Today: Apr 14, 2024

‘Writing the American Script’ seminar talks Thomas Jefferson’s writings

Brandon Cortés- News Writer

On a crisp Thursday evening, students and faculty members gathered at Engleman Hall in Room B111 to attend a seminar by Robert Forbes. The seminar, titled “Writing the American Script: Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia,” promised an insightful exploration into one of the most iconic works of American literature. 

Forbes, a former professor at the university, has dedicated years of his life to studying the writings of Thomas Jefferson, particularly his seminal work, “Notes on the State of Virginia.”  

Published in 1785, Jefferson’s book is a comprehensive examination of Virginia’s geography, economy, culture and politics during the early years of the American republic. It is considered one of the most important works of American literature and a foundational text in the study of American history and culture. 

Rob Forbes presenting at the “Writing the American Script” seminar. Photo: Brandon Cortés

As the seminar commenced, Forbes captivated his audience with his deep understanding and passion for Jefferson’s writings. He delved into the historical context surrounding the composition of “Notes on the State of Virginia” and highlighted its significance in shaping the intellectual landscape of early America. 

Forbes discussed Jefferson’s meticulous observations and analyses of Virginia’s natural resources, indigenous peoples, and social institutions. He emphasized how Jefferson’s work reflected Enlightenment ideals of reason, inquiry, and progress, while also grappling with the complexities of slavery and race that plagued the young nation. 

In his presentation, Forbes drew parallels between Jefferson’s writings and contemporary issues facing America today. He highlighted the relevance of Jefferson’s insights into the relationship between democracy and education, the role of government in promoting the public good, and the tension between individual liberty and societal responsibility. 

During the seminar, Forbes also discussed Jefferson’s complex life and how he viewed his writings as a kind of “legacy.” 

“In looking at Jefferson’s life, it’s clear he always wanted a son to carry on his legacy. He feared being forgotten even after the American Revolution. So when he chose to write “Notes from the State of Virginia,” it was his chance to leave a lasting mark and be remembered for something significant,” Forbes said.  

Throughout the seminar, Forbes engaged his audience with thought-provoking questions and insights, encouraging lively discussion and debate. He challenged conventional interpretations of Jefferson’s legacy and invited participants to consider the complexities and contradictions inherent in America’s founding ideals. 

As the seminar concluded, attendees expressed their appreciation for Forbes’s scholarly expertise and eloquent presentation style. Many remarked on the relevance of Jefferson’s writings in understanding contemporary issues and the enduring impact of his ideas on American society. 

In a closing statement, Forbes reflected on the enduring relevance of Thomas Jefferson’s “Notes on the State of Virginia” and its significance in shaping the American narrative. 

“Jefferson’s writings continue to challenge and inspire us, reminding us of the enduring ideals that have shaped our nation’s history and identity. As we navigate the complexities of the present moment, we can look to Jefferson’s insights for guidance and inspiration,” Forbes said. 

Following the seminar, attendees gathered for a lively discussion over lunch in the Political Science Seminar Room, where they continued to reflect on the themes and ideas presented by Forbes. 

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