Great Books Club

A student has suggested the formation of an informal ‘Great Books Club’.  The idea is that the club would meet once a week (time and place to be determined, though Thursday at 6:30pm was suggested).
What the group would read would be negotiable, but at the top of Dan’s list (the student who suggested such a thing) were Dante- The Divine Comedy, Shakespeare- King Lear and Hamlet, and Cervantes- Don Quixote.
I think this is a great idea.  As Plato says, lovers of learning should love the whole of learning, so  we philosophers (lovers of wisdom) should want to read everything we can.  And there is some reason to hope that there is interest in such things.  Two examples that help save me from absolute despair over the place of reading in our culture:
a) Just this morning I was reading in the ~Quad Side Cafe, and the student sitting next to me was reading Russell’s ‘Why I am not a Christian’.  I am not sure if that is a ‘great book’, but still impressive.  I asked him if it was for a course, and he replied, ‘no, I am just interesting in things like this.’
b) When I was a graduate student in Indiana, I went to get my oil changed at a Jiffy Lube.  The mechanic and I got to talking and when I told him I was studying philosophy, his grease-smeared face peered up and he said, ‘Oh, have you read Heidegger’s Being and Time?’  Apparently he was on his third reading of it, though he only had graduated from high school.  When pressed for why he reads such things, he said, ‘I guess I’m just interested in hermeneutic phenomenology’.
So there is hope!  
Students should post here with suggestions about date and time, and I will let Dan organize it from there.
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About Kleiner

Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah State University. I teach across the curriculum, but am most interested in continental philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy as well as Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). I also enjoy spending time thinking about liberal education and its ends.

10 thoughts on “Great Books Club

  1. Dan

    I was able to reserve room 116 in the fine arts building for Thursdays at 6:30 if there is interest. I’m thinking of starting with The Divine Comedy. I know someone who taught Religion and Law at The U of U, Harvard, and Oxford, and taught many courses on Dante. He lives in SLC and may be willing to come discuss Dante with us when we have gained sufficient understanding of the material. No promises, but this could be a possibility anyway.

    For those who are interested: 1) How does Thursday at 6:30 in Room 116 of the FAB sound? 2) Can we aim for Thursday, October 9th as a first meeting? 3) Can we aim to have read through Canto X of The Inferno by the first meeting?

    I’ve envisioned this as a small, informal club. I’d actually prefer it that way. My interest is just in creating a discussion group for reading great books- nothing too formal or structured. But hopefully we can achieve at least the formality of consistency!


  2. Dan

    I’ve talked to a few interested people who suggested starting on the 16th (a week from tomorrow) rather than the 9th. Let’s shoot for that.


  3. Blood and Ashes (Will)

    Hey dan, the room and day is irrelevant but if possible could we make from just a few minutes later? I have Tae Kwon Do from 5 to 630, so it might take me a minute to limp my way out there. I definitely agree with setting the day later, no way in hell I’ll be able to read much by morning!


  4. Blood and Ashes (Will)

    Just a thought on the proceedings of the club overall, perhaps we could rotate book selections around as we finish the initial set or after each one. I only say that because I recently received Paradise Lost in the mail, and I know Harrison mentioned having laundry lists of books to read. Its just a thought, though it has some logistical problems.


  5. Dan

    Oh sure, of course. I’d love to read Paradise Lost. I threw out some ideas to give the idea some traction, but there are plenty of great books to read, and I certainly don’t want any one person’s preferences to dictate the proceedings!


  6. Blood and Ashes (Will)

    Dan, hate to do this but I don’t know of how else to ask. Could you post if you get a definitive answer on the time for Saturday night’s Beethoven finale? Where I’ve checked it’s listed at 730 but you’re deeper into the Skull and Bones pile than I am. Thanks, in the meantime I’ll search out the Divine Comedy.


  7. Heather Albee-Scott

    Your example of the mechanic demonstrates to me that it is often those without higher degrees who are actually more intelligent. I cannot stand the pseudo-intellectualism that often comes in university settings.


  8. Dan

    Just a reminder: We’re planning on meeting tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 16th) at 7:00 in room 116 of the Fine Arts Building. Try to read the first several Cantos of The Inferno by then!





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