Interregnum VII Theme Announced
The King's College to explore the role of villainy in society today
Each year The King’s College selects a theme that the College as a whole will explore. Along the way, students read some books in common. The exploration of this theme culminates in a two-day event put on by the students in which they hold public debates, compete in speech contests, exhibit art work, and stage other activities. The College also takes this occasion to invite a prominent outside speaker to lecture on the topic. Recent interregnums have focused on the themes of difficulty, civilization, and avarice. What follows is the announcement of Interregnum VII to students.
"What if man in fact is not a scoundrel-in general, that is, the whole human race-then the rest is mere prejudice, instilled fear, and there are no barriers, and that's just how it should be!"
-Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment"
Last New Year's we exited a decade that began with the September 11th attack and continued with the escalation of the Second Intifada, the Darfur genocide, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, two financial meltdowns, the nuclearization of hostile powers and almost innumerable assassinations, coups, piracies, drug wars, murders, tortures, rapes, scandals, swindles, heists, and other assorted acts of deviance. Behind every corner, it seems, lurks some shadowy villain. Our social conscience is packed with the names of evil-doers: bin Laden, Madoff, Katrina, Castro, and Hussein—just to name a few.
With all the bombers, terrorists, arsonists and white-collar criminals out to murder or defraud us it's a wonder we ever leave the house.
On the other hand, this summer’s box office was a fine example of the modern counter-take on villainy. "Robin Hood," "Inception," "Despicable Me", and "Salt" all cast a villain, or at least a criminal, as the protagonist. Even "Twilight"—we're sorry to report to you—turns the traditional scary-monster archetype on its ear. Why is there a movement to play the villain sympathetically? Why do we tend to glorify the revolutionary over the loyalist, the rebel above the law, and the sinner before the saint? Perhaps because in this post-everything world they seem more real, more human, and almost definitely more exciting.
The theme that The King's College will contemplate for Interregnum VII is "Villainy."
Villainy is the manner of behaving wickedly, but more often it is a projection, a term of opprobrious address for one's opponent. Nations at war will constantly vilify each other; politicians will always run smear campaigns; Kazem Sedighi will forever blame earthquakes on scantily clad women.
Underpinning all of this is the classic question: of what evil is man really capable? Where do we separate the villain from the vilified? The reality from the perception? Is a truly objective villain possible outside of fiction?
Moreover, at what point is dissent confused with villainy, and at what point is it rightly called such? We'll ask if villains are essential to life as well as fiction; can you even have a worthwhile story without an antagonist? How should a just society punish its law-breakers? How should it wage wars? And what about Christian pacifism?
Lastly, we'll get the chance to take a deeper look at our favorite villains, and then we'll ponder the state of our souls for having such things as "favorite villains."
In keeping with previous Interregnums, this year the student body will read a text pertinent not only to the theme but to our intellectual lives as well. "Crime and Punishment," the first of Fyodor Dostoevsky's five great novels from the latter period of his writing, is his "psychological account of a crime." The novel successfully chronicles the full spectrum of villainy from the protagonist-villain's point of view: an impoverished student's descent into mental and moral anguish when he's forced to murder a pawnbroker for her money.
We look forward to a year of studious introspection and academic competition as we come together to explore this theme.
For more information about The King's College please contact: