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Magdalen College: From the Summit

Education Podcasts

Engaging conversations with faculty and friends of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts about culture, books, teaching, and the Catholic life.

Engaging conversations with faculty and friends of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts about culture, books, teaching, and the Catholic life.


United States


Engaging conversations with faculty and friends of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts about culture, books, teaching, and the Catholic life.




When the Earth was Flat: A Conversation with Dr. Jordan Almanzar

In this episode, President Messmore interviews Magdalen professor Dr. Almanzar about his new book "When the Earth was Flat"–a work Anthony Esolen calls "The best book about boyhood I have ever read." The pair discuss motivations for writing, why the provocative title, personhood and originality, homeschooling in small-town USA, growing up before the internet, technology as a distraction, and so much more. Click play to enter a world of nostalgia as we reflect on a time gone by. To order a...


Arresting Glimpses of Beauty: Josef Pieper on Contemplation, Technology, and Joy

In this episode, Dr. Ryan Messmore interviews Magdalen's Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Erik van Versendaal. The two discuss the need to recover the art of contemplation, which leads to a disposition of praise and joy. They highlight how important it is to attend carefully to the beauty that surrounds us, and how to overcome challenges to this in the modern world. How is good dialogue a fundamental experience of contemplation? How does festivity and celebration help tune us to the reality of...


The Power and Truth of Myth: Tolkien, Chesterton, and Lewis

Two Magdalen students join Dr. Messmore in the studio to discuss the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, G. K. Chesterton, and C. S. Lewis. Andrew Kays and Luke Sherman explore the role of Christian fiction in advancing Christ’s mission in the world. To what extent did Tolkien, Chesterton, and Lewis make use of allegory? Why did they think that fantasy helps us to rediscover the world’s beauty? How does reading myth fit a college’s mission of seeking truth? This historic episode will deepen your...


Higher Education Today: Anthony Esolen Assesses the Modern University

The origin of words can provide important insights about their meaning. Where do the words “college” and “university” come from, and how has their meaning changed over the years? What has the modern university become, and why does it so often fail to offer a truly liberating education? Magdalen Professor Anthony Esolen discusses these questions and suggests what families should look for when choosing a college. He also takes listeners inside his own process of preparing for and teaching a...


Why The Trinity?: Dr. Messmore Discusses Consecrating Magdalen College to the Triune God

If the doctrine of the Trinity were dropped as false, how would your daily faith and life be different? In this episode, Dr. Almanzar interviews President Messmore on the College's recent consecration to the Blessed Trinity. What is a consecration, why consecrate a college to the Trinity, why is this doctrine important for understanding the nature of God as love, and what are the implications for us? These are just some of the questions addressed in this episode, which also includes a brief...


Poetry and the Music of Language

Magdalen Professor Anthony Esolen argues that we need to tune our ears to what he calls “the music of language.” Such music enables poetry to do things that other forms of written communication cannot do. Listen to Dr. Esolen explain what has gone wrong with poetry in the modern age, and hear him discuss some of his own poems about creation, Pentecost, the horror of sin, and the joyful innocence of heaven. Also, learn why he—and Dante—use no other word to rhyme with “Christ”!


Freedom on a Mountain: Anthony Esolen with Ryan Messmore

In this episode, Anthony Esolen, Professor and Writer-in-residence at Magdalen College is interviewed by President Ryan Messmore. They discuss Dr. Esolen's recent article in The Catholic Thing about how students find freedom on our mountain home of Mt. Kearsarge, NH. What is true freedom? How is freedom related to the notion of telos or purpose? And why is it liberating for students to study works by authors who followed Christ as well as those who didn’t?


The Logos Who Is Love: An Interview with Magdalen President Ryan Messmore

In this episode, Dr. Messmore discusses the academic mission of Magdalen College, explaining why it’s so important to see the world as being created by the Logos who is Love.


Solidarity: An Interview with Academic Dean Brian FitzGerald

In this episode, Dr. Messmore interviews Dr. FitzGerald about his background and journey to becoming Magdalen's Academic Dean. The two discuss the recent First Things Intellectual Retreat, which is held each summer in New York City with Magdalen College faculty members leading the seminars. This year's theme was "Solidarity", and Messmore and FitzGerald revisit some of the questions and insights that stemmed from the retreat.


Podcast Relaunch: An Interview with the New President of Magdalen

In this inaugural episode, Dr. Ryan Messmore sits down for an interview about relaunching the podcast and beginning a new year at Magdalen. President Messmore delivers a message of hope along with updates about many of the exciting things that are happening at the College. Stay tuned for the next episode with our academic dean, Dr. FitzGerald, and regular interviews with Dr. Anthony Esolen.


“On Teaching and Translating Dante” (Anthony Esolen Episode 9)

“Dante and Shakespeare divide the world. There is no third.”—T.S. Eliot In this conversation, Anthony Esolen discusses his experiences reading Dante as an undergraduate, translating the great poet, and teaching the Commedia to undergraduates in turn. What prompted him to begin translating Dante? What was the hierarchy of values that guided him in the work of translation? He also offers commentary on the great Princeton professor—a scholar of Dante and Boccaccio—Robert Hollander—and...


"The Power of the Powerless" (Anthony Esolen Episode 8)

"The human things come first." Anthony Esolen discusses his reading and teaching of Václav Havel's "Power of the Powerless" (with asides on Hannah Arendt and C.S. Lewis) and the dangers of "political knitting clubs." He also considers the parallels between excellent brewing and excellent teaching while also noting how the Catholic faith and liberal education be taken up for ideological reasons. Finally, he introduces and reads his dramatic-epistolary monologue "Saint Paul to Gamaliel" from...


"He doesn't want our contentment but our joy and salvation" (Anthony Esolen Episode 7)

Anthony Esolen discusses an upcoming essay in First Things on hymn texts and an article for Chronicles Magazine on fascist imagery in American federal art and sculpture. He also considers the Vipers' Tangle by Francois Mauriac, a book he is currently teaching in his Honors Colloquium, "The Literature of Spiritual Crisis." How might such a book shape how we see marriage and the world, directing our decisions? Finally, he introduces and reads his surprising dramatic monologue "The Demoniac...


"Benedict, Boethius, and Bosco" (Anthony Esolen Episode 6)

Anthony Esolen discusses his recent lecture "The Boethius Option" elaborating on Boethius as a model for cultural and political engagement as well as the examples of St. Benedict and St. John Bosco. He also takes up the critical role that imagination, literature, and song play in the formation of our character and the character of our children. Finally, he introduces and reads a new hymn-poem "I shall arise, and seek my Father's house" (to be sung to the tune "Old 124th") from his poem “The...


Mary Mumbach: "The Genres of Poetry: A Mapping that Takes Us Back to the Text"

How can an understanding of the genres of literature and poetry--lyric, comedy, tragedy, and epic--serve as doorways into a deeper experience not only of the works that we love most but also of the movements of the human soul? In this dialogue, Mary Mumbach, a senior member of the college's faculty, considers the classic genres in light of the profound reflections offered by Louise Cowan and in their reception by the students of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts. She reflects on how an...


Peter Sampo: "On the Renewal of Catholic Education"

In this dialogue, Dr. Peter Sampo, the college’s founding president, takes up the principles that should guide any renewal of Catholic education. Foremost is the spirit of joy: "Pursuing the life of the mind is the most joyful thing there is and everything that comes with that should be joyful as well ... The spirit of the whole place should be a celebration." He also considers how we can emulate the intellectual excellence of the great Catholic universities of the Middle Ages, the role...


Mary Mumbach: "The Poetic Imagination"

Can literature (poetry) enable us to return to reality and to the self-evident? In this dialogue, Mary Mumbach, a senior member of the college's faculty, considers the nature of the poetic imagination and how the movements and gestures of the soul manifest themselves in the great literary genres and forms. Woven within this consideration are Aristotle's Poetics, Melville's Moby Dick, Jacques Maritain's Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry, Fr. William Lynch's Images of Imagination, and the...


"The eyes, the eyes!" (Anthony Esolen Episode 5)

Anthony Esolen discusses a forthcoming book—Unreal City—and the stirrings of what might become a commentary on the Gospel of John. He also takes up four great novels that have been overlooked too often by too many: The Betrothed, Vipers’ Tangle, The Clown, and Barrabas. Finally, he introduces and reads the dramatic monologue “Pontius Pilate to Claudius” from his poem “The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord.” Links of potential interest: The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord Manzonoi's...


Mary Mumbach: "An Education for Heroism"

In this dialogue, Mary Mumbach, a senior member of the college's faculty, considers what it means to experience "an education for heroism." Ranging widely to include Shakespeare, and Benedict XVI, she takes up the question of how we educate students to live heroically, seeking a wisdom born of imagination and paradox. While reflecting on the wisdom of her teachers, she offers thoughts on the place of the poetic imagination in the arts and in her life of teaching and learning. Links of...


“Smelling Salts in the Thurible" (Anthony Esolen Episode 4)

In this conversation, Anthony Esolen takes up that unique Biblical language known as “NAB-ish” and considers what vandals have wrought upon our classic hymns. He takes us through his teaching of “The Literature of Spiritual Crisis”—Cicero, Boethius, and Shakespeare—and renders his judgement on what he considers to be the greatest play ever written. Dr. Esolen also gives us an unforgettable reading of his dramatic monologue, “Saint Peter,” from his poem "The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord"...