Fate or Free Will: Spring Discussion and Lecture Series

Do our lives seem governed by unseen forces or are we in control?  Many religions defer to “God’s will” for the good and bad experiences we have, and acknowledge that we don’t always know why God would allow us individually or collectively to suffer pain, disappointment, even early death.  Some religious thinkers say that God created us and the Earth and all it contains, but God does not reach down and “manage” our lives.  For the nonreligious, the unknowable hand that steers our paths is ascribed to Fate.  That is, we do not always know what’s around the corner, but our lives and choices are predetermined.  And a third belief system says we conduct our lives with free will.  We choose how we live.


Must we accept one of these belief systems fully or can we relax the lines between them?  This series will investigate these matters in depth by considering six works of literature, each selected because the author explored these ideas in obvious and subtle ways.

Each session in this series will begin with a 20 to 30 minute lecture, which will introduce the primary text, focusing on its historical context and its place in literature.  After this, our facilitator will introduce some aspects of “fate or free will” in relation to the book and then lead the discussion, which will be the main portion of each session.  

To prepare for these lectures, we ask that that our patrons read (or skim!) the book beforehand and consider a list of questions and discussion points that will be provided 10 days before each session.  If you would like to be added to the email list, please contact myra.remigio-leonard@dc.gov.

Our first book will be Robert Fagles' translation of Homer’s "Odyssey" on February 1.  Library copies are available at the reference desk.

The books and discussion dates are below.  The book discussion series will meet at Chevy Chase Neighborhood Library from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. We are grateful for the financial support of the Friends of the Chevy Chase Library for this program.

February 1, 2012
"The Odyssey" by Homer, translation by Robert Fagles

February 29, 2012
"Macbeth" by William Shakespeare

March 28, 2012
"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

April 25, 2012
"The Natural" by Bernard Malamud

May 23, 2012
"The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver

June 20, 2012
"Saturday" by Ian McEwan