“I am an American.” To what degree do the first words of The Adventures of Augie March articulate a challenge, to what degree do they promise a program? In 1953 the American century was just getting up a head of steam; what would it look like? What ought it to look like? In this respect if no other, a determined conviction about the worth of what his (adopted) homeland had to offer the world, Saul Bellow resembles Fyodor Dostoevsky. Of all his characters, Prince Myshkin seems to be the one into which Dostoevsky poured the most of himself. This lecture will explore the ways in which the resemblances and differences of Myshkin and March and the two novels in which they figure, reflect Bellow’s worries and hopes about the realization of America’s potential to be a light to the nations.
Offered remotely via Zoom, these free online public lectures complement the curriculum of the Basic Program. Each month, an instructor or guest lecturer discusses texts and ideas explored in the four-year program or from our wider range of course offerings. First Friday lectures allow the public and our students to hear instructors speak on their own scholarship or interpretation of a text, in contrast to the discussion method of our classrooms. A period of question and answer follows the talk.