This seminar is distinct from the year-long, on-campus JAF honors program. All students are invited to apply whether or not they have participated in the JAF program. The program is also open to adult learners, whether or not they are affiliated with Gordon College. Gordon students receive 4 credits for the Seminar by supplementing on-site study with two reading and writing components completed before and after the two weeks in Italy. These additional assignments locate the theme of the Seminar in the larger historical and religious contexts of medieval-Renaissance Europe.
Course information for JAF291 is listed below. | See JAF291 in the Undergraduate Academic Catalog.
The JAF291 Winter Seminar opens to a wider circle of students, alumni and adult learners the theme for which the Jerusalem and Athens Forum honors program is named: “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens, the Church with the Academy?” Posed by the early church father Tertullian in his defense of Christianity addressed to the pagans, this “enduring question,” as philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff titles an influential essay, “remains as much alive today as it was in 198 A.D. when Tertullian posed it.”
Each January this seminar will allow Tertullian’s question to frame an in situ (in the original context) study of one or more of the perennial topics addressed by classical and Christian thinkers and artists in the medieval/Renaissance/early modern period of European history.
The theme of the next JAF Winter Seminar is:
Virtue & Vice: the Good Life in the moral philosophy, literature, and art of medieval-Renaissance Europe
Every JAF291 seminar focuses on one important aspect of the Christian digestion of the rich intellectual and cultural heritage of the classical world. The January 2019 version takes up the concepts and vocabulary of the virtues and vices of human character (for example, the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, described and analyzed with care and precision by Aristotle and Cicero), and explores how this moral vocabulary was accepted and interpreted by thinkers such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to render it compatible with Christian faith and the doctrines of human sin and sanctification.
Yes, this course opens up some of the classic theoretical texts that shaped the Western intellectual tradition, but its final purpose is to study how the vocabulary of virtues and vices got into the eyes, ears, minds and psyches of ordinary people as guides to perception, judgment, and choice-making in real life. For that, we will attend closely to the popular literature of Dante and Chaucer and the morality plays as well as to the rich and sophisticated depiction of the virtues and vices in the visual art of the period.
Excursions to Rome, Siena, Florence, and in Orvieto itself will give material grip and context to our study.
Among the questions to be explored are: What is virtue and how does one acquire it? What is vice and how can one avoid it? What is the relationship (asked as Christian believers) between moral behavior and our justification and sanctification? What is the relation, if any, between the cardinal virtues of classical tradition and the scriptural virtues of faith, hope, and love? What is the relationship between individual virtue and public/social responsibility? And most importantly to us now, to what extent might medieval and early-modern moral philosophy still be relevant to church, society, and government today. In sum: let’s delve with scholarly care and personal zeal into the big questions: What is a good life? What is a good society?
Instructor: Dr. John Skillen (founding director of the Gordon in Orvieto semester program, director of the Studio for Art, Faith & History)