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MARCH 4 , 2013


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When In Rome, the St. John’s Way

[Editors’ Note: Though it is too late to apply for RILA this year, we hope the information in this letter will be worthwhile for students considering participating in future years.] Dear Editors, I wanted to updates students about RILA, which will take place this summer. But first, if you don’t know what RILA is: RILA (or Rome Institute of Liberal Arts) is a summer program in Rome, Italy, created and taught by St. John’s tutors, designed for St. John’s students. It is now in its sixth year. It is not part of St. John’s College, but the classes are run like St. John’s seminars, the seminar leaders are tutors and about 80% of our students have always been from St. John’s Santa Fe/Annapolis. We also accept a couple of students each year from other schools. (Please tell friends at other schools about RILA if you think they would be good for us, and you want them to get a taste of the work you do at the college.) RILA is four weeks long, mid-June to mid-July. (A two week extension may be available for people who want to spend six weeks in Rome, if enough people sign up for it.) Classes are smaller, more intimate seminars, like preceptorials in size, but led by two tutors. There are usually around 10 students (theoretically they can be anywhere from 8-16). Seminars meet four to five times per week, for an hour and twenty minutes each. We make it shorter in length than a regular twohour seminar because there is a smaller group and shorter readings. Since the readings are shorter than our seminar readings at the college, this leaves us time for a variety of lectures and time to explore our surroundings. Last

year we heard guest lectures given by the political theorist Thomas Pangle from the University of Texas at Austin on Machiavelli, another from the Dante scholar Giuseppe Mazzotta from Yale, as well as a third lecture on Hegel by Jim Carey, a Santa Fe tutor. (Thomas Pangle will be back this summer, other lectures will be announced soon.) As for what we see on the excursions: Rome of course is the place for ancient Roman

sculpture, and architecture. In RILA we try to use all these resources both to understand what visual arts and architecture are as independent disciplines, but also in the service of questions in our seminar readings. We go at the art and architecture mainly as earnest amateurs, but also with some preparation. There are weekly lectures on art/architecture and history in Rome given by St. John’s tutors and by art historians. (This year we will

fer students two classes from which to choose. One is designed to address the art of Rome in an important way; the other is more focused around the history. The first seminar is called “Beauty and the Sacred,” and it takes up art and eros, and their relation to theological issues. We read an ancient, a medieval, and a modern text, namely, Plato’s Symposium, selections from Dante’s Comedy, and Hegel’s Aesthetics. For those of you

sculpture, painting, and architecture. But in addition, since southern Italy and Sicily were Greek for most of antiquity, there are lots of ancient Greek works around. In the Etruscan area north of Rome are painted underground tombs, which, except for vase-painting, are one of the only extant examples of high classical period Greek painting. To the south, Naples has a great collection of Greek sculpture, while Paestum (near Naples) has the best preserved Doric temples in the world. Of course, Rome and the surrounding area are also filled with the very most important works in medieval, Renaissance, and baroque painting,

also have a tutor who is at the same time an art historian, a first for RILA.) We do a number of excursions and on-site discussions each week, some with just tutors, some with art historians or classicists together with tutors. These excursions and lectures aim to help you get things out of Rome that you could never get out of Rome as a tourist collecting the sights. We try to make Rome and its resources a part of your thinking about big issues that extend beyond Rome. We work under the hope that that intertwining the books with the art and the history will make you read the books differently. This year RILA will of-

who don’t know Hegel’s Aesthetics, Martin Heidegger said it was “the most comprehensive reflection on the essence of art that the West possesses.” It gives one of the best accounts of classical sculpture as well as of modern art. It is not simply aesthetics, but also art history at a uniquely philosophical level. This book makes a good supplement to a St. John’s education, since the seminar list does not include any works chiefly dedicated to aesthetics or art. I will coteach this course with Sarah Benson, who in addition to being a tutor, happens to be an art historian specialized in the art of Rome. The other class is called, “The Virtue of Republics and the Soul of Empire”, in which we focus on ancient and modern views of Rome. In this class we read mostly non-program books by mostly program authors: Livy’s Rise of Rome, Vergil’s Aeneid, Augustine’s City of God, Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy, and some of Shakespeare’s Roman plays (Julius Ceasar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus). These readings make a good supplement to St. John’s as well. They give you time to get a better handle on the Roman history that you skip in seminar and therefore to better understand Vergil’s attempt, in writing the Aeneid, to revive republican virtue. But the readings in this course also allow you to think about what republics and empires look like in modern perspective. This course will be taught by Lijun Gu and Joe MacFarland. We will also visit two beautiful cities in central Italy, namely, Orvieto and Siena. Most students want to stay and live the rest of their lives in these cities. All the details of this summer’s classes are now up on the website ( I wanted interested students to know the basics about the program over winter break, in case

they wanted to discuss the program with their families. Now, about the logistical side of classrooms, housing, and fees: We hold classes under the arches of a beautiful Renaissance building built in 1582. It was commissioned by St. Ignatius Loyola himself, founder of the Jesuit order, to house the first Jesuit school, then known as the Roman College (it now houses a public high school and offices of the Italian ministry of culture). It was where Galileo sometimes lived and where he presented work from his Two New Sciences, and where Roger Boscovich, another figure from junior lab, lived and studied. Galileo was condemned by the rector of the Roman College, St. Bellarmine, in a room across the street from our classroom. This unusual classroom building is right at the historical center of Rome, one block from the Pantheon. The walk to the school across the Tiber river, through ancient, medieval, and Renaissance neighborhoods, is a pleasure. We have access to this building because of generous friends in Italy who help get us little perks, like entrance into the Vatican without waiting on the 1-2 hour long lines, and a day or two in classrooms in the Vatican itself. We will be using new apartments to house students this year. These apartments will be in the Castel Sant’Angelo neighborhood and in the Trastevere neighborhood. The new apartments are all well located, all in the historical center of Rome, about a 15 – 20 minute walk from school. They have newer appliances and fixtures than the apartments we used in the past, and are run by a different agency. All students are housed with other RILA students. The program costs $2,800 for tuition, and $800 - $1100 for housing. These costs do not include airfare, meals, or other extras. RILA and its donors provide full- and half-tuition scholarships for a number of St. John’s students every year. Note that these tuition scholarships do not include housing, airfare, meals, and incidentals. More details about this will be on the website. Applications for financial aid are due on February 13th, applications for admission are due for admission on February 20th. For details about the RILA programs, the website is, but keep in mind that the website may not be updated for a week or so. (You can already begin an application with the online form, however.) There is also a RILA Facebook page, with lots of photos of past years that students have sent in. You can take a look at the photos from past summers to see people in the classes over the years, and for pictures of our location and some of the places we visited together. Feel free to contact me with any questions, gpihas@sjca. edu. Sincerely, Gabe Pihas (Tutor, Annapolis)

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