A Remarkably Hard College Course Proves Remarkably Popular

"When we study Don Giovanni, we also read Auden’s observations about the relationship between composer and librettist. When we read Augustine’s Confessions, we also read Auden’s “As I Walked Out One Evening,” with its call to “love your crooked neighbour with your crooked heart.” Almost every class and every reading present similar opportunities. Sometimes we just bring in an Auden poem on the spur of the moment and pass it out for an impromptu discussion before beginning our lectures. It works.

This Audenization of the Great Books serves a purpose. Students begin to see how the great texts not only are monuments of unchanging intellect and living things in conversation with one another, but that such texts can be the food and drink sustaining the life of a master artist. They can take the books as their own food and drink too and can see from him—and hopefully from their teachers too—how the life of the mind can be lived, how a life of intense creativity and searching moral imagination rooted in this rich inheritance can be theirs for the asking."