CLAFI and Students

CLAFI offers classes, seminars, lectures, and conferences for UCLA students. Most of the classes, both 5-unit upper division and 1-unit Fiat Lux seminars, are for honors credit, though the classes are open to all students. Class sizes usually range between 10 and 20 students, so students absorb much from discussion with their fellow students and from close dialogue with their professor. Past courses include Lincoln in His Own Words, American Political Thought, European Political Thought, Introduction to Samuel Johnson, and Justice and Public Responsibility in Literature. Information on current classes may be found on the CLAFI Classes page (on the lefthand sidebar). A few times per quarter, CLAFI also hosts lectures given by distinguished professors or others with relevant experience, such as performers or officials in the private sector or government. These lectures are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and members of the community. The purpose is to edify and to assist people in their study of the liberal arts and free institutions. The lecturer also leads a seminar on a topic related to the lecture. Students may sign up for this seminar (which includes a free lunch!). CLAFI also occasionally hosts conferences. Past topics include “Mark Twain on the Page and on the Stage”, and “Lincoln Celebration”. Please explore the “For Students” section for more information on CLAFI. If you would like to get involved in CLAFI, please click on about the CLAFI Student Club tab (on the left-hand sidebar).

CLAFI Student Club

CLAFI@UCLA is the student branch of the UCLA Center for the Liberal Arts and Free Institutions (CLAFI). CLAFI opened in 2009 to encourage and assist students, faculty, and the general public in their study of the liberal arts. Although students were the intended primary beneficiary of CLAFI’s courses and lectures, few students heard about CLAFI’s offerings in the first few years. Students from CLAFI courses resolved not to let the rich goldmines of CLAFI go untapped. They decided to found a student club, CLAFI@UCLA, whereby they could officially advertise CLAFI classes, lectures, seminars, and events to the student body.

The goals of the club are:

  1. To promote the principles of CLAFI among UCLA undergraduate and graduate students
  2. To publicize CLAFI classes, lectures, seminars, and special events to UCLA undergraduate and graduate students
  3. To maximize the opportunity of UCLA students to participate in and initiate CLAFI events
  4. To encourage and assist club members in their exploration of the liberal arts

Club meetings will, accordingly, consist not only of discussion of past and future CLAFI events, but of independent, student- or faculty-led discussions of art, literature, rhetoric, music, science, philosophy, and history.

CLAFI@UCLA echoes the mission of CLAFI: to guide students in their understanding of the institutions that they live in, so they can become better citizens of a free and democratic society; to help students to explore the basic questions about the meaning of life, the nature of the cosmos and human society, and the principles of right and wrong; to encourage the study and appreciation of history, literature and other arts, philosophy, religion, and social science as valuable for their own sakes and as integral to consideration of these basic questions. Students in CLAFI classes have enjoyed the great works and achievements of Western civilization, combining spirited yet respectful criticism with the conviction that we have much to learn from our greatest forerunners. Study of these great works has proven a valuable if not indispensable aid to students in their understanding of the principles of free institutions and the fundamental questions we face as individuals. In short, CLAFI@UCLA seeks to nurture the student’s interest and facilitate the student’s discovery of what is true, good, and beautiful.

Student Perspectives

Course: Justice and Public Responsibility in Literature

“I really enjoyed the discussions that we had as a class. The twelve of us had substantive comments, and people responded to each other in true debate form. In other classes I’ve had at UCLA, “discussions” consist of each person giving their own opinion, without referring to what was said immediately before. The conversations were always intellectually stimulating.”

“I LOVED taking this course because it exposed me to so many incredible, but perhaps lesser- known, authors from many different backgrounds. We read works by American playwrights, Russian authors, and 18th century award-winning German authors. Whether the work was set in post-WWII Berlin, 1970s American classrooms, or Venice, this class was a great opportunity to pick apart what it means to administer justice.”

“Justice in Literature was a great class! The books we read were great! Sometimes the three hour discussions did not seem long enough to discuss all there was to talk about. Most of the books I had never read before and most of the books I hope to reread again some day.”

Course: All The King’s Men

“All the King’s Men was a GREAT introduction to the CLAFI series. On the surface, ‘All the King’s Men’ seems like one character’s rise to political power and ultimate demise. But this class really delved into the deeper questions of man’s moral responsibility to others and begs the question whether a history of a man’s actions are a series of independent events.”

“The Professor brought out the best of this book. It was not my favorite book, but I still think of the concepts we discussed in this class. I think All the King’s Men is a book that I will go back to read again.”

Course: Chesteron

“Doing the reading homework for this class was my reward for the week, well, really my guilty pleasure. I was happy to discuss Chesterton’s philosophy with the class, especially with Prof. Lowenstein’s guidance, because it was not always easy to understand.”

“G.K. Chesterton is such a pleasure to read, and this Fiat Lux was so fascinating. G.K. Chesterton is a central author in the canon of English literature, and it was great to have a weekly class devoted to picking apart this “man of paradoxes”. I could not read “The Man Who Was Thursday” fast enough because of the unpredictable plot line and the greater commentary on man’s purpose in life.”

“The Fiat Lux on G.K. Chesterton has been my favorite Fiat Lux I have ever taken. Reading Orthodoxy right before The Man who was Thursday illuminates some of Chesterton’s ideas that I might have otherwise missed. Reading these books with a diverse group of students generates better discussions than a discussion I would have had with like-minded friends. The Man who was Thursday is a particularly exciting book; I always read ahead of the assigned chapters just to find out what happened at the end.”