The University of St. Thomas

J-term getaway: ‘Great Books’ seminar discusses jurisprudence through literature from French Norman-style country home

Published on: Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna, Minn., where University of St. Thomas School of Law Great Books seminar is held

Imagine for a moment having the opportunity to step away for one week between semesters — away from the hustle and bustle of doctrinal coursework, long papers, clinics, internships, etc. Imagine spending the days and evenings during the first full week of the New Year participating with fellow School of Law students and faculty in fireside chats about some of the classic works of the great authors of ancient and modern times. Splendid conversations, great meals, comfortable room and board, all within the confines of a classic French-Norman style manse situated on a peaceful 180-acre horse farm just 60 miles south of the Twin Cities.

Now imagine earning three credits for this week of peaceful existence, learning and camaraderie. That’s the premise behind the “Great Books” seminar, a six-day residential seminar that has been offered to School of Law and Opus College of Business students during the J-term for more than a decade.

The Great Books course uses selected writings of great classic and contemporary thinkers as a launching point for intensive, focused group dialogue. The readings revolve around such universal human concerns as justice, rights, liberty, equality, the role of economics, leadership and community. Moderators lead conversations on the enduring ideas and ideals of world civilization, the problems and opportunities facing society today, and critical issues to be encountered in the years ahead. (View sample syllabus)

School of Law Professor Chuck Reid and Opus College of Business Professor Jeanne Buckeye will co-teach the 2014 seminar.

Students will read excerpts from some of the greatest thinkers and writers in ancient and modern history, ranging from Aristotle to Dostoyevsky, and Virginia Wolfe to Milton Friedman.

“It’s a focused period of reading and discussion on some of the grand themes in jurisprudence,” Reid said. “The wonderfully relaxing environment and the stimulating discussions that take place really provide a great backdrop for lifelong friendships to form as well.”

Participants stay onsite during the seminar and enjoy meals together at the beautiful Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna, which is just an hour south of Minneapolis.

Great Books qualifies as a three-credit elective for graduate business and law students.

A few seats for the January 2014 seminar remain open. Students can register for the course through Murphy Online.

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