University of Oregon

Saturday Seminars

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. 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.

Participation in Saturday Seminars is open to general community members (OLLI membership is not required.) However, active OLLI members may register at a reduced seminar fee.

Three Plays of Tennessee Williams

Saturdays: October 1, 8, 15, 22, 2022; 9:30 a.m.–noon

Registration is closed.

LOCATION

Baker Downtown Center

description

This seminar will focus on the three plays of Glass Menagerie (1945), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) and The Night of Iguana (1961), tracking Tennessee Williams from his first major success to the pinnacle of his art in the early 1960s. The seminar will include a mix of lecture, discussion, and audio readings, offering an overview of the dramatist’s life and works, and highlighting the complexities of his characters, particularly as they work to reconcile the body and the soul. Topics include:

  1. The structure of tragedy and epic, as applied to the plays.
  2. Williams' major influences.
  3. The themes of body/soul in his plays.
  4. Ambiguities surrounding his characters' actions.
  5. The struggle of the coming out process, both for Williams and his characters.

Additionally, the instructor will draw from his personal experiences of taking part in the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival as well as the Saints and Sinners LGBTQ Literary Festival, where he read from his new novel, Galen's Legacy.

INSTRUCTOR

Dr. Henry Alley is Professor Emeritus of Literature in the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.

Poets of an Age

Saturdays: October 29, and November 5, 12, 19, 2022; 9:30 a.m.–noon

LOCATION

Baker Downtown Center

description

Poets who live long enough to write about the experience of old age provide a fascinating read for those of us who are now “of an age” and have occasion sometimes to wish we were poets, able to capture in words all the changes that surprise us late in life. There’s much food for thought on the subject of aging in the later poems of some of the instructor’s favorite recent American poets. They provide us not only an occasion to re-learn how to read contemporary poetry, but also perhaps to try writing some of our own. The class will read these three books for the second, third and fourth meetings:

READINGS

October 29: Introduction, overview, and discussions of sample poems.

November 5: W. S. Merwin (1927-2019) published Garden Time (2016) at the age of 89. He was going blind, and dictated the poems to his wife as he worked in his garden. Merwin published some twenty books of his own poems, and many translations. He was chosen U.S. poet laureate in 2010.

November 12: Charles Wright (b. 1935) was chosen U.S. poet laureate in 2015. His nineteenth book of poems, Sestets, (2009), appeared when he was 74. (His previous book, Littlefoot, is a poetic diary of his 70th year, meditating on time, life and death.)

November 19: Louise Glück (b. 1943) was U.S. poet laureate in 2003, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2020. Her twelfth book, Faithful and Virtuous Night (2014) appeared when she was 71. (Her thirteenth, Winter Recipes from the Collective, appeared in 2021, at age 78.)

INSTRUCTOR

Dr. James Earl is Professor Emeritus of English in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon.

Abbey Lives!: Celebrating the Green Imagination

Saturdays: January 28, and February 4, 11, 18, 2023; 9:30 a.m.–noon

LOCATION

Baker Downtown Center

description

Literature that moves mountains and saves the earth. Drawing from many genres, including poetry, essays, fiction, nonfiction, children's lit, sci-fi, cli-fi, and drama, and legal documents, including Supreme Court decisions, and in a time of recognition of climate change, this class will relate "eco literature"— earth’s oldest—to headline news and legislation and public policy debates and progress.

INSTRUCTOR

Dr. Barbara Mossberg is a Professor of Practice in Literature in the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.

Aeschylus

Saturdays: February 25, and March 4, 11, 18, 2023; 9:30 a.m.–noon

LOCATION

Baker Downtown Center

description

“Tragedy is not only an art form: it is also a social institution that the City, by establishing competitions in tragedies, set up alongside its political and legal institutions. The City established, in the same urban space and with the same norms as its popular assemblies and courts, a spectacle open to all citizens, directed, acted and judged by members of the various tribes.

Although tragedy, more than any other genre of literature, appears rooted in social reality, it does not reflect that reality, but calls it into question. By depicting it rent and divided against itself, it turns it into a problem. The drama brings to the stage an ancient heroic legend, a past sufficiently distant for the contrasts between the mythical traditions it embodies, and the new forms of legal and political thought, to be clearly visible; a past still close enough that this clash is still taking place. Tragedy is born when myth starts to be considered from the point of view of the citizen. Not only the world of myth dissolves in this focus; the world of the city is also called into question, and its fundamental values are challenged. The questions are posed, but tragic consciousness can find no fully satisfactory answers to them, so they remain open.” Jean-Pierre Vernant, Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece (1990)

BOOKS

We will read and discuss the seven surviving plays of Aeschylus. Note that the first play should be read before the first class. There are many paperback versions of Aeschylus available that might serve, but this one is strongly recommended:

David Grene and Richard Lattimore, eds., Aeschylus I and II (Univ. of Chicago, 2013, 3rd ed.) ISBN: 978-0-226-31144-9 (vol. 1); 978-0-226-31147-0 (vol. 2). The two volumes together cost $25 on Amazon.

READINGS

February 25: Agamemnon

March 4: The Libation Bearers; Eumenides

March 12: The Suppliant Maidens; The Persians

March 26: Seven Against Thebes; Prometheus Bound

INSTRUCTOR

Dr. James Earl is Professor Emeritus of English in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon.

National Identity: Forming, Sustaining and Transitioning to Modernity

Saturdays: March 25, and April 1, 15, 22 (no class April 8), 2023; 9:30 a.m.–noon

LOCATION

Baker Downtown Center

description

The goal of this seminar is to define “national identity,” a key component of modernity, and examine its role in sustaining a distinctive viable group. We will look at major components of identity formation (e.g., language, literature, dress, food, history, religion?) and examples of transition paths to modernity in different regions of the world. Participants will each choose a ‘national identity’ to consider its formation basis and consequences in different regions of the world including Asia (east, south and southeast), Central and Western Europe, North America, Arab and non-Arab Muslim regions, Native America, Japan, China, and Indian regional sub-nationalities. Class time will be used to report components of identity and its use to transition to (or impede) a viable modernity, share relevant readings and current events in their particular area, and culminate in class discussion.

A central reading will provide the context for this discussion, applicable at various scales from the multinational region to discrete sub-national entities. Other readings will underlie regional examples across the globe.

INSTRUCTOR

Dr. Susan Walcott is Professor Emerita of Geography at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Dr. Walcott now resides in Eugene, OR, and has been a presenter at OLLI-UO since 2015.

Utopias and Politics

Saturdays: April 29, and May 6, 13, 20, 2023; 9:30 a.m.–noon

LOCATION

Baker Downtown Center

description

This seminar examines utopian visions and their possible uses today. Do positive utopias have a role to play in our age when dystopias abound in all media? Utopias usually reform economics and politics. In this seminar the emphasis will be on politics and decision making, asking whether democracy can be part of utopia. So many utopian proposals either presume perfected citizens or have machinery to educate and form humans into citizens for that utopia. This seems undemocratic, but it opens deep issues about freedom and identity, individuals and social pressures.

The present plan is to organize sessions around themes rather than chronology, including:

  • the basic idea and plan of western utopias,
  • problems of economy, motivation, selfishness, and private ownership
  • social roles, gender and freedom
  • authority, free individuality, and ownership, individual and society

Readings might include excerpts from Plato's Republic and Critias, Thomas More's Utopia, H. G. Wells' In the Days of the Comet and A Modern Utopia, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland and its sequel, B. F. Skinner’s Walden 2, Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia, Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed and Always Coming Home, plus writings by William Morris, Bradford Peck, Samuel Butler, Kim Stanley Robinson and Iain M Banks.

(The instructor will provide an updated syllabus in early February.)

INSTRUCTOR

Dr. David Kolb is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Bates College, and maintains a personal web site including his writings and reflections. Dr. Kolb now resides in Eugene, OR, and has been a presenter at OLLI-UO since 2007.