A journal of interdiciplinary papers presented at the annual West Coast Symposium.
This year’s volume of essays continues to demonstrate the strong interdisciplinary scholarship found at the institutions participating in the annual West Coast June Symposium. Each year, I am surprised how the texts manage to weave together despite not having a theme established ahead of time. In volume 6, each of the essays illustrate a different facet of how we communicate with each other. Martha Franks, in “Joining the Great Conversation,” shares her use of classical texts in her Chinese high school classroom as she engages students in discussion-based seminars to prepare them to attend college or university in the United States. By discussing works, such as Homer’s Iliad, the students pushed past the idea that the sole purpose of learning was to succeed on exams, and instead participated in rich discussions about values, leadership, ethics, and morals. Building on the idea of how literature reflects back and challenges societal values, Michael Breger’s close analysis of Honoré de Balzac’s narrative, Le Père Goriot, examines the significance of material possessions in establishing social relations in the text. Drawing from Marx’s and Engels’s newspaper articles, Breger illustrates how literary realism was perceived during the time it was written as a commentary on class values. Christopher McBride’s examines social relations from a different perspective in his analysis of Eudora Welty’s short story, “Death of a Traveling Salesman.” Guided by psychoanalytic theory and Welty’s autobiographical texts, McBride reveals how literature can form a better understanding of human nature as the central character, R. J. Bowman wrestles through conceptions of life and death. While the first three pieces illustrate how narratives illustrate different aspects of human nature, Steven Peterson and Alex Earich explore communication in a different way. Peterson’s examines the value of maintaining the original pronunciation of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew and how it connects to understanding of texts, but also how it guides our practices of faith. His essay, “Greek Without Greeks,” challenges readers to think of the various ways language is used to communicate. Alex Earich’s essay, “Schopenhauer and Rossini and Musical Imitation of Concepts,” is perhaps the outlier to the theme; however, I would argue that music is its own mode of communication and reveals truths about aesthetics. Using Schopenhauer’s strong claim about the “aesthetic effects of music,” Earich examines Rossini’s Il Barbeire Di Siviglia to see how closely the thunderstorm temporale aligns with Schopenhauer’s aesthetic theory. I hope the essays within volume 6 challenge you to think in new ways about how narratives and language usage allow us to communicate. Enjoy!