Roger Martin: Racing Odysseus

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Martin, Roger. Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008)

The midlife-return-to-higher-education experience that was so ably chronicled by David Denby in his 1996 memoir Great Books (subtitled My Adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World) has a strong successor in Roger Martin's Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again. The 61-year-old Martin took a sabbatical, moved to Annapolis, and spent the fall semester as a first-year student at St. John's College (website, Wikipedia). As a historically-minded reader, Martin was primed to appreciate the Great Books program offered at Saint John's; see their Reading List for the program's depth and breadth of texts.

Martin sometimes leans too heavily on the fish-out-of-water feeling he had about being so much older than his fellow students, but this is more than made up for by the broader observations that his more extensive life experiences enable him to make. Martin often rhapsodizes over the Saint John's curriculum, enthusing over the discovery that he "could read the great works of Homer, Plato, and Herodotus in ways that would give new meaning to my life:"

Homer gave me a better understanding of homesickness and the insecurities of my youth. Plato spoke to my more recent encounter with death. And, of course, Herodotus led me to a deeper appreciation for what it means to be a historian. (p. 250)

If you've ever been as intrigued by the idea of a Great Books program as I am, Racing Odysseus may well whet your appetite for an education at Saint John's--or perhaps an auto-didactical attempt toward the same end.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on March 23, 2010 3:53 PM.

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