Events and Programs
Annapolis Executive Seminars
2013-2014 Reading List
Readings for Executive Seminars
The readings have been chosen for the thoughts and ideas presented by the authors; most of the material is studied as part of the undergraduate curriculum at St. John’s. Executive Seminar participants will be given a list of the translations/editions preferred by the faculty and they may obtain them in any format desired: text copy, downloaded from the internet, or via e-book.
Books may also be ordered directly from the St. John’s College Bookstore:
September: Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Preferred edition: Houghton Mifflin
Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is an inventively imaginative story about an extraordinarily imaginative woman. Mrs. Ramsey, the only person in her family circle with enough imagination to understand the inner lives and desires of those around her, is for that very reason the lynchpin of her household. Woolf invites us to wonder whether the power of imagination isn’t the real key to controlling and channeling desire effectively.
October: Euripides, The Medea
Preferred edition: Euripides I, Grene/Lattimore trans., University of Chicago Press
“She’s a passionate soul, hard to restrain. What will she do next, now her heart’s been bitten by these injuries?” asks the chorus in Euripides’ tragedy. Although Medea is a sorceress, none of her powers can offset the jealousy and rage she feels toward her husband, Jason, who betrayed her. Medea plots an ultimate, passion-driven vengeance. The elements of this story, well-known to the Greeks who first viewed the play in 431 B.C., focus sharply on the sheer power of eros to drive our actions.
November: Plato, The Republic (selections)
Book II.357a-379a & Book III.412b to Book IV.424a & Book V complete
Preferred edition: Grube/Reeve translators, Hackett
Plato’s Republic is a soaring philosophical fantasia on human nature and human community. Discussing the question of the ideal community to live in, Socrates and his interlocutors wonder whether desire and self-interest can be turned to good use. This leads them to discover the structure of the soul, and once they agree on that, to decide that poets must be banned, women must be equal with men, and the rulers must not have families.
December: Aristophanes, Lysistrata
Preferred edition: Lysistrata and Other Plays, Sommerstein trans., Penguin
Aristophanes’s Lysistrata was first performed at Athens in 411 BC, when the Peloponnesian War with Sparta had been going on for some twenty years. The play describes one of the most creative and inventive strategies ever devised to stop men from fighting: Lysistrata organizes a sex stoppage until the men of the two cities find a way to make peace—a brilliant example of pitting two unbridled desires, lust and ferocity, against each other.
January: Bible, Song of Songs
Reader’s choice of editions
This very short but supremely lovely book from the Hebrew Bible has entranced readers through the centuries. It is a love story that unfolds as a kind of dialogue between the lovers. Is it an allegory? A sensuous description of physical love? A drama? In any interpretation, the power and mystery of eros is conveyed with startling clarity.
February: Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, “The Wife of Bath"
Preferred edition: Wright trans., Oxford University Press
Chaucer’s tale, encompasses two stories addressing the question of who rules in a male-female relationship – and the role eros plays in the struggle for ascendance. The Prologue is the Wife of Bath’s account of how she used her wits and wiles to dominate fives husbands. Her ensuing tale, about a knight who faces punishment for his assault on a maiden, addresses issues of force and persuasion in male-female relationships.
March: Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew
Preferred edition: New Folger Library, Copeland editor, Simon & Schuster Mass Market
In this comedy replete with disguises and disingenuous feelings, Shakespeare presents a grand mash-up of stereotypes about men, women, and power. As the players meet in Padua, we watch them sometimes show their true natures. Will mild Bianca make the perfect wife for Lucentio? Will the shrewish Katherina bow to Petruchio’s supremacy? What does make for an ideal relationship and how is true freedom achieved within such a partnership?
April: Racine, Phaedra
Preferred edition: Wilbur trans., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Theseus, lost on a dangerous mission, is thought dead. His much younger wife Phèdre has long been in love with Hippolytus, Theseus’s son by his first wife. Phèdre reveals her love to Hippolytus, whose conscience recoils at the notion of a relationship with his father’s wife. Racine tapestry of imaginary insults, secret feelings, political intrigue, intimations of incest, and the unexpected return of Theseus became the French theater’s most famous tragedy.
May: O’Connor, The Complete Stories, “Parker’s Back”
Preferred edition: Farrar Straus Giroux
“Parker’s Back” is a story about a man, deeply dissatisfied with himself and his life, who periodically soothes his dissatisfaction by getting a new tattoo. In a failed attempt to win favor with his religious and disapproving wife, he gets his back tattooed with an image of Christ. What do the two want from each other in their relationship? And what are the prospects for any man and woman successfully contributing to some sense of fulfillment in their partner’s life?