The Texas Book Festival, the venerable nonprofit that celebrates authors and their cultural contributions, has invited former dean of Undergraduate Studies Paul Woodruff to speak. Dr. Woodruff will speak about his most recent book, The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards. The book centers on Agamemnon’s dilemma in Homer’s Illiad: how to recognize and reward two different types, so that each feels equally honored and appreciated. This year’s festival is scheduled for October 27-28, and held at the state capital building in downtown Austin. The full schedule is forthcoming.
In Homer’s Illiad, a loyal, strong, and dependable Greek soldier named Ajax lost a prize to his cunning rival Odysseus in a contest devised by the Greek general and king. As a result, the humiliated Ajax ran amok through the Greek army and ultimately took his own life. Dr. Woodruff’s book explores parallels in today’s world: can two sets of people feel recognized and honored for their contributions to a cause if both are given equal treatment? After all, Dr. Woodruff argues that “there is nothing special about being treated like everyone else.” Who, then, should be rewarded over others, and how? As Dr. Woodruff delves deeper into these questions, more themes emerge, such as the nature and function of justice and the qualities of good leadership. While the book hypothesizes that there is no definitive answer to “the Ajax dilemma,” its negative effects can be minimized. While the themes in The Ajax Dilemma are thought provoking and difficult to struggle with, the book is written simply and elegantly so that both those who are well-versed in philosophy and those who are not can enjoy it equally. Woodruff currently teaches philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where he has held positions for over 20 years as Department Chair, Honors Director, and Dean. His other works include Reverence, First Democracy, and The Necessity of Theater, for which he was featured at the 2008 Festival.
The Texas Book Festival is a nonprofit organization that celebrates authors and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas and imagination. Founded in 1995 by Laura Bush and a group of interested volunteers, it is held on the grounds of the Texas Capitol and attracts more than 40,000 adults and children attending free of cost. In its 17-year history, the Festival has connected readers with the nation’s most accomplished writers, contributed more than $2.5 million to Texas public libraries, and reached more than 40,000 children in economically disadvantaged Central and South Texas schools, providing many with the first book of their own. This year’s list of 250 writers who will appear at the Festival reflect the best books that American publishers are offering. More information.