While seminars are led by faculty who provide formal study guides and lead college-level discussions, participants are expected to be prepared (yes, do your homework!) to actively contribute to each session.
Registration fee for each seminar topic:
Our stories. Our identities. Our struggles. Our triumphs. Our comedy and tragedy. How we understand our life lessons and share them with others, our vulnerabilities, aspirations, plans gone awry: it all suddenly make sense in a narrative view in which our life becomes art. Chaotic experience becomes an orderly and miraculous and redeeming and suspenseful plot. Memoir is the number one bestselling genre today, including the sensational and ghostwritten, but it always has been. Our most enduring—and endearing--literature is memoir writing.
We will read examples of great memoirs, and you will have a chance to select a book and present it to our class: it takes a village. You will even have a chance to write a piece of your own fan fiction memoir—who can tell your story better than you? And it is a story that must be heard. We will look at some inspiring models, including that you bring to class, and write: “I’m Nobody. . . ”, “I went to the woods. . . “ ,“In the middle of our life I found myself . . .”, “Chapter Four: In which I realize . . . “
“I’m Nobody—who are you? Are you Nobody too?”—Emily Dickinson
“I celebrate myself and sing myself”—Walt Whitman
A theory of memoir, illuminated by a history of memoir in both fiction and nonfiction, that considers works from the beginning of recorded human literature as memoir performance, including such modern classics as Huckleberry Finn, Their Eyes Were Watching God, I Know How the Caged Bird Sings, Invisible Man, Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead, and the outrageous and profound memoirs of Gertrude Stein including The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. The writing of memoir transforms the writer and reveals a new life before our eyes. Lecture with interactive discussion and workshop: From Gilgamesh and Homer to Cervantes and Dante, in which you consider your life in terms of Don Quixote, The Odyssey, and The Inferno.
Walden, and the Weeds, Swamps, Beans, and Infinity of You, in which you consider your own life in the woods. The great transformational work and its relevance to us today.
Memoir and Grief, featuring bawdy NYT bestselling comedian Adam Mansbuch’s jazz epic, I Had a Brother Once. And Memoir Carousel, in which we each bring a memoir to class to share.
“I have more lives to live”—Henry David Thoreau
Dr. B’s own play read/performed by our class, “(P)raising the Dead,” and poem/essays Here for the Present. Dr. B will explain her own use of memoir as “Resurrection Prose,” writing through the example of Thoreau’s and others’ memoir writing as a transformational tool to moving forward with life, with “joy and bigger,” forgiveness, and gratitude.
Dr. Barbara Mossberg is a Professor of Practice in Literature in the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.
Although only slightly more than a third of the length of War and Peace, Moby Dick, at two-hundred thousand words, is still a massive commitment. But… if one desires to read with close comprehension, often even with a focused and careful analysis, the text can come alive like few other books.
With that in mind, this novel will span the whole four weeks. At that pace, one will need to commit several hours to this course. Fortunately, it won’t be a chore; it will be one of the most joyful, exciting, and profound literary experiences you’ll likely ever experience. Millions of readers have found this text to be transformative, bewildering, and transcendent. It is perhaps America’s most brilliant literary accomplishment, often cited as the one novel that retired adults wished they had read in school. If you are one of those, don’t worry: Your wish just got granted.
What kind of book is it? It contains many books: a revenge tragedy, an examination of race, a commentary on ecology, an analysis of economics, a political interpretation of sexuality, and so much more. Think of it as a symphony of polyphonic prose that digs into Shakespeare’s plays, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and especially the King James Bible. But it is also simply a pulp fiction thriller that follows the Satanic Captain Ahab on his quest to kill the ambiguous white whale. In addition, in order to bring the story to life with genuine comprehension and conviction, we will read aloud as much of this powerful work as we can manage. The mix of poetry and ideas will likely stun you.
Book: The Norton Critical Edition of Moby Dick, 2nd Edition, Edited by Parker and Hayford. This Norton version of the novel is widely available online for $10 or less.
This four-week course nicely translates into four reading assignments, 100 pages each week. Our edition also has 300 pages of critical material, at no extra cost! So, occasionally, we’ll dip into these extra readings to spice things up!
Lou F. Caton, Professor Emeritus, has taught a variety of literature courses at the University of Oregon, Auburn University, and Westfield State University. Along with articles that have been published in newspapers and journals, he has two books: an edited collection (with Emory Elliott), Aesthetics in a Multicultural Age (2002, Oxford University Press) and Reading American Novels and Multicultural Aesthetics: Romancing the Postmodern Novel (2008, Palgrave-McMillan).
Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop remain two of the most important American poets of the mid-20th century, after the emergence of “modern” poetry, dominated by T. S. Eliot. Both women were greatly admired by their fellow-poets, mostly men; but unlike them, both women led intensely private lives, avoided celebrity, and wrote relatively small bodies of distinctively polished work. They were both celebrated in their lifetimes as highly original and important, two brilliant modern women poets, whose voices mattered in a rapidly changing modern culture. They remain relevant today.
Marianne Moore (born 1887) was among the very first of the modernist poets, working with Pound, Eliot, Cummings, Williams, Stevens and Frost. Her first book, Selected Poems, was introduced by Eliot. In 1951 she won all the national poetry honors (i.e., Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Bollingen Prize) for her Collected Poems. She died in 1972, at age 84.
Elizabeth Bishop (born 1911) befriended Moore, who was 24 years her senior, and became her protégé for several years. She published four books of poems, one per decade starting with North and South in 1946. That and her second book, A Cold Spring, earned her the Pulitzer in 1955. She was very close to the poet Robert Lowell. Another poet, Randall Jarrell, called her poems perfect, like Vermeer paintings; she replied, that’s just what she intended. She died in 1979, age 68.
Books: There are many editions of the two poets’ works, and any will do, but these are preferred. New or used copies are available online.
Marianne Moore, Complete Poems (Penguin, 1981)
Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 (Farrar, Strauss, 1983)
For those who are interested, there are excellent biographies of each (by Linda Leavell for Moore, and Thomas Travisano for Bishop). If you like the poems, you’ll like the lives.
Introduction to the two poets. No advance reading required.
Moore, Selected Poems (1935)
Bishop, North and South (1946)
Bishop, A Cold Spring (1955)
Dr. James Earl is Professor Emeritus of English in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon.
The Saturday Seminars are inspired by the legacy of the UO Insight Seminars program, created and led by Dr. Jim Earl for 20 years. These four-week college-level courses are for people eager to engage in college-level study for the sake of personal fulfillment. Seminars are noncredit and ungraded. However, there is a good deal of challenging homework, which typically includes reading of both primary and secondary materials.