The sixties was not merely a calendar decade—it was a cultural phase, or frame of mind, in the way we now think of the twenties and thirties as cultural phases. Beginning in 1963 with the assassination of President Kennedy and lasting until the end of the Vietnam War and Nixon’s resignation—it contains the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, a wave of feminism, and the 1968 Democratic convention; the assassinations of Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X; the coming of Mohammed Ali, Robert Altman movies, Woodstock, the first Super Bowl, the Beatles, and the landing on the moon—the list goes on and it is impossible to epitomize. Like the twenties, it was also a period in which some important writers emerged and wrote some very important books. We will begin with Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and follow it with Joseph Heller’s "Catch-22", Joyce Carol Oates’s "Them", John Updike’s "Rabbit Redux", Norman Mailer’s "Armies of the Night", Toni Morrison’s "Sula", and a couple of books still to be decided on. J. D. Salinger, perhaps, Donald Barthelme, Saul Bellow—the sixties offers so many great writers.
Ancient Greece and Rome are foundational to western civilization. One area of lasting influence is literature; books from Greco-Roman antiquity have been read for millennia and have shaped countless authors and books. This course will examine some of the outstanding works of ancient literature. Our interest will be to understand what makes these books classics and why they are relevant today. We will approach the issue from aesthetic and thematic perspectives; we will also consider how the works were transmitted over time and became canonical. Authors will include Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Cicero, and Virgil.
Since the advent of film, we’ve been turning novels into movies—often repeatedly and obsessively. There are, for example, at least seventeen screen versions of Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice" (we will be focusing on a modern day, romantic comedy that focuses on characters obsessed with Jane Austen). Why are we fascinated with filming and refilming stories we’ve read? There’s no doubt that we love seeing our favorite novels “come alive” on the screen, represented by the imaginations and talents of others. But what gets lost in translation from the page to the silver screen? How do different types of media often represent the same story so differently? In this course, we’ll pair novels with films they inspired, spending one week on a text and the next on its adaptation. In the process, we’ll consider how and why movie producers make certain changes to novels and what this says about the different forms of storytelling. • The Aftermath, Rhidian Brook, 2014 Movie with Keira Knightly, 2019 • Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy, 1874 Movie with Carrie Mullins, 2015 • The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler, 1939 Movie with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, 1946 • The Color Purple, Alice Walker, 1982 Movie with Whoopi Goldberg, 1985 • Austenland, Shannon Hale, 2007 Movie with Keri Russell, 2013
This course on Shakespeare will focus on great speeches from the Comedies, Histories, Romances and Tragedies. Shakespeare’s deepest insights and most challenging thoughts appear as his characters search their minds, working out the answers to profound questions in extended monologues and soliloquies. As we untangle his language we will be rewarded with often breathtaking depths of meaning encoded in his metaphors, similes, and images. At the end of the course we will have succeeded in understanding some of the finest expressions of thought in the English language and assembled our own anthology of Shakespeare’s greatest work. (A limited enrollment class)
Poems, like everything else, have conventions that define them and rules they follow. Most of these rules become clear the more poems we read—the key is to read slowly, four or five times, reading out loud in order to feel the language. Then, you ask the questions: How is this one different than that? Why am I affected by this one but not the other? Why does the line break here rather than there? Do the vowels or the consonants most determine the poem’s sounds? Ninety percent of what a poem means is available at the literal level. Remember—we aren’t reading POETRY, just one poem at a time which is easier! We will use Joel Conarroe’s Six American Poets (Vintage Books) available on Amazon.