EverScholar programs are more than classroom sessions, but the classes are certainly at their heart.  Read about our 2020 courses, with top faculty, intriguing topics, innovative approaches, supremely curated reading, and more, below.  Click through the short descriptions to see the full course pages.  Then, from our menus above, learn more about our faculty – lead and guest professors; see some of the readings they have selected, and then visit “Beyond the Classroom” to learn about the special events.  See “Community” to see how the courses continue past their week’s end.

The First American Founding

Professors: Akhil Reed Amar and Steven B. Smith

January 10-16, 2021

New York, NY; EverScholar at Columbia

Join with your fellow scholars, Sunday to Saturday, in residence, to assess a world-changing event: the American Founding, in historical, legal, philosophical, political, and social perspectives. As the title also contemplates, the notion of subsequent “American Foundings,” and the notion that the Founding was a beginning, perhaps an unfinished one, will be central to the study. What was new? Where did it come from? What did it mean? How did it happen?

This is the story, in part, of the epic cast of characters that is at the heart of the American Founding. Washington, Hamilton, Franklin – the three greatest of the Big Six – are joined by Madison, Jefferson, and Adams. James Wilson, John Jay, Abigail Adams, James Otis, Thomas Hutchinson, John Marshall – a host of fascinating figures – will parade before us.

This course will locate the founding moment in a broader, wider slice of time than have most historians who have told the story of the Revolution. We will explore the period from 1760, through the Declaration and Revolution, through the early state constitutions, through the convention and the ratification, into the Washington presidency and the adoption of a bill of rights, the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another, and through the founding period to perhaps 1805.

Close readings of texts including the Federalist, Constitutional Convention and Ratification Conventions transcripts, British and other traditions, “big philosophy” from Locke and Montesquieu to Tocqueville, Paine, Emerson, and more, “smaller philosophy” from newspapers, congressional debates, and popular society, will all inform our discussion.

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China: Formless War, Future Visions

Professors: Peter Perdue and Jing Tsu

October 1-4, 2020

Cambridge, MA; EverScholar at MIT

For this “long-weekend” immersion,  arrive Thursday evening for a journey that will not end, but pause, on Sunday evening.  Some of our group has previously studied “China Present to Past.” This program, a transition to a full-week program planned for 2021, will look at “China Present to Future,” drawing on the past to understand the present and speculate on the future.  We will explore China in the 20th-21st centuries and beyond from literary and historical perspective, through two connected themes:
1] “Formless War:” a recently employed term, originating from the recent/current trade war, which helps model the current strategic situation of China and the US wherein cyberwar and technology replace conventional conflict, as strategy [Thucydides redux], trade, and technology flow together.
2] Visions of the future: Futurism is everywhere in China.  Just one example: the 1900s were the great first period of flourishing of Chinese science fiction literature, with all sorts of crazy imaginations, including technology. Chinese sci-fi is a modern incarnation of soft power, as it is wildly pervasive globally.  The fabric of the immensely diverse Chinese views of the future is a clue to its present and past as well.

Importantly, however, neither of these themes are entirely new.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Qing empire of China and its 400 million subjects constituted the largest political unit in the world, with nearly one quarter of the world population. They had been heavily battered by foreign imperialism during the nineteenth century, but in order to confront existential threats to the state and classical civilization, they forged radically new forms of literary and political argument,. The decades from 1890 to 1920 marked an extraordinary period of cultural and social dynamism, whose echoes China and the rest of us still live with today. Broad world views like nationalism, racism, anarchism, constitutionalism, and the literary movements of modernism, transculturalism, language reform, and Eurasianism all had their origins in this time. In this seminar, we will explore, by beginning with closely reading primary sources from China and Europe in translation, along with selected secondary works, the foundational concepts that defined China during the following century. We will also examine how Europeans and Americans incorporated their knowledge of China into their own political and cultural programs.  Past, present, and future will coalesce for us through this study.

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Montaigne and The Art of Living

Professors: Giulia Oskian and Stephen B. Smith

October 22-25, 2020

New York, NY; EverScholar at Columbia

Be immersed in the Essays by Michel de Montaigne (1533-92) for a long weekend.  Enjoy close reading of what many consider the greatest text of European early modernity. Montaigne remains an obsession (and a joy) to many, with books constantly released explaining how Montaigne guides us to meaning and happiness today.

This course will offer a close reading of the Essays. The Essays are commonly considered a classic text of European early modernity. The very form of the book was, appropriately, a new literary genre, a form of experimentation. The French word essai meaning “attempt” or “try” indicates the unfinished and maybe unfinishable character of his book. The changes in the text naturally raise the question of Montaigne’s consistency. Was the work, as it sometimes appears, a random collection of thoughts that express Montaigne’s changing moods and interests or does it reveal ahidden plan or design?

Some (but by no means all) of the topics engaged in the Essays include autobiography and the discovery of the self, freedom of thought and toleration, individualism, friendship, the role of nature and the body, custom and the limits of rationality, otherness and diversity, experience, and moderation. An important theme to be examined will be the politics of the Essays. Was he, as he sometimes appears, a conservative ironist who recommended living according to prevailing custom or was he in fact the founder of a new kind of liberal philosophy -not a liberalism of rights and duties – but a liberalism that put the avoidance of cruelty and humiliation front and center? The course will include some brief selections from some of Montaigne’s contemporaries as well as writers who have tried to adapt Montaigne to our times.

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