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website & blog of Tuan Hoang, Pepperdine University

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Great Books

I speak with my hands!

I just had a really good semester in the classroom, the best at Pepperdine.  In the first two years, I had some good classes and even three or four great ones: “great” means you cannot ask for more.  But for each semester there was at least one class out of three or four (depending on the semester) that was average at best or, at least once in my first year, quite sub-par.  Well, not this fall.  If the third time is the charm in trying most things in life, then the third year might be my charm in full-time teaching.

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Annual outing at the Getty Villa of first-year students in Great Books

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Reading about food & drink #2

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Norman Rockwell, “Freedom From Want” (1943)

Here is part one.

“As nearly the same time as the discovery of alcohol,” writes Fernand Braudel in the first of his three-volume work on capitalism from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century,

Europe, at the centre of the innovations of the world, discovered three new drinks, stimulants, and tonics: coffee, tea, and chocolate.  All three came from abroad: coffee was Arab (originally Ethiopian); tea, Chinese; chocolate, Mexican.

KEEP READING!

Reading about food & drink #1

This two-part reflection was inspired by my Great Books classes in the last two years, and by this photo from my Pepperdine colleague Donna Plank.  Norman Rockwell’s classic illustration “Freedom From Want,” which I showed in the American history survey class last week, reminded me to finish these posts before Thanksgiving. Gobble gobble!

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Donna Nofziger Plank’s first-year seminar Faith & Reason, Fall 2012 ~ Students take a break from discussing Plato’s Symposium. Later they would have pears when discussing Augustine’s Confessions.

With two exceptions, all of my non-academic jobs have involved foodstuffs to some extent.
Continue reading “Reading about food & drink #1”

Cradle Catholic – ridiculous phrase; who invented it?

Along with three Pepperdine colleagues, I participated in a faculty panel at a gathering of a Lilly Graduate Fellows cohort in Malibu on August 3 of this year.  Academic in setting, the atmosphere nonetheless leaned towards the personal.  So were the reflections from the panel, mine included. My appreciation goes to my Great Books colleague Jane Rodeheffer for the invitation, and to Michael Ditmore for comments on an earlier draft of this still half-baked reflection.

Continue reading “Cradle Catholic – ridiculous phrase; who invented it?”

Song of war #10 – Quê Hương Chiến Tranh (Country At War)

Thinking about this list of “top ten Vietnamese songs of war,” I’ve had the hardest time with the songs in the middle of the list. But I knew exactly which song to begin the series and which one to end it.

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For a starter, it is hard to find a better tune than Quê Hương Chiến Tranh Country At War if only for the title.  Few titles in South Vietnamese music on war are as succinct or straightforward as this one, for it names the most significant experiences among twentieth-century Vietnamese: war and nation.

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Video: Great Books in Fall 2014

It’s New Student Orientation, and earlier today I had the pleasure of meeting students assigned to my Great Book I sections, plus their parents in a separate meeting. I showed both groups the following video about the same class a year ago.

I hope you’ll get a kick watching even though (or because) it highlights activities other than discussion, which constituted the bulk of class time. “I love the discussion that occurs in this class,” wrote a student in the course evaluation, “This class is essentially many intelligent people gathering to discuss ideas and perspectives.”

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Viola the refugee

GB II Twelfth Night
APRIL 2015. Neal Kelley assists students staging Act 4 Scene 1 to a Coachella Music Festival setting.

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Please, more Romeo and Juliet in college!

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Spring 2015, finals week ~ My class read Twelfth Night, not Romeo and Juliet, but it didn’t keep two students from returning to eighth grade to recreate the balcony scene.

Continue reading “Please, more Romeo and Juliet in college!”

Great Books reading list, 2015-2017

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Fall 2014 – A small group in Great Books I planning for a scene from Aeschylus’ Persians

Great Books instructors at Pepperdine typically teach the courses in sequence from I to IV.  There is also an optional course on Asian Great Books alternately taught by three other faculty, and students are most encouraged to take them.  But out of needs and schedule, my first couple of years began with III and IV.  For 2015-2017, I will teach the four-semester cycle as originally intended.

This reading list reflects my design for the sequence while adhering to criteria and practice in the Great Books program at Pepperdine. KEEP READING!

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