This course will examine the Goodness, Truth, and Beauty of Sir Jack Falstaff, who among Shakespeare’s characters is perhaps the least likely vessel for transcendental intimations. A glutton, a liar, and a thief, he seems a perfect scoundrel. Nonetheless, in all four plays of his “Henriad,” Shakespeare sets his stage in orbit round this scoundrel’s globe-shaped figure. By doing so, Shakespeare reveals an essential quality of his particular tastes--namely, that the highest thoughts are ever housed beneath the lowest roof.

This course is an opportunity to read these two lovely novels not so much as an academic exercise but rather to reflect together on the extraordinary characters in them; how their lives teach us about ourselves.

Who was this gadfly of Athens that changed the course of Western thought forever?  Like other famous historical figures who left no writing of their own, we know him only as a larger-than-life legend reported by others.  In this five-week class, we will try to paint a clearer portrait of Socrates by reading about him from several contemporary sources including Plato, Xenophon, and Aristophanes.  Along the way, we will seek to discover the essence of the "Socratic method" and why it was so easily confused with the education that the sophists offered at the time.  Behind all this lurks the question of religion.  What do we make of his repeated appeals to a tutelary spirit that gave him warning signs?  Why does Socrates turn away from questions of natural science to questions of ethics?  What was he ultimately after?

Post-Enlightenment thought gave birth to a new set of philosophical, social, and political questions, which, in turn, gave birth to a new set of disciplines. Economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and a host of other fields of study came to prominence in the 19th century. These all involved a reassessment of human nature and proposed new views about the relationship between man and society and between man and himself." The purpose of this course is to understand these views and assess their validity in light of the broader intellectual tradition of the Christian West.

What we will read: Kant, What is Enlightenment?; Darwin, The Descent of Man; Comte, A General View of Positivism; Spencer, The Study of Sociology; Smith, Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiments; Bastiat, That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen; Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money; Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844; Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France; De Toqueville, Democracy in America; James, The Principles of Psychology; Freud, The Origin and Development of Psych-Analysis Selected Papers on Hysteria, A General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis; Durkheim; Elementary Forms of the Religious Life; Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism; Laing, The Divided Self; Berger, The Social Construction of Reality and The Sacred Canopy. 

While many associate the tradition of epic poetry with the pagan Greeks and Romans, both Dante and Milton qualify for the laurel crown right along with the best of them. These Christian epics, however, expand the focus to the whole sweep of history from the fall of Satan to the return of Christ and the whole cosmos of heaven and earth, hell and purgatory. In this course, we will cover the entire Divine Comedy, including discussion of its background in medieval philosophy and theology, and we will cover the whole of Paradise Lost, including reflection on the culture of post-Reformation England. 

We will read: Inferno Intro and I–XI, Inferno XII–XXII, Inferno XXIII–XXXIII, Purgatorio I–XI, Purgatorio XII–XXII, Purgatorio XXIII–XXXIII, Paradiso I–XI, Paradiso XII–XXII, Paradiso XXIII–XXXIII, Paradise Lost I–II, Paradise Lost III–IV, Paradise Lost V–VI, Paradise Lost VII–VIII, Paradise Lost IX–X, and Paradise Lost XI–XII. 

In the end, all questions are theological. Pagans and Christians, atheists and saints have all shaped every aspect of the Great Conversation by the way they think (or don’t think) about God. In this course, we will try to develop an appreciation for the broad sweep of this history beginning with the Greeks, moving to the Christian Middle Ages, and ending in modernity. This class will not be a course in Christian systematic theology as you might expect to find at a seminary. Instead, we will be reading broadly from literature, drama, philosophy, epic, and scripture in order to learn how mankind has thought about God, eternity, the soul, ultimate meaning, and worship.

We will read: Plato, Euthyphro, Laws X; Aristotle De Anima; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound; Genesis, Exodus, and Matthew; Augustine, Confessions XI–XII; Aquinas, Summa Theologica I Q. 1, II-II QQ. 1–3; Dante, Divine Comedy Paradise; Hobbes, Leviathan I.12, II.31, III; Montaigne, Essays (selections); Milton, Paradise Lost I–III; Pascal, Pensées III–IV; Locke, Concerning TolerationAn Essay Concerning Human Understanding IV, XVIII–XIX; Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding X–XI; Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov VI; Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents I–II, New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis Lecture 35.

Using masterworks of Romantic and Early Modern literature, we will explore together two archetypal themes: the conflict between Good and Evil and man’s struggle to find meaning. Goethe’s rollicking, earth-shattering play Faust, Part I (1808) will set the frame for us. Then, we will proceed through Gogol’s ironic and prophetic short story The Nose (1836), Dostoevsky’s probing novel The Brother’s Karamazov (1880), Tolstoy’s incomparable novel Anna Karenina (1878), and conclude with Chekhov’s searing play The Cherry Orchard (1903). 

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.