renaissance ideals, the music we label as “classical” emerged as a cultural force by the mid 17th century. Visual art has a far longer history of cultural and spiritual significance, linking us directly to our Greek heritage.

Great art and music deserve to take their places alongside the Great Books. The desire to hear, make, and be uplifted by music is born within each of us, yet music receives scant attention in today’s systematic curricula. A child is born with a magnificent capacity to create and respond to visual art, but learns all too soon that art is an elective, over which more “serious” studies take precedence.

It was not always so. Artists, composers, writers, scientists, and philosophers were always entwined. Accordingly, in examining the period primarily between 1600 and the end of World War II, we will consider parallel developments in visual art and music. The masterworks we select will reflect the influence of literature, philosophy, and aesthetics; general and specific history; and the new technologies of each era. No music or art background is needed for this course.

In this course we will attempt to formulate as a science what is really an art: the art of right living. We will reflect on the question, “How ought we to live? What is the good life for man?” This question, however, will draw us into further perennial questions about the very nature of goodness and duty, right action and right feeling, freedom and fate. These questions have been central to the conversation of the Great Books since the time when man learned to write, and we will see the same themes arise repeatedly in our texts over thousands of years. Hence, students will be asked to reflect both on their own answers to these questions and on the unfolding history of the questions themselves.

The ancient epic tradition of Homer stands at the beginning of all western literature. Many centuries later, Virgil self-consciously imitates this beginning in order to do for the Romans what Homer did for the Greeks. These poems tell the tale of larger-than-life heroes on the plain of battle, of gods aiding and foiling the plans of men, of glorious victory and pitiful loss—all in lofty lines of dactylic hexameter. In this course, we will read through the whole of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid, and we will study both the cultural milieu in which these epics were composed and the later culture that they helped to found.

What does it mean for a man to be free? How does a man use his freedom well? These questions address the heart of the classical distinction between the liberal arts (Latin liber = free) and the servile or mechanical arts. A “liberal” education refers to the steps that lead away (e-ducere = to lead out) from the default, easy, servile starting point of our unrefined nature (erudition = being shaped and refined, i.e. not being rudus or “unformed”) to the full life befitting a free man. In this course, we will explore the tradition of liberal learning from Plato to Karl Marx, examining these questions from all sides. We will ask what it means to be truly educated, what education is for, and what kind of freedom is desirable for man. Hopefully, this will lay a foundation for your other courses at Memoria College as you establish a basic understanding of what all these classes are about.