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Political Theory Prof Invigorated by Princeton Fellowship

September 9th, 2009

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727

Dr. Mark Mitchell, Director of Government: Political Theory track

Fresh off of a year-long James Madison Research Fellowship at Princeton University, Dr. Mark Mitchell, Director of the Government: Political Theory track at Patrick Henry College, returns to PHC invigorated from a year filled with writing and lecturing. Not only did he complete one book, with another underway, but he helped organize an academic colloquium for the Liberty Fund—a private, educational foundation—on the topics of “scientism” (the worldview that holds science pre-eminent) and liberty.

Mitchell fondly recalls the many stimulating conversations he enjoyed with the other Madison Fellows, their shared times of learning, and especially Tuesday mornings, when the group “met for coffee and conversation.”

“And of course,” he says, “the Madison Program brings lots of speakers to campus, so there was no shortage of interesting talks that often included dinners.”

Around his intellectual pursuits, Mitchell says that he especially appreciated the ability to conduct research from his home, which allowed him to spend more time with his family.

“First thing each morning, I studied Latin with my son, Seth,” shares Mitchell. “He and I also read a lot of medieval literature and a handful of Shakespeare plays. We have two copies of the complete works of Shakespeare, so we could read the plays out loud and take different parts. It was great.”

At Patrick Henry College, the popular Government: Political Theory program “is all about reading and discussing interesting and challenging material in the context of community,” explains Mitchell.

“Aristotle said that friends studying together is a sweet thing, and I agree,” he adds. “We read classic works on the history of political philosophy and through them attempt to understand ourselves and the times in which we live.”

Dominique Deming, 2008 Political Theory graduate and currently PHC’s Resident Director for Women, concurs: “It is good to study political theory because you start to think about what it means to be human and what it means to have to live in a world with other humans.”

In Mitchells’ words, Political Theory students seek to learn everything in order to “grasp the whole.”

“Nothing is off the table,” he continues, “because it is all part of God’s creation. As such, our conversations are wide-ranging. We discuss political regimes, virtue, honor, friendship, food, sex, and children’s stories. It is an invigorating enterprise.”

Students in PHC’s Government: Political Theory track welcome the return of their program’s director the same way the wider academic world will no doubt appreciate the release next year of Mitchell’s co-edited book—The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry, a collection of essays from 16 writers, published with ISI Books. His other new book, The Politics of Gratitude: Scale, Place, and Community in the Age of Obama, will follow thereafter.