Poets & Perception

Each year, the admissions office here at St. John’s runs five week-long summer sessions for high school students, called Summer Academy. Each session includes small discussion classes with St. John’s tutors (our form of professors), as well as fun activities and field trips to area museums and cultural attractions. Students get to live in the dorms, eat in the dining hall, and experience a slice of college life at St. John’s.

This year, our fifth and final session of Summer Academy is Poets & Perception. Students will explore the ways in which we can and cannot trust our perception through the works of poets, philosophers, and scientists. And it’s not too late to apply--a few spots still remain!

I had the chance to speak with tutor Rebecca Goldner, who will be one of the faculty members leading class for this session, about what students can expect from Poets & Perception.

Ms. Goldner is excited for this weeks topic, saying “I think sensation is so interesting and so important to consider if we want to think seriously about how we know things, and why we have a body that helps us know and live in the world”, and also excited to apply St. John’s typical interdisciplinary approach to the session theme, combining “the more philosophical accounts of sensation that we get from Aristotle and Plato with the ways in which we live and experience sensation in poetry, music, and drama,” in addition to accounts of perception we receive from biology.

She acknowledges that the laboratory portions of the session “might, at first glance, seem far afield from poetry,” but argues that  “if we are thinking seriously about perception, the organs through which we perceive have to be seriously considered and examined…Students can expect a rich discussion that isn’t isolated to one of their classes but occurs in an ongoing way through all of them. The approaches and material might be slightly different in each of the tutorials and in seminar, but the connection around poetry and perception unifies the whole week.”

One of Ms. Goldner’s favorite things about leading classes at Summer Academy is the students. “Many of the students who attend summer academy have been in the position of being one of few students in a high school class so excited about what they are learning that he or she wants to talk more about it outside of the classroom, wants to do more and learn more and spend lunch, dinner, or hours of the evening continuing what happened in class that day. When these students arrive at summer academy, they find themselves no longer one of a few, but one of a large group who want to do this…I love seeing students who feel this sense of coming home, some of them for the first time in their lives. I love the energy and enthusiasm they have for what we do. Sometimes in class you can see the moment they get excited about an idea or something they have read.”

Elaborating on the sense of home that SA students often find, she says, “[they] find [themselves] among a group of students who are all curious, interested, and excited about learning…You have to know something about yourself to sign up for more learning over the summer, and the benefit of summer academy is that you find a whole group of students who want this too.” And St. John’s is ready to welcome such students with open arms. “Our current students (many of whom themselves attended summer academy) love working with summer academy students and sharing their passion for SJC with a new group of learners.”

Check out more about Poets & Perception here, and apply here!





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