Russia’s contributions to world culture are vast. From world-renowned music to avant-garde film; from spectacular works of literature to one-of-a-kind architecture—Russia has produced monuments of human creativity that stand among the greatest of the modern world. Not only will students get a taste of Russia’s people, art, music, literature, film, religions, architecture and, of course, food, they will be challenged to consider what Russia’s turbulent social and political history has to do with the development of its culture. How is it that Russia’s best literature emerged from some of its most politically oppressive eras? Why did Stalin love movies so much? Why was Imperial Russia more tolerant of minority religious groups than most Western European empires? What happened to churches under the Soviets? How have Russians viewed cultural fashions from Europe, Asia, and the United States? What impact has Russia’s large non-Slavic population had on the country’s culture? Did Russia have hippies? This course will provide students with a sweeping tour of Russian culture over the past several centuries. (This class will not meet March 8 or March 15.)
Leonard Bernstein loved New York, Frank Sinatra loved New York, and Barry Greenlaw loves New York. Even those who don’t love New York have to admit, it is the ultimate expression of American life and culture. While it may lack the long history of London and Paris, by 1800 New York had become the most important urban area in the nation and by the mid 19th century, one of the largest in the world—defining for generations the essence of this vibrant new land. In a 1910 promotional view book, New York was described as a “city of superlatives.” This course will consider many of the aspects which make New York a special place including: the 19th century frenetic growth of the city as it spread northward; the Brooklyn Bridge; the Statue of Liberty; Robert Fulton and his steamboat; Duncan Phyfe and his furniture; the entrepreneur P.T. Barnum; the political heritage of Boss Tweed; and the cultural legacies left by the Rockefellers, Henry Clay Frick, and J.P. Morgan. We will examine the creation and development of Central Park, the skyscraper, the City Beautiful movement, and the 1939 World’s Fair where the future of America was seen for the first time. We will conclude with a tour of modern day New York and a surprising look at how much of this great heritage has survived for us to appreciate and enjoy.
About 250,000 German-speaking Jews left for the United States in the 1800s. This was a very small number compared to their more than two million co-religionists from Eastern Europe who flocked to America at the end of the 19th century. But, it was the Jews from Germany and the Austrian Empire who played a crucial role in the formative period of American Jewry. They laid the foundation on which the later arriving immigrants could build. A great part of what to this day constitutes the social character, the religious life, and institutional framework of American Jewish society was created by German-speaking Jews and their descendants. Their impact on the general American society, especially in the economic field, was equally decisive. Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Levi’s, Goldman & Sachs, and the Lehman Brothers all had one thing in common—their founders were all born on German soil. Proportionately speaking, in no other immigrant group have so many people ever achieved prominence so rapidly. What enticed them to leave their native country and what was behind their success story?
Millions of Americans are fascinated by the British Royal Family—from their meticulously arranged public appearances and glamorous fashion to their royal duties and charity work —the British monarchy has never been more popular. Overseeing it all is the longest reigning monarch in history Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, subject of the popular Netflix series, The Crown. Ascending the throne at just 25 years of age, her reign has spanned over six decades, thirteen Prime Ministers, and twelve U.S. Presidents. Born at the height of the British Empire, Queen Elizabeth II has lived to see its glory and power and also witnessed its decline—alongside catastrophic world events, amazing discoveries, and noteworthy inventions. Remarkably, in her long reign, she has never once “put a foot wrong.” Using the Netflix series as our guide, this class will look at major world events and important political and social changes surrounding the monarchy throughout the years. We will also examine the lifestyles of the royals, their traditions, and, of course, the fabulous crown jewels. This is the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II and her crown.
Normandy’s charming villages with half-timbered houses and thatch-roofed cottages recall the tie with England which began in 1066 when William the Conqueror, a descendant of the Viking chief Rollo, defeated the Saxon Harold at Hastings. The battle is depicted in scenes embroidered on a 900-year-old strip of linen on display in a museum in Bayeux. Monasticism took root early in Normandy and produced a multitude of abbeys, including the island monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel. The Gothic cathedrals of Rouen, Bayeux, and Coutances bear witness to the prosperity of this rich agricultural region. After the Hundred Years’ War many churches were rebuilt in the late Gothic style with intricate stone carvings and magnificent, stained glass windows. The course will also spotlight the picturesque fishing village of Honfleur, the historic center of Rouen, eye-catching manor houses and châteaux, including a stronghold built by Richard the Lionheart on a cliff above the Seine. As monuments are entwined with history, the narrative of Normandy’s past will accompany the presentation of the region’s rich architectural heritage.
Herod the Great, king of Judea, began the reconstruction of the Jerusalem temple between the years 18 and 20 BCE. By the time of Jesus’ ministry the elaborate temple complex had been under construction for 46 years (John 2:20). It would not be completed until around 63 CE and just seven years later in 70, the temple and its courts would be virtually destroyed as a result of the first Jewish Revolt. Why was the Temple so important to the Jews? Was there a Jewish “religion” at the time of the Temple? How did the Temple serve the people, the priests, and the king? What did it mean for Jesus to be educated and raised as a Jew? Why did King Herod strive to create a Temple to rival (and possibly even surpass) the finest temples in Egypt, Greece, and Rome? What future did Herod—one of history’s finest builders and most insecure kings—envision? What forces were building up around Herod’s Temple that would soon cause its destruction? And what forces were converging that would result in the crucifixion of Jesus? Together, we will discuss some truly extraordinary results of archaeology and scholarship.
The phenomenon we now know as the Crusades has to serve as a, possibly the, watershed moment in the history of relations between the European West and the Muslim East. We will talk about how and why they started as well as the 200-year history of the Latin Kingdoms in the Levant. The story does not end there and we will examine that legacy through a closer look at the military orders, particularly the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem, who later became known as the Knights of Malta. The Hospitallers first came to light in the 11th century, offering medical care in Jerusalem to all, regardless of religion or place of origin. To further serve those who came to the Holy Land, however, they developed into a military organization, contemporaneous with the Templars and the Teutonic Knights, and they played a similar role in protecting pilgrims. We will trace their activities during the period of the Latin Kingdoms, then follow them as they retreat, first to Cyprus and then to Rhodes and Malta, after the Mamluks forced the remnants of Christian rule out of Palestine. The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, the last military order founded during the Crusades, survive even today.
Building bridges not walls is seemingly a modern cry, but building bridges is one of the oldest creations of civilized man and often, an artistic one as well. Bridges often define a particular place. Who can think of San Francisco, London, Sydney, Florence, Venice, Prague, or Brooklyn without the image of their famous bridge? In this class we will look at the history, art, architecture, and engineering of bridges, as well as explore how bridges unite communities and commerce. We will consider a plethora of famous bridges and their builders —Gustave Eiffel, Thomas Telford, John Roebling, Santiago Calatrava, and perhaps the greatest of them all, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.