Symposium: Great Books Student Scholarly Journal

You are resting your eyes on something very special. On one level, it is perhaps the first scholarly journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences composed entirely by students in the history of the City Colleges of Chicago. The focus of Symposium is to publish annually student inquiry into the authors who collectively compose the canon, the Great Books. Although student newspapers and journals of poetry and fiction abound in community and four-year colleges, this journal may well be the only scholarly journal published by any community college in the country.

But the much more significant meaning of this document exists on several other levels. It is the embodiment of a profound truth whose lonely existence I have known of for many years of teaching, a truth whose establishment within and beyond the scholarly community is essential. That is, that community college students write about the best that has been thought and said in Western Culture with proficiency, insight, intellectual excitement and with frequent originality. The papers herein were written under the guidance of several professors in different classes. Almost all also received public recognition in the form of two academic awards for scholarly work established by the Great Books Curriculum—the Matthew Arnold Prize and the Socrates Prize for which they were nominiated by various Great Books curriculum faculty. The quality of scholarly work com studemmmattedees produce work h beyond all possible doubt to any reader who takes the trouble to read them.

Why is this so significant? What immediately comes to mind is that this magazine lays forever to rest all the objections raised by faculty and students themselves that real enduring works of the mind are either beyond the abilities of community college students or inconsequential to their interests or intellectual and personal needs. Herein are scholarly papers produced, in some cases by people who have always been indifferent to writing and were unaware of the canon or who had avoided it phobically. With the guidance of their professors, however, all of them were intellectually transformed, broadened and stimulated by what they read and who in the end gained a pride in their own capacity for intellectual and compositional mastery that will be of use to them in their other classes and which will enable them to cultivate a richer mental life than they otherwise would have had at their disposal for the rest of their lives. And in the process, their insights often opened up new perceptions to the faculty who were to that degree taught by their own students. And why not? The Great Books are nothing but people like you and me who are concerned about the same things we all are---human nature, how to live, the meaning of life. It may come as a surprise, therefore, only to those who have not encountered the Great Books that the the papers in Symposium were edited far less than those of many if not most magazines.

In the future the Great Books Curriculum plans to publish student scholarly work that centers around the semester long theme around which we are now organizing our reading lists.

Bruce Gans
Department of English
Great Books Curriculum Coordinator