Enter a conversation where questions are more important than answers. Where curiosity and connection trump certainty and combat. Where history’s great thinkers provide a springboard for us to jump into big questions together. Enter Continuing the Conversation: our college’s antidote to the blustery world just beyond our library doors.
To Think or To Do? The Unification of False Dichotomies with Sarah Davis and David McDonald
In the ancient world, art and religion provided a sense of meaning and order that was upended by science and technology. Today, our world is defined by consumerism, self-expression and a gnawing lack of meaning. Can the contemplative life of the mind play a central role in addressing this void? What about the role of its supposed counterparts—doing, making, and simply being? This episode seeks to untangle the human desire for meaning and coherence, the reality of disorientation and disorder, and the perhaps false dichotomy between the life of the mind and the simple act of living itself. Featuring Santa Fe host Sarah Davis, also an artist, and tutor David McDonald, also a photographer, the two begin their conversation exploring the order and power of harmonic music, stumble into the disorder of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, and eventually find some inspiration in the humble unity of Kierkegaard’s knight of faith.
Sonnet 94: Shakespeare’s Unmoved Mover with Louis Petrich and Eva Brann
This episode takes us through a close reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 94, which many consider to be his most enigmatic. Annapolis tutor Eva Brann brings a clear argument to the poem, taking us quatrain by quatrain through the poet’s descriptions of the beloved’s power over the poet through cold detachment and contingent self-mastery. For Brann, the sonnet provides exemplary evidence that “love and logic, passion and thinking, are closely intertwined.” The existence of the sonnet also masterfully enacts its revenge on the stone-cold beloved, whose legacy is defined by the sonnet itself, and its lingering concluding couplet: “For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.” We also explore the idea that the mastery of logic and language—when kindly and thoughtfully wielded—can prevent the passions of human nature from issuing in inarticulate violence and corruption. This episode is hosted by Louis Petrich.
Can War Be Beautiful with Louis Petrich and Erica Beall
The power and beauty of Homer’s imagery in the Iliad is undeniable, and his scenes of battle often prompt vexing questions about ancient and modern virtues. Can killing and dying in war be beautiful? Is a just cause required for glory to be gained? Is war a courageous way of fulfilling human nature and, ultimately, of embracing the reality that death awaits us all? This episode, in which Annapolis host Louis Petrich and tutor Erica Beall delve into the dramatic contrasts that make Homer’s work powerful and war potentially beautiful, invites us to question our own modern perspectives on this ancient text. Those perspectives may reflect Shakespeare’s Trojan war play, Troilus and Cressida, which shows the reality of war as ugly, its fabled glory a concoction of poets that charms men into fighting. And yet Homer's Iliad remains a perennial favorite of Johnnies, who often return to it multiple times after graduation. In fact, it is the only text in Continuing the Conversation to headline two episodes.
Practicing for Death: Integrating Mind & Body, East & West with Krishnan Venkatesh and Claudia Hauer
Socrates says that the intellectual practice of philosophy is a practice for dying. But what if the body is the vessel that can best prepare us for the end of life? In this episode, martial artists Krishnan Venkatesh and Claudia Hauer, both tutors in Santa Fe, sit down to discuss the problems of a philosophical separation of mind and body.
Through the writings of two essayists—the 13th-century Japanese author Dogan and the 16th-century French author Montaigne—Venkatesh and Hauer explore how physical presence and pain can take us out of our minds and into a practice that prepares us for the vicissitudes of life and the certainty of death through an integration of mind, body, and soul.
The Challenge of Translation with Stella Zhu and Louis Petrich
If one could perfectly translate a literary work, would that translation make the original idea of the author universally understood by all readers? Or do the greatest translations bring new layers of creativity and meaning to a work, making its latent textures relevant for another culture or time—such as feminist translations of the Odyssey and Christian translations of Plato—even as they may dampen the original intentions of the author?
In this episode, Annapolis tutor Stella Zhu, who is also a translator of Chinese poetry, joins host Louis Petrich to discuss the complexities of translation, including the role of interpretation and emotion, as humans attempt to understand and communicate ideas across linguistic boundaries through literary translation and dialogue with each other.
Their conversation, which itself exemplifies the mystery of communication, continues by exploring the idea that perhaps math and music provide universal languages that literary works never approach; that translating oneself to others may hold the same challenges as translating literary works into new languages; and that multiplicities of understanding may be an inescapable, and perhaps beneficial condition of human life.
Vanquishing the Enemy: Sports, War, and... Seminar, with Sarah Davis and Julie Reahard
What is the relationship between sports and war? And what is seminar's relationship to both? In this episode, Santa Fe host Sarah Davis and tutor Julie Reahard talk about Reahard’s passion for sports, her long-running commitment to the St. John's ice hockey team, and whether her experiences on the court are similar to those that play out on the battlefield of great texts like the Iliad and War and Peace.
As the conversation continues, the two stumble across an unexpected connection to sports and war: the competitive instincts that can arise in seminar, in which participants desire to vanquish their ideological opponents; these instincts are common and real, but also stand in tension with the college's dialectical approach to conversation.
From conversational cooperation to sportsmanlike competition to brutal war, this episode takes us on a journey through the best and worst of human nature.