The Association for Core Texts and Courses

"Supporting Liberal Arts Core Text Curricula Around the World"


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16th Annual Conference Announcement
16th Annual Conference Agenda
2010 Submitted Proposals List


THEME: Engaging Worlds: Core Texts and Cultural Contexts

Sponsored by
Seton Hall University
and Co-sponsored by
Centenary College of New Jersey, Columbia University, The College of New Jersey,
and The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Thursday, April 15 - Sunday, April 18, 2010
The Heldrich Hotel
New Brunswick, NJ

Plenary Speakers Thursday through Saturday: Cheung Chan Fai, Director of General Education and Professor of Philosophy, Chinese University of Hong Kong; Jean and Robert Hollander, Poet and Professor Emeritus, Princeton University; Lynn Margulis, Distinguished Professor, Geosciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Dorian Sagan, Science Writer; David Tracy, Professor Emeritus of Catholic Studies and Professor of Theology and the Philosophy of Religions, University of Chicago; Richard Kamber, ACTC President and Professor of Philosophy, College of New Jersey.

Sunday, April 18: Business meeting.


ATTENDEE PROPOSAL SUBMISSIONS: All proposals -- paper or panel -- should include names, institutional affiliations, addresses, email and phone contact numbers of presenter(s). All proposals should include paper title(s) and a one paragraph abstract. In addition, PANEL PROPOSALS should organize a panel of specific presenters with a title for the panel. No more than two panel members from the same institution may be present on one panel, but panel proposals with only two presenters are welcome. ACTC will form panels out of individual submissions or complete panel submissions. DEADLINE FOR PROPOSALS IS DECEMBER 31, 2009.

A volunteer faculty member from one of the sponsoring institutions will be contacting you between October 15th and December 1-10th to remind you about the conference and to offer help in advancing a proposal to us. All potential conferees are welcome to contact the Executive Director of ACTC, J. Scott Lee, with questions about panels and proposals:

ACTC papers are short ("essay-seminar style," 5 pages, double-spaced), treat one core text for ¾-1 page, and develop the conference theme. (See "Sample Papers".) The usual time allotted in panels to each paper is 12-15 minutes. A mark of ACTC conference panels is real, liberal arts discussions. Thus, papers tend to range over theoretical considerations, particular interpretations, and classroom or programmatic practices - often involving all three areas. Panel Proposals should bear these characteristics in mind. Scholarly papers (10 pages) may be submitted for publication in our selected proceedings, but only the short papers may be read at the conference. For publication criteria, see:

While the submission of a complete paper is not required for acceptance on a panel, attendees whose paper proposals are accepted are expected to come to the conference with the completed paper. All conferees are invited to submit these papers to ACTC for publication in our selected, peer-reviewed proceedings. More than 200 openings will be available for panel presentations and proceedings submissions.


Engaging Worlds: Core Texts and Cultural Contexts

This year's conference theme expresses a hope by the Sponsoring and Co-sponsoring institutions, and ACTC, that the attendees of the conference will engage in as wide a conversation based in core texts as did the committee which formulated the theme. That discussion recognized the plurality of interpretations and statements by which core texts may engage worlds or cultural contexts.

The ways by which engagement is accomplished appear to be many, not one. Aristotle's Poetics remarks that "what convinces is the possible" and, if so, the implication of not only tragedy and comedy, but history, philosophy, even fine arts, religion, and science, is that their works provide us "worlds" and "cultural contexts" for their characters, actions, and specific generic functions to inhabit. Indeed, who could deny the fearful darkness through which Sophocles' characters navigate their way, or the silly destructiveness of politics in the lives of Aristophanes' characters? Who can contemplate Botticelli's The Adoration of the Magi and not wonder at the world created by the mixture of Christian, Classical, and early Renaissance cultures in the posture and staging of Cosimo kneeling before the Virgin? Similarly, Plato's Republic with its cave dwellers and guardians constitutes a world very different than the one constructed by Bacon's Novum Organum or Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Those who read such works may come to develop artistic or scientific sensibilities, and - perhaps -- come, through future artistic or scientific production of their own, to imagine the kind of worlds and passions we may inhabit, now or in the future. What, then, are the worlds and cultural contexts of the activities, actors and agents constituted in core texts?

On the other hand, Aristotle in the last chapters of the Poetics constructs the basis for a multi-disciplinary conversation within, at least, Greek culture about works of art. In the same treatise, then, the relations of culture and work are reversed, and the work is subject to wide-ranging criticism. Something like this conversation begins to happen when diverse faculty gather to discuss the use of works in their courses and programs. What, then, are the worlds and cultural contexts of the modern academy and our programs as they approach world classics and are constituted by the discussion of their use?

One strain of that conversation can be seen in the adumbrations in the works of Cicero of our modern concerns with leadership. "I hold that eloquence is dependent upon the trained skill of highly educated men, while [others] consider that it must be separated from the refinements of learning made to depend on a sort of natural talent and practice." Here the educational focus is on shaping students through acquiring a culture of learning largely through the selected cultivation of arts and the use of works of language, in order that the student may participate most fully in her or his culture. What is a world of culture and education, when constituted by the liberal arts of language and culture in application to core texts?

Considerations of leadership, in a democracy, naturally lead to considerations of citizenship. And, in the Enlightenment- American democratic culture of Jefferson, de Tocqueville, Emerson, Du Bois, or Henry Adams it becomes patently clear how vexed the relationship between books and culture may become over democratic questions of cultural progress and participation. Looking over this American democratic development, Americans seem urged to abandon the literate educational tradition which got them to the point of being able to decide what should be done or built. What is the relationship between core texts and citizens in a democracy?

Perhaps impelled by a love of books and culture and an uneasy satisfaction with our own cultural heritage whatever it may be -- we examine other books with worlds of other cultures in them. Despairing of a theological line of argument within Western churches which has made God so absolute as to make humans un-free, David Tracy has turned to Buddhism to help reinvigorate and re-orient the discussion of what "ultimate reality" may be. Amartya Sen, in The Argumentative Indian, argues that, "the Greek and Roman heritage on public discussion is, of course, rightly celebrated, but the importance attached to public discussion has a remarkable history in India," but William de Bary, scholar of Asia, has questioned the institutionalization of public discourse in that civilization's traditions, "public reasoning, yes, and still a value in the tradition, but not necessarily democratic." In short, as we examine work and conversation of various cultures, we seem drawn to the cultural issues of institutions and conversation - not the least being the nature and structure of our own educational fora - and particularly the content and function of core text programs. What can classic works - ancient or modern -- contribute to the formation of institutions and vice-versa?

In the Confucian tradition, there is deep consideration of the relations between thought, cultural forms, action and text: "The Master said, 'Learning without due reflection leads to perplexity; reflection without learning leads to perilous circumstances'." But reflection was also turned to the lived "spiritual" world of the dao - a way appreciated and projected through art and life: "Poor but enjoying the way (dao); rich but loving ritual propriety (li) Zigong, it is only with the likes of you then that I can discuss the Songs!" This raises the question of whether only certain initiates, disciples or experts can engage in such discussions, and whether books not only engage us in our own present culture, but those of another order altogether - a question that Augustine's City of God and Christine de Pisan's City of Ladies seem to explore at length.

These Confucian and Christian works which speculate on the state and future of cultures have suggestive parallels in today's modern discourses, about who is eligible and what should count in discussions, even about books and science. For example, Lynn Margulis' and Dorion Sagan's works are neither simply works for "popular" consumption, nor, while solidly scientific and modern, are they works atrophied by inattention to histories of ideas. Thus, these authors seem to use the whole core text tradition of ancient to modern works to engage scientific colleagues in (deconstructive) public debate about such issues as the extent that symbiogenesis or the existence of Gaia has shaped the biology of the world and humans, and what it is to be alive - or dead.

Even the methods of such writers as Margulis open up the question of core texts and a cultural context, for there are questions about the appropriate worlds to create through combining a study of core texts - from Newton, to Newman, to Nietzsche - with pedagogies and practices of the classroom. Each of these disciplines and their texts - science or mathematics, education or religion, philosophy or criticism - might seem to demand specific classroom practices, yet all these authors and the works found in this call for papers have been treated through specialized disciplinary or liberal-arted, interdisciplinary inquiry. What happens to our students when we read these works with different paideia's, different cultures of education?

Thus, the cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary conversations that readers have been engaged in for centuries only become heightened and, perhaps, more necessary in the world classics of the 20th Century. Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents seems one such work. Certainly concerned with selections and consequences within world classics traditions and multi-cultural contexts are King and Nussbaum. Such works, in turn, led to an important issue the committee considered -- the notion of Global Culture(s) and Global Civilization(s). Not surprisingly, there were varying commitments to these ideas. Some programs will orient their courses toward situating and maintaining the local or institutional culture in a "global" context. Others may orient toward specific civilizations -- Western or Eastern -- or specific traditions -- religious, political, artistic, textual or ideational. However, all are likely to find the question of global context to be worthy of consideration, precisely because the multi-cultural conversation -- foreshadowed in Aeschylus' encounter of cultures between the Eumenides and Athens -- is now upon us for the far future.

What do we learn of texts, cultures, and the world's dynamics when we read so widely and deeply? What books, what arts, what associations and institutions, what sciences, what religions, what cultures, what educations, what citizens, what scholars are we preparing for the future through an education in core texts that engages our worlds?



Registration includes price of six meals (Thursday night reception and dinner, three breakfasts and two lunches) regardless of days of attendance, plus admission to all activities, & subvention for published proceedings of the conference.

All individuals attending ACTC are encouraged to become members. However, all individuals attending ACTC for the second time must become members, and all individuals presenting papers must become members. Institutional membership does not cover individual membership.

Registration fee: $ 295.00 U.S. CAD price announced after agenda is set
Individual membership: $ 50.00 U.S. (if fee paid by personal check, discounted to $25.00)
Thursday night guests: $ 45.00 U.S. per person

Payment forms will be sent to you in early February after the agenda is set. ACTC does not accept credit cards because the cost of using them would have to be passed on to conference attendees. ACTC cannot and will not pro-rate fees.


Parties interested in book displays or displays for programs or projects should contact the ACTC office at



The Heldrich Hotel, 10 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ: Single or Double Rate: $ 95.00/night.


Go to and select the BOOK NOW link. Select Group Reservation, located along the top of the screen. Input your ACTC's attendee code, 77729, and then click the Attendee Login Button. This will bring you to your group specific page, listing some general information about your group meeting and the hotel. Input your Arrival and Departure Dates and the number of guests and then click Continue. Select your preferred Bed Type, fill in the appropriate Information Fields, and then click Submit.

For Call-In Reservations:
Call toll free: 866 609 4700. Simply provide the Group Name, Dates, and/or the Group's Attendee Code/Res ID, and the Reservation Agent will be able to assist you. Trouble? The Hotel's main number is 732-729-4670.

Rooms in the "block" at above rate will be held until WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2010. After March 31, rooms and rates are subject to availability. NB: we have a room block in line with historical records of attendance at ACTC. Once the room block is filled, regardless of dates, rates go up.



The most convenient airport is Newark International, from where a New Jersey Transit train goes directly from to the New Brunswick train station. Use, "train schedules" and "Newark Airport" as your "origin" if coming from Newark International. Shuttles between airports: Also, public transportation will take riders from the other NYC airports to Penn Station in NYC, where a transfer to an NJ transit train can be made. A five-(short)-block, downtown walk from the New Brunswick train station will take you to the hotel.

On the hotel's website,, go to "Location" to see its easy accessibility from Interstate 95 and the network of area Interstates: 80, 78, and 287. Parking is available Thursday night at cost, but drivers may switch to a nearby municipal lot for free on the weekend. New York City is easily accessible by train.

Questions? Write or call:

Rosa Grundig
ACTC Liberal Arts Institute at
Saint Mary's College of California
1928 Saint Mary's Road
Moraga, CA 94556

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Association for Core Texts and Courses & The ACTC Liberal Arts Institute at
Saint Mary's College of California:

1928 Saint Mary's Road, Moraga, CA 94556
Ph: 925-631-8597

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