Recently I sat down with Michael Golluber, our new assistant dean in Santa Fe to talk about books and some issues close to my own interest as a student at the college. Below you will find our conversation as it took place, with RS representing my questions and MG, Mr. Golluber’s responses.
RS: You have been a tutor since 2000.
What was your experience beforehand and what brought you to St. John’s?
MG: I knew about St. John’s when I was in high school. There were two places that I wanted to go to for college, one was Sarah Lawrence College and one was St. John’s. At my young age St. John’s didn’t seem to me to be as cool as Sarah Lawrence. I’m glad I went to Sarah Lawrence, but I feel like I missed out on this education. So, I always had a sense of this place and wanted to be a part of it in someway. And teaching at different places after graduate school, I felt as though I wasn’t learning anymore, also, I wanted to spend my whole life in school— so this was the place for me.
RS: You did Sarah Lawrence for your Undergrad, and for Graduate School where did you go?
MG: Stony Brook for my Masters, and then PhD at Tulane University.
RS: Which program book, if any, have you found yourself returning to?
MG: Well, I am always returning to Plato and Aristotle. Right now it is Maimonides, I am looking at that book very closely with other some students and finding amazing questions being asked about Reason versus Revelation, Ancients versus Moderns, Aristotle versus the Bible. It is really the heart of what we try to ask in many of our Seminars and it seems to be all in this one book. It’s fantastic.
RS: It is a really challenging book!
MG: It is.
RS: That leads to my next question: I was going to ask which book remains a challenge for you in the program?
MG: They are all challenges, Plato and Aristotle are continuously challenging — every time you go back to them you realize how much you didn’t understand what you read before. Einstein is challenging. Maimonides is challenging. I think part of the pleasure, not just the learning, but part of the pleasure is being able to tackle that challenge.
RS: You are in the Judith Butler “Gender Trouble” study group, how is it going? What led you to be involved?
MG: I was asked by a couple students and I wanted to do it for that reason but also I have a serious background in Postmodern thinking and Feminist thinking. It is what I was studying as an Undergraduate and when I was doing my Masters.
RS: That’s what I was thinking, Sarah Lawrence has a lot of focus there.
MG: Yes, a lot of Feminist, Gender-Studies issues. Early on I was interested, and I took a year long course on the Philosophy of Feminism.
RS: and had you read “Gender Trouble” before?
MG: This book I had not read before, so that was another reason I was so excited. [Butler] is such an influential writer.
RS: She really is.
MG: She sort of changed the course of feminism in the 1990’s.
RS: I know there has been some talk to bring up issues like Feminism and how women participate at the college— do you think that’s a major consideration that you have?
MG: It is. I am not interested in changing our program, but I am interested in showing how our program makes you better prepared to tackle these issues and read these books. But I am also concerned that we don’t discuss those issues as well as I would like us to as a community. We are going to have more forums, and I will be doing more of these reading groups— and once we finish Judith Butler, which will take awhile because it is such a difficult book, we will move on to some other contemporary feminists.
RS: I notice here there can be a divide between “intellectual” and “current social issues” but I think questions like “are human beings fundamentally different due to externals like gender?” are intellectual, interesting questions that relate both worlds.
MG: When we do Genesis, for example, those are exactly the sort of questions I am pushing. I know other tutors do as well, because we want to understand ourselves and we have to in terms of these questions.
Our authors raise these concerns. Aristotle, in the Politics, cites Tecmessa who was Ajax’s wife and says women should remain silent— but if you look at that quote in context of the play, you see that if Ajax would have listened to her he wouldn’t have gotten into all the trouble he was in.
Aristotle, I ascertain, is aware of those things.
RS: I agree. I have my freshman language tutor to thank for this: I wanted to write about Aristotle’s concept of Eudaimonia in regards to women accessing it in the Politics and Ethics. And I was hesitant about it, because I didn’t know yet if this was the type of paper we write here— and he really encouraged me to do it.
MG: Who was that?
RS: Alan Zeitlin.
MG: That is an interesting question, I think Aristotle is aware that these culturally imposed separations are imposed.