Join Michael Sugrue, Ph.D. as we begin a webinar series reflecting on the classics of our world. From Philosophy, to fiction; from biographies, to theatre, we will explore many great titles and their lasting impact.
History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the War between Sparta and Athens 428-404 from the perspective of an Athenian general. It is the first work of political science in the Western tradition. It is the great statement of Realpolitik in the ancient world. Students beginning graduate studies in International Relations usually begin their reading with Thucydides, who offers tough minded observations on political order and change which he thought permanent truths because human nature was fixed.
His History treats the history of Athens as a giant collective tragedy. He created speeches for the addresses of which he only knew the outcome and the foibles of the speaker. This borrowing from Greek drama makes his History as much art as science and his work is fatalistic about politics and ethics. “The strong do what they can, the weak do what they must.” Join Professor Sugrue for his lecture on Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War and a live Q&A after.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Take a break for an hour as Professor Sugrue discusses Meditations, the private Greek writings of Marcus Aurelius, the last of the “Five Good Emperors.” A stoic Roman Emperor who ruled from 161-180, Aurelius was a conscientiously moral man who sought to avoid the temptations of absolute power, which he treated as absolute responsibility. His seriousness and self-discipline and courage are beautifully put in his observation: “Even in a palace it is possible to live well.” Join Professor Sugrue for a lecture on Meditations and a live Q&A after.
The Misanthrope by Moliere
Moliere’s The Misanthrope is one of the wittiest and simultaneously the deepest reflection on comedy by a comedian. It contains the clever repartee of Jane Austen or Oscar Wilde (in French verse) combined with the self-conscious defense of comedy like Shakespeare’s defense of drama in Measure for Measure. Very thoughtful reflections on human nature are combined with reflections on comedy in the moral economy of the court. White lies make social life possible and sincerity has its limits.
Moliere knows only too well the temptations of brutal honesty and sees the falsity of politesse at Versailles, yet he is wise enough to understand that the mild inclusive philanthropic comedy of Horace is the only one compatible with life at court. A century later, Rousseau was baffled when his fellow theatregoers found Alceste, the misanthrope, funny, since he was so clearly right. Join Professor Sugrue for a lecture on Moliere’s The Misanthrope and a live Q&A after.