Liberal Arts through the AGES: An Introduction

Gail Summer, Former Provost and Dean of the College and Professor of Education

Welcome to an exploration of the liberal arts. As you begin to explore what you know about the world, it is important to begin from a grounding in our history—where we have been. Exploring that history as depicted in art allows an appreciation for the depth of a culture and its people in a way no other medium can. As you explore the Catalogue in this collection, imagine what will be catalogued about your part in history in the future. What story will be revealed?

Your story will be enriched through a liberal arts education. Exploring the liberal arts fully, appreciating the many facets discovered, is a personal journey. You will better understand yourself as you better understand what the artists featured in the Catalogue were capturing. Pondering why an ink well, something very utilitarian, might have been carefully and beautifully created, is an exercise in trying to place oneself in another time and place. In so doing, we better understand who we are and how we have arrived in our own time and place. Art allows us, in this human endeavor, to express that which we cannot as well in any other way. This is reflected particularly well in an 1896 work of Leo Tolstoy, What is Art? In this work, Tolstoy wrote, "the business of art lies just in this—to make that understood and felt which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible" (102). In an age when we are increasingly separated from each other through technological means that require no human face-to-face interaction, it is perhaps even more important that we engage the complexity found in a work of art and deeply reflect the myriad of messages held therein.

Enjoy the journey made possible in the collection in the Catalogue in this volume. Take the time to imagine the lives and worlds held within each piece. Relax and revel in what you imagine, and then use that to take yourself to that very same place and live the story being told.

Liberal Arts through the AGES: An Introduction

Pareena G. Lawrence, Former Provost and Dean of the College and Professor of Economics

Welcome to Augustana College! We are excited that you are undertaking your college journey with us and I can think of no better way to begin your academic career at Augustana than with the carefully crafted curriculum that we proudly call Liberal Arts through the AGES. We at Augustana are committed to educating students in the long established traditions of the liberal arts.

Liberal education is a program of personal development. The focus is on who you can become and not just what you can do with your degree, though that is important. This tradition is even more important today as the world is rapidly changing and becoming increasingly interconnected. Knowledge of another language, human culture, the physical and natural world, critical inquiry, and communication skills are vital in today's global and interconnected society. A genuine liberal arts education is not only about the curriculum, but is also about the methods of discourse and the environment in which it is offered. A residential campus, small class sizes, pedagogical methods that focus on engaging students in learning and discovery, all important elements of an authentic liberal arts college experience that creates a community of scholars who challenge and support one another.

The writings that are part of the collection for the winter term Liberal Studies course and general education allow you to access original texts from across disciplines and cultures and time periods. As you read and reflect on these works, we hope that you will better understand the diverse perspectives on human thought and its evolution over time. The rich and unique collection of art that has been specifically selected for this curriculum is also exhibited in the College's art museum. Art has served many purposes in human history. It uplifts, inspires, pleases, but it can also horrify and make us uncomfortable. It is a visual record of history. Art communicates the human experience and the human condition. Leo Tolstoy in his 1896 work, What is Art? wrote, "the business of art lies just in this—to make that understood and felt which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible." It is our hope that you will engage with this collection and that this opportunity will help you grow in your understanding and appreciation of the world around us and our shared past.

The next four years that lie ahead will be a very special experience for you. It will provide you with multiple opportunities and the potential to grow and change in profound ways. However, learning is a process, and process takes time. Don't be in a rush to grow and change—that will happen organically as you absorb everything that is happening around you. As you begin this educational journey, challenge yourself, be passionate, explore, lead, disagree, learn to reason and not rationalize, remember to listen, question your assumption and biases, and above all be civil. That is the quintessential liberal arts way of learning.

Liberal Arts through the AGES: An Introduction

Jeff Abernathy, Former Provost and Dean of the College and Professor of English

Welcome to Augustana College. Your years here will be rich and challenging, and all of this community welcome you to a dialogue on the liberal arts that is at least as old as that of the ancient Greeks portrayed here. The Renaissance artist Raphael, in his School of Athens, depicted Greece as the seat of all learning. But there is a twist: we learn from art historians that Raphael portrayed his friends and colleagues in sixteenth-century Italy as models for the ancients. Leonardo da Vinci, for instance, was the model for Plato and friends of Raphael served as models for others. Raphael thus implied that the tradition of liberal arts education will always be startlingly contemporary: Raphael's contemporaries stand among the greats of ancient Greece, the earliest sources of liberal learning. Today—as for the Greeks portrayed here and the Renaissance thinker who followed them—a liberal arts education frees us to engage with others in exploring ideas, to consider the world from multiple vantage points, to imagine anew the age old problems of humanity.

In beginning the conversation that commences with your first year in college, you will be guided by ancient and contemporary authorities alike. Envisioned and edited by art history professor Dr. Catherine Carter Goebel, Paul A. Anderson Chair in the Arts, Liberal Arts Through the AGES is largely the work of the community you are joining. Contributors include students, faculty and administrators alike—writing from a wide array of disciplinary perspectives. A key aspect of a liberal arts education is the diversity of viewpoints to form both knowledge and community, and this book models that diversity. The essays here demonstrate the broad frame of reference necessary for interpretation and analysis within all fields. A community committed to the liberal arts embraces, and flourishes, with the richness of multiple points-of-view. As you will see from the work of so many students in this book, preparation in the liberal arts offers the skills necessary to place the knowledge you will gain in the major within the context of other ways of knowing.

Over the summer we asked you to begin your preparation for college by reading Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. In the first third of the book, Wiesenthal describes his harrowing encounter with a dying Nazi SS officer. The officer confesses a terrible crime against a Jewish family, and then asks Wiesenthal to forgive him for his sins. In our on-line discussion this summer you have begun a conversation about the questions that the book poses. Can one forgive but not forget? Or forget without forgiving? If you were Simon Wiesenthal, what would you have done? The Augustana community will continue to consider these questions during the year ahead both in and beyond the classroom. Throughout your Augustana education, your search for questions will be as important as your search for answers. The years ahead should challenge you to ask: What sort of life do I want to live? How will these years at Augustana connect to the decades that will follow graduation? Your time here will prepare you for a lifetime of learning, and the thinkers and ideas you encounter will encourage you to reflect on the range of achievement to which you can aspire. I invite you to bring all of your questions, and the whole of your imagination, to the conversation.