The JAF Winter Seminar in Orvieto, co-sponsored by Gordon College and the Studio for Art, Faith & History, combines the Great Books, Socratic approach of Gordon College’s Jerusalem and Athens Forum (JAF) honors program with Studio's emphasis on experiencing art, architecture, and literature in their original settings. Students earn 4 credits.
This course takes as its theme moral inquiry or “ethics” in the classical and Christian traditions, with a focus on their co-mingling in late medieval and early modern Europe (ca. 1200-1600). Participants will have an opportunity to read various classical authors, such as Aristotle and Cicero, and then later medieval/Renaissance authors such as Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Siena, and Dante. Some key questions that will be explored include (but are not limited to): What is a good life? What is a good society? What is virtue and how does one acquire it? What is vice and how can one avoid it? What is the relationship between the pursuit of virtue and the pursuit of salvation? What is the relationship between individual virtue and public/social responsibility? We shall also ask to what extent medieval and early modern moral philosophy might still be relevant to church, society, and government today? In addition to readings and discussions, field trips will be taken within the city of Orvieto and to Rome, Siena, and Florence. Throughout, we shall attempt to make connections between the past and the present as well as between the writings discussed and on-site art and architecture.
The JAF Winter Seminar takes advantage of Gordon College’s leased property in the cliff-top town of Orvieto, situated in the Umbrian countryside between Florence and Rome. Participants will sojourn in the recently-renovated thirteenth-century monastery that serves as the home of Gordon’s long-running semester program. The nine double rooms in the residential wing come with private baths. The library-classroom is bright and airy. Our private chef Maria takes pride in presenting the best of Umbrian cuisine.
Days in Orvieto with lectures and discussion and local visits will alternate with excursion days.
Round-trip airfare from Boston; all ground transportation in Italy; room and board; all entrance fees on course excursions.
Stay tuned for application details and costs. The JAF Seminar in Orvieto will run again in January 2024.
Estimated Costs: $3,680 (includes 4 credits tuition); $30 application fee; $680 non-refundable deposit due upon acceptance; remaining $3,000 billed to student account.
Dr. Tal Howard
Dr. Tal Howard (PhD, University of Virginia) is Professor of Humanities and History and holder of the Duesenberg Chair in Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University, where he is affiliated with Christ College, Valparaiso’s interdisciplinary honors college. He also serves as Senior Fellow for the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts. He is the author or editor of several books, including The Pope and the Professor: Pius IX, Ignaz von Döllinger, and the Quandary of the Modern Age (Oxford, 2017) and The Faiths of Others: Modern History and the Rise of Interreligious Dialogue (Yale University Press, 2020). His writings have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, such as the Journal of the History of Ideas and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and in more general venues such as the Wall Street Journal, Hedgehog Review, Inside Higher Ed, Christian Century, First Things, and Commonweal. He is currently working on a book entitled Modern Christian Theology: An Intellectual History (Princeton University Press).
Dr. John Skillen
Assisting Dr. Howard is Dr. John Skillen (PhD, Duke University), the director of the Orvieto-based Studio for Art, Faith, and History, and program coordinator of the Classical Schools track in Gordon College’s graduate program in educational leadership. He taught medieval and Renaissance literature in Gordon’s English department before founding the College’s Orvieto semester program in 1998. Professor Skillen's interests are broadly in the arts and cultural history, and the renewed relevance of moments in early European culture for the conditions of our present, themes addressed in his books, Putting Art (back) in its Place (Hendrickson Publishers, 2016) and Making School Beautiful (Classical Academic Press, 2020). His essays have appeared in IMAGE journal, the journal of Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA), FORMA journal of the CiRCE Institute, and Cardus’s Comment magazine.