The Role of Art in a Troubled World

Participants enjoy an expertly-led discussion of James Madison’s The Federalist Papers, no. 10.

Great Books recently concluded our 75th-anniversary adult discussion group. Our group had the pleasure of delving into the role of art in a troubled world by discussing the following works:

  • “To a Locomotive in Winter” by Walt Whitman
  • “The Unknown Masterpiece” by Honoré de Balzac
  • The Federalist Papers, no. 10 by James Madison
  • “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” by Katherine Mansfield
  • “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In addition to our literary explorations, our book group also engaged in online discussions about film, art, and music.

We began our discussion with “To a Locomotive in Winter,” a poem by Walt Whitman that vividly captures the power and beauty of a locomotive. We marveled at Whitman’s masterful use of imagery, as he seamlessly blends the mechanical force of the locomotive with the natural world.

Moving on to “The Unknown Masterpiece” by Honoré de Balzac, we immersed ourselves in the art world. Balzac’s story delves into the mysterious mind of a painter who strives to capture the perfect image but is ultimately driven to madness. Our discussions revolved around the themes of artistic obsession, creativity, and the subjective nature of art itself. As a group, we pondered the themes of artistic obsession, the elusive nature of perfection, and the blurred lines between reality and imagination.

Next, we turned our attention to The Federalist Papers, no. 10 by James Madison, a significant political essay that addresses the dangers of factionalism. We had lively debates about the merits and flaws of Madison’s argument, discussing the role of political parties in contemporary society and the challenges of balancing individual rights with the common good.

In “The Daughters of the Late Colonel,” we examined gender roles, societal constraints, and the pursuit of independence. We wove this discussion into the observations made online about Mary Cassatt’s Five O’clock Tea and the glimpse into the closed world of women.

Lastly, we explored the dark romanticism of Nathaniel Hawthorne through his short story “The Minister’s Black Veil.” Together, we immersed ourselves in the atmospheric setting of Colonial America and examined the themes of guilt, secrets, and the masks we wear in society.

Our book group discussions have been rich and diverse, encompassing literature, art, and music. We have delved into the depths of human emotion, societal complexities, and the exploration of artistic expression. Each work has offered unique insights, sparking engaging conversations among our members and leaving us with a greater appreciation for the power of creativity and its diverse perspectives.

Wouldn’t you like to join us for our next online discussion series? Visit our 75th Anniversary web page to see upcoming events, both free and paid, as we continue to immerse ourselves in the world of ideas!

Professional Learning Consultant Teri Laliberte has over 20 years of experience working with learners from a variety of backgrounds. Prior to working abroad, she earned her master’s degree in language and linguistics from the University of Georgia. With 15 years of experience working with English language learners, she has supported language growth and acquisition in her students, along with the needed academic skills of critical thinking, listening, and speaking. Prior to rejoining the Great Books Foundation, she spent 15 years working with adult learners in higher and continuing education, honing her skills by meeting the needs of various learners in literacy, communication, and critical thinking.