Welcome to Magdalen College’s podcasts. Subscribe to engaging conversations with faculty and friends of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts about culture, books, teaching, and the Catholic life. This comprehensive series includes all of our recorded conversations with members of the faculty, guests, and friends, including Anthony Esolen, Mary Mumbach, Mary Eberstadt, and others.
We hope you will listen and join the conversation by letting us know your thoughts on the matters we discuss. Feel free to e-mail us with questions and topics you would like us to take up in future conversations.
Season 3: Catholic College Conversations
In Catholic College Conversations, our host, author and speaker Danielle Bean, chats with Magdalen faculty, staff, and friends about issues of importance in Catholic higher education. We explore the benefits of a liberal arts education, the intersection of academics and faith, and more practical issues such as what to look for when choosing a school, the basics about college affordability, and ideas to help you thrive on a Catholic campus.
Episode 6: The Acid Bath of Modern College Culture
In this episode of Catholic College Conversations, host Danielle Bean talks with author, speaker, and Magdalen College professor Anthony Esolen. Dr. Esolen shares his thoughts about the modern culture on many college campuses and the ways it can undermine students’ faith and moral values. The two discuss alternatives to modern college culture, including aspects of life and education at Magdalen College.
Episode 5: Navigating the College Application Process
In this episode of Catholic College Conversations, host Danielle Bean talks with Michele McKenna, Director of Admissions at Magdalen College, about ways to prepare your high schooler for the college application process. What should parents know? How can we support our children through this sometimes stressful and uncertain stage of life? Mrs. McKenna offers words of wisdom and encouragement to help students thrive as they make plans for their future education.
Episode 4: What to Look For When Choosing a College
In this newest episode of Catholic College Conversations, host Danielle Bean sits down with author, speaker, and Magdalen College professor Anthony Esolen. Anthony shares his thoughts on what to look for when choosing a college and the importance of a Catholic education, and he encourages parents to play an active role in their child’s college decision-making process.
Episode 3: What Is a Liberal Arts Education?
What is a liberal arts education? In the third episode of Catholic College Conversations, Danielle Bean chats with Magdalen College president, Dr. Ryan Messmore, about the liberal arts. What do we mean by this phrase and why is it especially important for Catholic parents and students to consider the liberal arts when entering higher education? They discuss liberal arts in the job field and in family life. Learn more about the Magdalen approach to Catholic higher education at Magdalen.edu.
Episode 2: Role Models in Education
In this second episode of Catholic College Conversations, host Danielle Bean chats with Magdalen Professor Dr. Jordan Almanzar. Why is it important to have role models in college, and why is this especially apt for a great books education? Dr. Almanzar explains how not only professors but also great authors can help form students by providing examples to imitate.
Episode 1: The Benefits of Choosing a Catholic College
In this first episode of our new series of podcasts, Catholic College Conversations, host Danielle Bean chats with Magdalen College President, Ryan Messmore. Dr. Messmore shares thoughts about the benefits of choosing a Catholic College. Grow in your faith with friends and mentors! In the classroom, the dorms, the dining hall, and beyond, there are so many positive reasons for choosing a Catholic education.
Episode 20: Made to Behold – A Conversation about the Cosmos
In this episode, Magdalen College Professor John Klucinec and recent graduate, John Coleman, join Dr. Almanzar to discuss the modern image of the cosmos and our place in the universe. Drawing on sources ranging from Anaxagoras to Copernicus to C.S. Lewis, the listener will trace the history of thought about how the solar system works and the implications for how we think about God and man. Listen to find out about the structure and importance of science courses at this liberal arts college.
Episode 19: Our Essential Moment – Mary Eberstadt’s Charge to Magdalen Graduates
In this episode, Dr. Ryan Messmore interviews author and award-winning essayist Mary Eberstadt, whose writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, First Things, National Review, and The Weekly Standard, among other acclaimed publications. Mrs. Eberstadt holds the Panula Chair in Christian Culture at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. and is Senior Research Fellow at the Faith & Reason Institute. Their conversation focuses on the 2022 Commencement Address that Mrs. Eberstadt delivered to Magdalen graduates earlier that day. She told students that they live in a moment made essential by the recent happenings at the Supreme Court and charged them to be bold witnesses in the public square of truth as well as beauty. Listen as she shares these and other messages of wisdom and inspiration, and learn why she asked the graduates to remember 5 key words from this day (“I wanted what they had”).
Episode 18: Dr. Anthony Esolen on Sex and the Unreal City
In this episode Dr. Anthony Esolen discusses his book Sex and the Unreal City. When it comes to the way modern western culture approaches sex, what are the main idols that shape the moral conversation? Why is consent not enough? In what ways is it unjust to presume that men and women are equal in their physical embodiment? What should the Church do to help young people amidst this confusion? These are just some of the questions that Dr. Esolen addresses. Listen to find out why the Sexual Revolution has led to so much loneliness and how we can begin to recover the building blocks of real cities and communities.
Episode 17: Twelve Things That Stood Out About Holy Week
The liturgies of Holy Week are immensely beautiful, meaningful, and profound. Engaging in them, especially as a community, can help us gain fresh insights about the Christian faith. In this episode, Dr. Ryan Messmore reflects on 12 things that stood out to him during his own Holy Week journey. From joining the crowd shouting “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday, to hearing the rumbling thunder at Wednesday’s Tenebrae, to Thursday’s foot-washing and the guarding the tomb of repose, to the music, lights, and color of the Great Easter Vigil, the liturgies of this special week are laden with deep symbolism. Listen to learn how these events and more enable participation in Christ’s self-sacrifice and Resurrection life.
Episode 16: How the Church Has Changed the World: An Interview with Anthony Esolen
So much that we take for granted in the modern world is actually due to the Christian Church. From hospitals, to scientific discoveries, to universities, the Christian faith has made a significant contribution to the way of life we enjoy today. In this episode, Dr. Ryan Messmore interviews Dr. Anthony Esolen about a series of articles he wrote for Magnificat cataloguing How the Church Has Changed the World, especially concerning teaching and learning. They also discuss Dr. Esolen’s new private newsletter (or substack) called The Magdalenian.
Episode 15: Jolting Ourselves out of Auto-Pilot Discipleship — An Interview with Dr. Eric Buck
In this episode, Dr. Eric Buck talks about how he asks hard questions of himself and his students to encourage them out of “mindless automaticity” in their thinking and their faith. How can we bring the commands of Christ into our ordinary routines without losing a sense of wonder and intensity in our discipleship? Dr. Buck explains how, if you are open at all to God’s wonderous creation, everything can be an object of fascination. Tune in to learn how this approach to life led him to become fascinated with the study of natural and human phenomenon, which he developed into an honors elective course at Magdalen College.
Register for Dr. Buck’s upcoming Make Yourself at Home—Magdalen webinar here!
Episode 14: Never Seen Anything Like This — Anthony Esolen on Medieval Poetry and Modernist Art
In this episode, President Messmore interviews Dr. Anthony Esolen about the literary treasures he is currently teaching at Magdalen. What makes this conversation special is Dr. Esolen’s uncontainable enthusiasm for the beauty he sees in works such as the Gawain Poet’s masterpiece, “Pearl”. The inspiration Dr. Esolen gains and conveys from this poem–which he claims “sent him to school”–is contagious. The conversation turns to modernist art, focusing on the Coventry Cathedral and a sculpture by Rodin. You can get a sample in this episode of what students here at Magdalen receive in class each week. Click play to hear all of this and more!
Episode 13: JPII and Education — How the Pope Would’ve ‘Made Himself at Home’ at Magdalen
In this interview, Dr. Ryan Messmore discusses his recent webinar on why John Paul II would love to be a student at Magdalen College. Learn how the would-be pope pursued seminary education underground when it became outlawed in Poland by the Nazis. Find out how JPII’s love of the theater and the outdoors shaped his views of culture and community. And hear how JPII would have made himself at home with the sense of “hygge”—a Danish term for coziness and comradery—that Magdalen’s size and climate evoke.
Episode 12: Reading Big Books – A Conversation with Magdalen’s Dr. Mary Mumbach
In this episode, Magdalen professor of literature, Dr. Mary Mumbach, stops by the studio. A stellar literary critic, Dr. Mumbach brings a wealth of experience and love to her subject and her students. Click play to learn why she encourages students to read books quickly, her opinions on literary theory, why big books are worth reading, and why over-analyzation can hinder understanding.
Episode 11: In the Beginning Was the Word: Anthony Esolen and His New Book on the Prologue of John
Dr. Anthony Esolen calls it “the most influential paragraph in the history of man”. This explains, in part, why he wrote his most recent book on the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel. In this episode, Dr. Messmore interviews Dr. Esolen about In the Beginning was the Word. Click “play” to find out why Esolen believes that this section of Scripture is and should be read at the end of Mass, what role Hebrew poetry played in its creation, how John weaves together different motifs like a braid, and much more. Most of all, learn why Dr. Esolen encourages Christians to recover the lost territory of poetry and song.
To purchase a copy of this remarkable book, click here.
Episode 10: When the Earth Was Flat – A Conversation with 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 copy of Almanzar’s book, click here and contact the publisher.
Episode 9: 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 world? How can participating in a seminar or studying good art train us to attend well to creation? Whether you are a philosopher, a student, or simply want to learn more about the value of contemplation, you will find a wealth of inspiration in this episode!
Episode 8: 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 appreciation for the power of myth and will impress you with the quality of Magdalen’s students!
Episode 7: 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 college class.
Episode 6: 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 analysis of Rublev’s famous icon of the Trinity.
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”!
Episode 4: 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?
Episode 3: 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.
Episode 2: 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.
Episode 1: An Interview with the New President of Magdalen
In this 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.
Episode 15: “On Teaching and Translating Dante”
“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 considers the translations of Singleton, Ciardi, and Pinsky. Finally, he introduces and reads his own lyrics concerning art and the Catholic Church in his lifetime (lyric no. 20) and the ‘insufficiency of politics’ (lyric no. 35) from his poem The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord.
“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 his poem The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord.
Episode 13: “He doesn’t want our contentment but our joy and salvation.”
Anthony Esolen discusses an upcoming essay in First Things on hymn texts and an article for ChroniclesMagazineon 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 from Gadara” from his poem The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord.
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 Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord.”
Episode 11: 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 understanding of these genres can function as “maps” that take readers back into the works and give them an experience of incarnation in the concrete details of literary art. In addition to considering the three stages of each genre and their archetypes (the psalms, Dante, Greek tragedy, and Homer), Dr. Mumbach takes up the questions of how forms such as the novel exist within these genres, how Christianity changed our experience of tragedy, and whether Plato might have been a better friend of the poets than we realize. And finally, she considers how the study of these works by the college’s students transform their vision and experience of life.
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 that the curriculum should play in guiding the institution’s every dimension, and considers the place of Catholic ritual within the institution: “we must be surrounded by Catholic ritual because that points to transcendence … the life of the mind includes pursuing the transcendent as well as the immanent.”
And he considers the friendship that should exist between teacher and student, the tradition of paideia, the role of beauty in the cultivation of the intellect, and more.
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 work of Francis Fergusson. She also takes up the four genres–lyric, tragedy, comedy, and epic–briefly considering each as different movements of the soul “writ large in the poem” and how this theory of genre can lead us back into the poetic works with greater insight.
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.
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.
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” (XIV).
Episode 5: “It is like the difference between filet mignon and cardboard.”
A conversation with Anthony Esolen about the vibrancy and life-giving power of the classroom and the hope that today’s Catholic students can give us for the future of the Church and society. Dr. Esolen also discusses and reads two lyrics from his poem, “The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord” (16 and 29), considers the diversity of blessedness, and suggests New Jersey’s role in inspiring Dante’s great poem.
A conversation with Mary Mumbach, a senior member of the college’s faculty and Dean emerita, about the urgency of liberal education. Throughout the conversation she considers the nature of liberal education and teaching while reflecting on her own teachers. She also considers how the teacher, the curriculum, classic books, and the concept of paideia cohere and are ordered to a transcendent purpose within her vision of liberal education.
Episode 3: “We can’t get through the day without telling a lie to ourselves.”
A conversation with Anthony Esolen about Sigrid Undset and how her life and work teach us not only about the past and ourselves but also how it indicates a way forward in our current moment. He also takes up the categories of Catholic literature and overlooked authors such as Henryk Sienkiewicz. Esolen concludes by discussing and reading a dramatic monologue from his poem, The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Bartimaeus) and reflects on the forgotten purpose of poetry and art.
Episode 2: “It is broken metrically to describe a civilization in rubble.”
“To heck with college professors,” he says halfway through. In this conversation, Anthony Esolen discusses reading and teaching Whitman and Eliot and considers the paradox of classically trained revolutionaries in the arts. Dr. Esolen also introduces and discusses his poem The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord and reads a hymn from that poem (17). Be sure not to miss his impersonation of Marlon Brando.
Episode 1: Making Visible the Invisible Realities of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty
With “Good afternoon, my fellow Americans,” Dr. Peter Sampo, the college’s founding president, begins this address on the occasion of the college’s forty-first commencement exercises at which he received an honorary degree. In this address Dr. Sampo considers the extraordinary education the college offers within the broader landscape of contemporary culture, concluding with a call to live lives of extraordinary courage.