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Friday Night Lecture: A Johnnie Twist

Friday Night Lecture is a long held tradition at St. John’s. Otherwise titled and touted as the “third seminar” of the week, lectures can be on any topic, and are often given by tutors or visiting scholars and artists. Sometimes concerts and plays performed by our theatre group, The King William Players, replace a lecture. Regardless, we fill up FSK auditorium every Friday to listen and to learn. 

A lecture? At St. John’s? Where every class is discussion based and collaborative? How could it be that the St. John’s curriculum includes formal lectures where professors profess to an audience instead of tutors posing questions for conversation? Friday Night Lecture is in fact not as intimidating as it appears. While the attitude is perhaps more reverential than that of a typical SJC class, most of these barriers fall apart at question period, the most quintessential Johnnie aspect of our lecture program. 

Question period is just that, a time after lecture in which all listeners are invited to question the lecturer on their presentation. Often lasting at least as long as the one hour lecture, (but I have heard some have lasted until 12 AM) question period is more like our typical seminar classes in which we come together to deliberate on the topic of the talk. This is why I view lecture as similar to reading a text and question period as the seminar on that text. Focusing on the question period instead of on the lecture itself is the attitude of many tutors and consistent lecture participants. 

For example, last week on November 15th, tutor Zena Hitz gave a lecture titled “The Moral Fragility of Human Beings” in which she discussed our often dichotomous view that we are either righteous or evil, moral or base, and whether that bifurcation creates the idea that we are ethically weak. The best aspect of Ms. Hitz’ lecture, besides her sense of humor and general good rapport with the students and faculty, was her ability to leave questions open for discussion. Not only did she often mention that she hoped to discuss a point she had made, but had been unable to flesh out properly, later on during question period, but her entire lecture was the laying out of a concept that begged to be further discussed. She made no decision on whether this often made conclusion concerning moral fragility was correct, or, if not, correctable. Ms. Hitz, like all great texts, gave the listener a foundation in an idea that requires constant exploration. 

When the lecture ends and the assembly progress’ from the dimly lit auditorium into the bright FSK lobby, like sleepy moths attracted to porch lights (or in this case the provided coffee), they start to liven up again, immediately launching into a spirited discussion on the lecture. From this conversation between friends and colleagues, many transition into the question period to formally discuss the questions left lingering by the lecture. Thus the cycle repeats itself, every week, a supremely Johnnie activity masked by its formidable title: Friday Night Lecture. 

Chronological List of Audio Recordings of Friday Night Lecture : http://digitalarchives.sjc.edu/items/browse?collection=5&sort_field=Dublin+Core%2CDate&sort_dir=d&_ga=2.267152909.2021462125.1574184138-1377956217.1574184138

By Topic List of Audio Recordings of Friday Night Lecture:

https://www.sjc.edu/academic-programs/undergraduate/lectures

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