Ivy Leaf Program – Second Year Readings
Book 2.1) NIV Study Bible The Bible, comprising both the Old and New Testaments, was completed in its original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek by early in the second century A.D. In one version or another, it is at the core of both the Jewish and the Christian faiths. To the Founders of the American Republic, it was the one text that informed their lives, shaped their understanding, and drove their hopes for the new nation. The particular edition I have selected for both the first and the second sessions combines a scholarly and widely-accepted translation with a generous range of study aids.
Book 2.2) The Divine Comedy (The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso) by Dante Alighieri and John Ciardi This selection, in John Ciardi’s superb translation, is the first third of the ico- nic Florentine poet’s magnificent Commedia, his greatest work. Of Dante himself it has been said, “Whether as poet or as man, as prophet or as philosopher, as mirror of his world or as image of the world then in birth, [he] has more to say to us than any other person of his age.”
Book 2.3) Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Decades before the great feminist labors of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the United States, this pioneering work planted important seeds in the soil of Human Rights. This brief text has been both hailed and reviled as essential to grasping the priorities and aspirations of the feminists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is a powerful, closely reasoned Enlightenment manifesto.
Book 2.4) NIV Study Bible
(See commentary above on the Bible.) While scholars unanimously agree in declaring John the last-written of the four canonical gospels, it is also the most spiritual in tone, as well as conveying a distinctively intimate knowledge of important aspects of the life of Jesus and of his cosmic identity. Acts, written by Luke, the “beloved physician,” uniquely details the story of the first Christian communities, and of the second most important figure in the entire history of the new faith, Paul the Apostle.
Book 2.5) Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernicanby Galileo Galilei , Stillman Drake, et al.
Galileo was central in the drama of the Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth into the eighteenth centuries. This book, initially published under license of the Catholic Church in 1632, was to be banned a year later, after the Inquisition had deemed its author “vehemently suspect” of heresy. Its effect was to prove catalytic, as it destroyed the credibility of geocentrism in the Western
Book 2.6) John Stuart Mill, On Liberty . Mill, like Locke, was a formidable champion of liberty, but also a man of his own time and place, a Victorian political and social philosopher. This tract, published in 1859 (the same year as Charles Darwin’s On the Origins of Species), quickly became a kind of manual of what would later be termed “Classical Liberalism.” Mill was unquestionably one of the most important nineteenth-century British philosophers, and is also acknowledged as a major apologist for British imperialism.
Book 2.7) The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Macbeth, also called “the Scottish play,” well represents the theatrical genre of tragedy (cf. Sophocles’ Antigone in our first-year curriculum). The towering figure of “Shakespeare” is acclaimed in every literary canon as preeminent among the world’s writers. (My reason for placing quotation marks around the name will be disclosed when we reach this point in our time together.)
Book 2.8) The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz
Miłosz, a Polish intellectual and government official after World War II, experienced both Nazism and Soviet Communism at first hand. This book, written in France shortly after he defected there in 1951, was first published in English in 195 It provides elegant, uncanny insights into the mindset of intellectuals seduced by Stalinism.
Book 2.9) Confessions (Oxford World's Classics) by Saint Augustine and Henry Chadwick
In the genre of autobiography, this early (ca. 400 A.D.) work of Late Antiquity by one of the Latin church’s most seminal and prolific philosopher-theologians provides a unique window into his evolving soul.
Book 2.10) Plutarch's Lives (Volumes I and II) by Plutarch, John Dryden, et al.
As a Middle Platonist philosopher, Plutarch concerned himself with moral qualities of character. That concern is thematic throughout his celebrated and perennially influential Parallel Lives. We will examine perhaps 8-10 of the fifty biographies in this collection.
Book 2.11) Utopia (Translated by Gilbert Burnet with Introductions by Henry Morley and William D. Armes) by Thomas More, Henry Morley, et al.
More, an excellent Catholic scholar during the English Renaissance, also served King Henry VIII as Chancellor, in which capacity he found himself unable to support his master’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn; for that he was beheaded on London’s Tower Green. His book (1516) was intended as satire; unfortunately, many millions of lives have been wantonly sacrificed for the sake of an “ideal society” which More himself would clearly have denied was even possible.
Book 2.12) Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
Published in English in 1941, this novel of an Old Bolshevik’s interrogation and demise at the hands of “the Party” (a thinly-veiled allusion to Stalin), bears undeniable marks of verisimilitude. It was highly influential.
Book 2.13) The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius , David R. Slavitt , et al
Anicius Manlius Boëthius, a Roman aristocrat and Neoplatonic philosopher influenced by Augustine (though probably not a Christian himself), was executed by the Ostrogothic King of Italy, Theoderic the Great, for treason in the year 524. He wrote the above work in Latin while in prison; it is considered an extraordinary piece of prison literature, and was immensely influential throughout the Western Middle Ages.
Book 2.14) Voltaire, Candide. (Dover Thrift Editions). The Enlightenment philosophe’s best-known work, a satirical novel about the worldly awakening of a curious young traveler; it has been listed in Martin Seymour-Smith’s book, The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written. This satirical masterpiece of 1759 epitomizes the intellectual vigor of the great Enlightement philosopher and man of the world, François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire was his pen name), as he took on established religion and a host of other
bêtes noirs of his time. It remains paradigmatic to this day.
Book 2.15) The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Perennial Classics) by Thornton Wilder
Wilder won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel in 1927, and it has proven quite influential even into our own time. It deals with the lives of five people killed in the collapse of a fictitious bridge in Peru.