COMMUNITY SEMINAR

THOREAU COLLEGE COMMUNITY SEMINAR

The Thoreau College Community Seminar is an ongoing invitation to join in an open, engaging, and egalitarian conversation about important texts and universal ideas. Inspired by the Great Books Seminar model of higher education and Henry David Thoreau’s visionary dream of “villages as universities”, the Community Seminar is open to Thoreau College students, fellows, and faculty and to members of our wider local community of all ages. All that is required is a willingness to read carefully and to engage in thoughtful discussion with respect for fellow participants, a sincere desire to understand the authors and their ideas with openness and good will, and reverence for the truth.

Spring 2024 (March-April): Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Community Seminar – Spring 2024 

Schedule:   One Session Per Week – Thursdays – 4:30-6:00; Starting on Thurs. March 7

Location: Thoreau College Campus – 224 E Highway 56, Viroqua

How to Join: New participants are welcome at any time.  Free will contribution + cost of books.  Some copies are available to borrow.

To join, please contact us at admin@thoreaucollege.org or call 608-632-3829.

Reading Schedule

Anna Karenina is a tragedy in 8 parts, with each part consisting of between 80 and 120 pages.  We will read and discuss one part for each week of the seminar.  The primary translation we will be using is Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky’s Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition (2000 – Unabridged).

March 7: Part 1

March 14: Part 2

March 21: Part 3

March 28: Part 4

April 4: Part 5

April 11: Part 6

April 18: Part 7

April 25 Part 8

About Community Seminar

The Thoreau College Community Seminar is an ongoing invitation to join in an open, engaging, and egalitarian conversation about important texts and universal ideas.  Inspired by the Great Books Seminar model of higher education and Henry David Thoreau’s visionary dream of “villages as universities”, the Community Seminar is open to Thoreau College students, fellows, and faculty and to members of our wider local community of all ages.  All that is required is a willingness to read carefully and to engage in thoughtful discussion with respect for fellow participants, a sincere desire to understand the authors and their ideas with openness and good will, and reverence for the truth. 

Fall 2023 (September-November): Introducing Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was one of the most prolific and original thinkers in modern times.  The initiator of Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, new modalities in medicine, economics, and architecture, and several new forms of art, Steiner is also notoriously difficult to approach as a thinker.  His writings are vast in volume, wildly diverse in content, and sometimes assume familiarity with challenging philosophical or spiritual background information.  It can be hard to know just where to start with Steiner, and it helps to start this exploration as part of a group.

This fall the Thoreau College Community Seminar will give participants a chance to encounter Steiner in an open and welcoming context.  Together we will read and discuss selections from four of Steiner’s most fundamental texts, covering his conceptions of the nature of human beings and of reality, of the process of esoteric initiation, and of how this kind of knowledge might possibly be attained.  This seminar is intended for members of the community who are curious about Steiner, perhaps because they have become involved with Waldorf education, biodynamics, or something else touched by Steiner’s work.  Perhaps you are a seeker, perhaps you are a skeptic, or perhaps you are a bit of both.  Either way, this is a chance to begin to build an informed perspective.  In this seminar there will be no dogma and no off-limits questions.  Any jargon we encounter will be translated into plain English, and we will strive to maintain our sense of humor.

About Jacob Hundt –

Jacob has been studying Rudolf Steiner and trying to explain the parts he has understood for over 25 years, since he was involved with the creation of the Youth Initiative High School as a teenager.  Jacob completed training as a Waldorf high school teacher and was Program Director and Faculty Chair at YIHS for more than 15 years.  Over the years he has participated in and led courses on Steiner, Waldorf education, and biodynamics, and is now Executive Director of Thoreau College, a microcollege initiative striving to apply some of Steiner’s ideas to education for young adults.

COMMUNITY SEMINAR DETAILS 

Schedule:   One Session Per Week – Wednesdays – 4:30-6:00;

Starting on Weds. September 6

Location: Thoreau College Campus – 224 E Highway 56

How to Join: New participants are welcome at any time.  Free will contribution + cost of books

Texts – 

  • A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception – a foundational early philosophical work in which Steiner develops his ideas of the relationship between perception, thinking, and knowledge, based on his close study of the scientific works of the great German poet and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
  • Knowledge of Higher Worlds and Its Attainment which describes the conditions and preparations needed to begin the process of esoteric initiation, the state of being in which it becomes possible to perceive subtle dimensions of reality not accessible to ordinary physical senses.  This is a basic statement of Steiner’s methodology as a researcher of the realms of soul and spirit.
  • Theosophy: An Introduction to the Spiritual Processes in Human Life and in the Cosmos, which presents some of Steiner’s most fundamental assertions about the spiritual makeup of the cosmos and of the human being, as well as what happens to us when we go to sleep and when we die.  This text introduces some essential concepts and vocabulary necessary for following Steiner’s discussions of Waldorf pedagogy and most other topics.
  • An Outline of Esoteric Science – we will read one later chapter from this lengthy work.  The book as a whole deals with many topics, including Steiner’s vast account of the evolution of the cosmos and of human cultures.  The chapter selected here is another, quite different, statement of his methodology, which he here describes as a form of Rosicrucian visualization.

Copies of these texts will be provided as a printed reader, although participants may also choose to purchase their own copies of the full works in order to follow up with what we have started together.

 

Reading Schedule –

September 6: Presentation on Steiner’s context and biography

September 13: A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception – Section D

September 20: Knowledge of Higher Worlds – Chapter 1

September 27: Knowledge of Higher Worlds – Chapter 2

October 4: Knowledge of Higher Worlds – Chapter 3

October 11: Knowledge of Higher Worlds – Chapters 4 & 5

(Thoreau College students on expedition)

October 25: Theosophy – Chapter 1 – (Sections I-III)

Nov. 1: Theosophy – Chapter 1 – (Section IV)

Nov. 8: Theosophy – Chapter 2 

Nov. 15: An Outline of Esoteric Science – Chapter 5

Thoreau College Community Seminar - 2022-2023

PROPHETS and PROPHECIES

Thoreau College Community Seminar – 2022-2023

Facilitated by Jacob Hundt and Annie Kelley

 

The Thoreau College Community Seminar is an ongoing invitation to join in an open, engaging, and egalitarian conversation about important texts and universal ideas.  Inspired by the Great Books Seminar model of higher education and Henry David Thoreau’s visionary dream of “villages as universities”, the Community Seminar is open to Thoreau College students, fellows, and faculty and to members of our wider local community of all ages.  All that is required is a willingness to read carefully and to engage in thoughtful discussion with respect for fellow participants, a sincere desire to understand the authors and their ideas with openness and good will, and reverence for the truth. 

 

Contact Jacob Hundt at jacobhundt@thoreaucollege.org or call 608-632-3829 to join.

 

2022-2023 Theme:  PROPHETS AND PROPHECIES.  

 

Human beings thrive in a very narrow world. We expect a life in which things make sense without making too much sense; where time shuffles forward with the future chastly covered, and the divine remains politely just out of reach. Usually, it is so. Sometimes, though, the divine decides to show somebody something the rest of us can’t see. These people become prophets. And then what do they do?

 

Old testament types die on seeing the face of God. MacBeth goes mad. Oedipus stabs out his eyes. The transcendentalists, inadvertently and posthumously, found Thoreau College. Throughout history, prophets and their prophecies have proved a wellspring of narrative, poetry, philosophy, and tragedy. 

 

However, these special few are not the only ones who sometimes trip and find themselves with a leg down the gopher hole that is the future. While few of us are prophets, almost all of us, at some point or another, contend, with the unexpected, the strange, the divine, and the horrible. We all see things we shouldn’t have. And then what do we do? 

 

This seminar presupposes that careful study will allow us to find a solution that does not involve marrying our mothers.

 

Schedule:   One Session Per Week – Thursdays – 3:30-5:00

Location: Thoreau College Campus – 224 E Highway 56

How to Join: New participants are welcome at any time.  Free will contribution + cost of books

Contact jacobhundt@thoreaucollege.org

 

November 10: Sophocles, “Oedipus Rex”

November 17: Sophocles, “Oedipus Rex”

 

(Thanksgiving Break)

 

December 1: William Shakespeare, “MacBeth”

December 8: Martin Buber, Ecstatic Confessions

December 15: Martin Buber, Ecstatic Confessions

 

(Holiday Break)

 

January 5: John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks 

January 12: John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks 

 

January 19: M.C. Richards, Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person

January 26: M.C. Richards, Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person

 

(Thoreau College Winter Expedition:

 

February 9: Selected Poets

February 16: Dante Aligheri, Inferno, Cantos I-XI

February 23: Dante Aligheri, Inferno, Cantos XII-XXII

March 2: Dante Aligheri, Inferno, Cantos XXIII-XXXIV

 

(Thoreau College Solo Week)

 

March 16: Dante Aligheri, Purgatorio, Cantos I-XI

March 23: Dante Aligheri, Purgatorio, Cantos XII-XXII

March 30: Dante Aligheri, Purgatorio, Cantos XXIII-XXXIII

 

(Spring Break)

 

April 13: Dante Alighieri, Paradiso, Cantos I-XI

April 20: Dante Aligheri, Paradiso, Cantos XII-XXII

April 27: Dante Aligheri, Paradiso, Cantos XXIII-XXXIII

 

(Thoreau College Spring Expedition)

 

May 11-June 8 – TBD

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Texts:  

Ecstatic Confessions $18.55

Black Elk Speaks $20.41

Centering: $22.95

The Divine Comedy: $19.53

Photocopied Texts: $10 (Sophocles, Shakespeare, Poets)


TOTAL: $91.44

Spring Quarter (March 22 - June 2, 2022): Future Visions of Nature and Humankind

Science and science fiction explorations of bioethics, social organization, and the future development of humanity and nature on Earth from writers of diverse backgrounds and orientations.

 

Some Possible Texts:

  • Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle
  • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
  • Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower
  • Ayn Rand, Anthem
  • Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble
  • Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World
  • Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake
  • Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing
  • Paul Kingsnorth, Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist
  • Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon

Please contact us here to contact us.

Winter Quarter (January 4 - March 10, 2022): The Individual

Philosophical and literary explorations of the moral and existential challenges and opportunities faced by individuals in the context of society.

January 4: Sophocles, Antigone

January 6: Sophocles, Antigone

 

January 11: Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment?

January 13: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

 

January 19: Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra (Excerpts)

January 21: Fyodor Doesteovsky, “The Grand Inquisitor” (from The Brothers Karamazov)

 

(TC Expedition)

 

February 1: Martin Buber, I and Thou

February 3: Martin Buber, I and Thou

February 8: Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

February 10: Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

 

(Thoreau College Road Trip – 2 weeks)

 

March 1: Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

March 3: Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

March 8: Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (Excerpt)

March 10: Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (Excerpt)

 

(End of Winter Quarter)

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Fall Quarter (October 5 - December 9) 2021: Origins and Essences

During the fall quarter of 2021, the Thoreau College Community Seminar will delve into the most ancient and profound texts of world civilization.  These are the primordial accounts of the origins of the universe, of human beings, and of human cultures and peoples that have been passed down in oral traditions for centuries until eventually recorded in writing, to be passed down for centuries more, forming the foundation stones of the world’s great civilizations and cultures.

Fall Quarter Texts:

  • October 5: The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • October 7: The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • October 12: Hesiod, Theogony
  • October 14: Snorri Sturluson, Prose Edda

(TC Expedition)

  • October 26: Popol Vuh
  • October 28: Popol Vuh
  • November 2: The Book of Genesis
  • November 4: The Book of Genesis
  • November 9: Plato, Timaeus
  • November 11: Plato, Timaeus
  • November 16: Bhagavad Gita
  • November 18: Bhagavad Gita

(Thanksgiving Break)

  • November 30: Lucretius, De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things)
  • December 2: Lucretius, De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things)
  • Dec 7: Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
  • Dec 9: Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

(End of Fall Quarter)

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