Professor Ritchie joins Professor Peffley and Professor Kooistra for the last podcast of the year to talk about his journey to becoming an English professor, the Humanities program, and their summer reading lists.
As Professor Kooistra mentioned last week, Professor Ritchie had seen her carrying Ulysses and had offered her a copy of Harry Blamires’ reading guide to Ulysses. In this podcast, Professor Ritchie shares that he found great beauty in the work of James Joyce which connected to the way that Fyodor Dostoevsky thought about beauty. Ultimately he felt drawn to how literature could connect aesthetic beauty and theological beauty.
In terms of James Joyce works, Professor Ritchie has attempted to read Ulysses during a study abroad trip but has found better success doing so with Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or with Dubliners. Both Professor Ritchie and Professor Peffley reflect on the beauty of being able to teach a text in the place it was written about, and the value of being able to imagine the scenes described in a book because you have been there yourself. Studying abroad is one of the ways to make education come alive, and it is a privilege to have that chance!
As the founder of the Humanities program, Professor Ritchie says that there is not necessarily a text that he would add or take away but speaks about the purpose of the program as a whole. The goal of the four courses is to make connections between disciplines such as theology and history and art and politics, and the focus of the team should be on finding texts that do this. For example, Professor Ritchie points to Milton’s Paradise Lost as a text that makes these connections really well but it is too difficult to teach in a Humanities setting. There are other texts that would be enjoyable to teach but do not make the connections in the same way. What the Humanities texts focus on is the same question Professor Ritchie asks from Paradise Lost: “How do you get an evil world from a good God?”
Some highlights from the Humanities program center around the texts that students are motivated to be involved in. Students typically are interested in a few texts pretty consistently: Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Augustine’s Confessions, and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Every time through, these are the texts that challenge the way that students think, help them make connections between different areas of study, and draw them closer to God.
Looking forward to the fall, Professor Ritchie shares that he is looking forward to teaching the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche – not because he particularly enjoys Nietzsche but because of the important discussions that come out of the readings. Additionally, students will be reading George Orwell’s 1984 over the summer to prepare for Humanities IV in the fall; a book that has strong connections to the state of our world at the moment.
As it is the last podcast of the year, the professors share both what is on their nightstand right now and something on their summer reading list. Currently, Professor Ritchie is reading Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight as well as Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai which was recommended in Alan Jacobs’ Breaking Bread with the Dead. Over the summer, Professor Ritchie is planning to read Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne and Prayer by Ole Hallesby. Professor Peffley is reading Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay and is looking forward to Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Currently Professor Kooistra is reading Forged in Crisis by Nancy Koehn, and her summer reading will include Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey.
Thank you to Professor Ritchie for joining this special episode of the podcast, and to Professor Sam Mulberry for his help producing the podcast. Professor Peffley and Professor Kooistra have done an incredible job creating this podcast; thank you for bringing the Humanities to an entirely new platform!