McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles to Host Fifth Annual Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas


MACON – Mercer University's Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles will host its fifth annual A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas, March 27-28, focusing on the theme “On Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War.”

“No thinker, ancient or modern, is more provocative than Thucydides when it comes to questions about the moral ramifications of political ambition,” said Dr. Charlotte Thomas, professor of philosophy and co-director of the Center. “Mercer is extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful group of scholars convening on campus to discuss Thucydides' perennially relevant account of Athens' power, prosperity and expansion after the Persian Wars, and the disastrous implosion it engendered. No student of the remarkable success of the American experiment can read Thucydides without wondering what, exactly, we should be learning from him to navigate the perils of our contemporary situation.”

This year's conference includes 11 scholars from across the U.S. and Canada presenting their work either as lecturers or panelists. All events are free and open to the public and will take place in the Presidents Dining Room inside the University Center.

The opening lecture will be delivered by Dr. Michael Palmer, professor of political science at the University of Maine. He will present “Stasis (Civil War, Revolution, Regime Change) in the War Narrative” on Monday at 6 p.m.

Dr. Palmer specializes in political philosophy with research interests in political theory; major thinkers in the history of political thought; and politics, literature and film. Dr. Palmer is the author of Love of Glory and the Common Good: The Political Thought of Thucydides and Masters and Slaves: Revisioned Essays in Political Philosophy and a contributing author and co-editor of Political Philosophy and the Human Soul: Essays in Memory of Allan Bloom.

The conference's closing lecture will be delivered by Dr. Clifford Orwin, professor of political science, classics and Jewish studies at the University of Toronto. He will present “Thucydides Visits America” on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Dr. Orwin is the author of The Humanity of Thucydides and co-editor and co-author of The Legacy of Rousseau, and he is currently completing a book, titled Deeply Compassionate. He has written dozens of articles on classical, modern, contemporary and Jewish political thought.

Additionally, as part of the conference, five Mercer students and nine visiting scholars will present their original research.

The student panel, featuring Anna Bates, Jake Harvey, Justin Kasian, Cody Moran and Joseph Payne, will take place on Monday at 4 p.m.

Faculty panels will take place on Tuesday at 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 4 p.m. Panelists include Dr. Norman Fischer (Clark Atlanta), Dr. Allison Levy (St. John's College, Santa Fe), Dr. Ann Ward (the University of Regina), Dr. Bernard Dobski (Assumption College), Dr. Steven Forde (the University of North Texas), Dr. Devin Stauffer (the University of Texas), Dr. Sarah Gardner (Mercer), Dr. Laurie Johnson (Kansas State University) and Dr. Karl Walling (U.S. Naval War College).

The conference's full schedule is available online.

The McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles has held an annual Conference on Great Books and Ideas since 2008. That conference was endowed with a $1 million gift from alumnus and trustee A.V. Elliott in November 2012. Elliott, a 1956 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts who majored in history and Christianity, went on to found Elliott Machine Shop, a 100-employee company in Macon. His success, he said, was in part due to his ability to think critically at important moments, a skill he honed in his humanities courses at Mercer.

About the Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles

The Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles exists to supplement Mercer University's excellent liberal arts program with a redoubled commitment to the foundational texts and ideas that have shaped Western Civilization and the American political order. This focus on the core texts of the Western tradition helps to revitalize a cross-centuries dialogue about citizenship, human rights, and political, economic and religious freedom, thereby deepening the moral imagination and fostering civic and cultural literacy.

The McDonald Center's programming includes the annual A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas, faculty-student reading groups, a general education course on America's Founding Principles, summer Great Books programs for high school teachers and students, and undergraduate research fellowships. All programming is designed to enhance Mercer's longstanding role as a distinctive home of liberal learning, a place where serious students come to live the life of the mind and emerge more thoughtful and engaged citizens.