Course Descriptions: Spring 2017

Bill Woehrlin: The Russian Short Story – From Pushkin to Gorky (two sections)

8 Mondays, 9:30-11:30 and 1:30-3:30, Northfield Senior Center 106.  Tuition $50.  Limit: 18 each section.

Few would disagree with the opinion that 19th century Russia made one of the greatest contributions to world literature.

Woehrlin2Less well known than the novels and the plays are the Russian short stories that treat many of the same “eternal” questions that any literate people should be asking. A number of these stories, if read in sequence, can also give some insight into the changing issues that made up public discourse.

The sample stories we will use for class discussion will be found in Carl R. Proffer’s From Karamzin to Bunin along with handouts provided in class. Proffer’s book offers brief biographical information on the authors as well as some critical assessment of the stories. Our discussions of the stories should take up about two-thirds of our class time and reflect spirited enthusiasm somewhat short of mayhem.

Bill Woehrlin joined the Carleton faculty in 1962 and for 31 years taught courses in Russian and Soviet History, as well more general courses in early modern and modern Europe. He especially enjoyed freshmen seminars that introduced incoming students to the nature of historical inquiry.

Jerry Mohrig: The History and Chemistry of Chocolate     CANCELLED

8 Mondays, 1:30-3:30, Rice County Historical Museum in Faribault.  Tuition $50.  Limit 18.

We will examine the allure and romance of chocolate while probing the history of cacao from the Mayas and Aztecs to its embrace by 18th century Europeans and finally to modern Mohrig copyAmerica. We will explore where chocolate comes from, its constituents and chemistry, its health effects, and how chocolate’s many varieties are manufactured. The class will also hold a chocolate tasting session. Three predecessors of his course have been taught by Jerry in the past, the most recent in 2012. Past students have suggested that it’s time to give other Elder Collegium students the opportunity to learn more about one of our favorite foods.

Jerry Mohrig taught at Carleton College for 36 years and is an emeritus professor of chemistry. He has also been an amateur historian most of his life and believes that there is nothing wrong with having fun while learning the chemistry and history of chocolate.


Steve Kelly: Jazz – The First Hundred Years

Tuesdays, 9:30-11:30, Village on the Cannon.
Tuition $50.  Limit 21.

A new and exciting popular musical style emerged about one hundred years ago combining many contemporary influences, especially those of ragtime and blues. It was known variously as “jass” or “jazz” or “ragtime” and flourished in several Steve Kellylocations, but was especially associated with the Storyville district of New Orleans. This course will trace the origins and development of this rich style, jazz, from the Levees of New Orleans in 1915 to the lofts of SoHo in 1990 to today through the music created by the great performers of jazz. We will use the Ken Burns Jazz: The Story of America’s Music 5-CD set as our guidebook. Reading knowledge of music is not required.  (This is a repeat of last term’s course, which not everyone who registered was able to get into.)

Stephen Kelly retired in 2011 after teaching music history and early music performance at Carleton College for thirty-seven years. He has been a Fulbright Scholar and has published scholarship on medieval music, the medieval monastery, jazz history, and pedagogy. Kelly taught jazz history for twenty-five years at Carleton and plays sax and clarinet in Occasional Jazz and the Northstar Cinema and Quadrille Orchestra.

Gary Wagenbach: Corals and Coral Reefs – What do they tell us about human impact?

8 Tuesdays, 1:30-3:30, Village on the Cannon.  Tuition $50.  Limit 30.

A detailed look at the back story for recent headlines such as “Great Barrier Reef: More Than 90 Percent of Marine Ecosystems Suffering from Coral Bleaching”. Coral reefs are among the most complex and productive biological systems on the planet. Warm water events triggered the headlines shown. What is the nature of the creature known as a coral? What is a healthy reef? What prognoses for the future of healthy reefs are being framed by ecologists? What do studies of ancient reefs tell about the history of our planet?

Wagenbach copy

Humans have lived among reefs for a long time, their livelihoods both supported by and entangled with reefs, especially by means of fishing. It turns out fish play a key role in promoting reef health. Weather, climate, disease, and humans have affected Pacific, Caribbean, and Atlantic coral reefs. Join Gary for an exploration of these and other connections (including hyperbolic geometry and crocheting) we all have with coral reefs. Next time you go snorkeling in the Caribbean, and I hope you can do so, your understanding of what you are seeing will be deeply enhanced.

For an expanded description, click here.

Gary Wagenbach taught biology and environmental studies at Carleton College, including leading off-campus trips to study coral reefs. He also taught and participated in several Elder Collegium courses and volunteers on local conservation boards and, on occasion, at a K-12 school in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma).


Jim McDonnell: The Irish Revolution – Literature and Violence, 1916-23

8 Tuesdays, 1:30-3:30, Northfield Public Library.  Tuition $50.  Limit 25.

Shortly before his death in 1939, W.B. Yeats was tormented by thoughts that his play Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902) might have inspired the Easter Rising of 1916:

I lie awake night after night
And never get the answers right.
Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot?

He was not just being grandiose. Ever since the 1890s Irish Nationalists had been inventing a new independent nation, not only by political means, but also through their words, dramas, music and cultural activities. The Gaelic League, the Irish literary Revival, the National Theatre and the Sinn Fein movement were all peaceful preparations for a new birth of freedom. Then, on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, there occurred an unexpected and at first unwelcome outburst of extreme violence.

The 1916 Rising is now generally regarded as the most important single event in modern Irish history, although at the time it was considered a gratuitous terrorist outrage. The fact that three of the seven signers of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic were poets helped change perceptions of the meaning of the event.

In this course we will discuss both the events of an extraordinary historical period and the literature that accompanied those events. We will read poetry, fiction and dramas of W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor and others.

Jim McDonnellJim McDonnell retired in 2007 from the Carleton English department where he taught Irish literature and Shakespeare. Born of Irish parents in London, he spent most of his early childhood in the West of Ireland, and returns there often.

Barbara Evans: Northfield Architecture – Historic and Significant

7 Wednesdays, 9:30-11:30 (4 sessions will end at noon), Village on the Cannon.  Tuition $50.  Limit 15.

Learn about Northfield’s historic buildings and significant architects and builders of commercial, college, and residential structures, focusing on buildings in the Historic EvansDistrict or on the National Register of Historic Places. Understand the architectural terminology used to describe historic building features, construction techniques, and styles. We’ll use Northfield: The History and Architecture of a Community, published by and available at the Northfield Historical Society as our text. We will NOT meet the first Wednesday, March 29th. We will meet the remaining seven sessions, beginning on Wednesday, April 5th. Four sessions will be expanded to 2½ hours allowing for architectural walking tours and site visits. Details will be provided in the online expanded description. Participants will do moderate walking and provide their own transportation to various locations after the first meeting at Village on the Cannon, which will be a two-hour session.

For an expanded description, click here.

Barbara Evans taught American literature, drama, debate and composition in Rochester, MN for 34 years. She is a graduate of and has been a visiting professor at St. Olaf College, teaching public speaking and first year writing. Her interests include architecture, literary and architecture-based travel, photography, and renovation of her Arts and Crafts home here in Northfield. Her recent appointment to the Heritage Preservation Commission has opened doors to explore the buildings and homes inside and outside of Northfield’s Historic District.


Perry Mason: Philosophy and Psychiatry – Some Questions        CANCELLED

8 Wednesdays, 9:30-11:30, Northfield Senior Center 106. Tuition $50.  Limit 20.

This course will consider some philosophical questions about psychiatry and mental illness in general, though without presuming to offer an exhaustive coverage of relevant issues.

MasonThe most basic question concerns how mental illness or disease or disorder is to be defined. Are mental disorders best conceived on “the medical model” as illnesses for which we should seek cures or at least amelioration, or should we think of them as non-medical “problems in living” for which we should seek practical solutions or improvements?

A second basic question can be put broadly this way: What are the various mental disorders?  If there are different kinds of disorder, how do they differ and how are they similar?  And how, then, are they to be categorized or classified?

A third question arises already in the second one: how are diagnoses to be made?

Finally, we will ask to what extent a mental disorder can undermine one’s responsibility for his or her actions.  The question of culpability is treated in various ways in the legal context, and we will look at several of them to suggest possibilities for settling the matter in the context of morality.

Emphasis will be on discussing helpful articles from disputants in the area; these will be provided in electronic and/or duplicated form.



Perry Mason: Retired Professor of Philosophy at Carleton, after 36 years of teaching. The chief areas of his teaching have been ancient Greek philosophy, philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and early modern European philosophy.


Almut Furchert: The Existentialist Cafe

8 Wednesdays, 1:30-3:30, Village on the Cannon.  Tuition $50.  Limit 15.

This course gives an overview about existential furchertphenomenological authors from Kierkegaard to Heidegger, Simone de Beauvoir, Karl Jaspers, Husserl and Edith Stein. We will read together the bestselling book “The Existentialist Cafe” by Sarah Bakewell as well as some excerpts from original texts that will be provided.

We will ask if there is more to existential thoughts than smoked-filled coffee houses and what they might provide to our every day questions.

Dr. Almut Furchert is a German trained psychologist, philosopher of religion, scholar and practitioner with emphases in existential thought and wisdom traditions as well as spiritual integrated care. In her teaching she likes to invite you on the ancient path of philosophical practice as a way of gaining understanding and self insight.


Scot Covey: Pre-Code Hollywood Film

8 Wednesday evenings, 7:00-9:00, Northfield Senior Center 106.  Tuition $50.  Limit 18.

The U.S. film industry adopted the Motion Picture Production Code in 1930, in an attempt to curtail covey, scotC“immorality” in this increasingly popular entertainment. However, the Code was not strictly enforced until 1934, giving filmmakers four more years to “break the rules.” The best of these movies weren’t so much about titillation and exploitation as they were stories that questioned conventional views of good and evil, eschewed “moral uplift,” and had a great time doing it.

We will be looking at seven examples, and discussing both the film itself and its cultural context. Many of these films are not available through common sources, so we will be providing group viewings during the first part of each class.

For an expanded description, click here.

Scot Covey is a vintage film enthusiast who grew up in Northfield and has a philosophy degree from Carleton. He has done graduate work in cultural studies and is fascinated by the intersection of American political and cultural history.

Robert and Sharon Flaten: Great Decisions

8 Thursdays, 9:30-11:30, Village on the Cannon.  Tuition $50.  Limit 35.

The Elder Collegium is one of 65 groups in Minnesota sponsoring the study of “Great Decisions,” a program of the national Foreign Policy Association coordinated by Global Minnesota. Every year over 9,000 Minnesotans study issues selected by the Foreign Policy Association as significant for US interests.

This year’s issues are: European Union, Trade Policy, South China Sea, Saudi Arabia, Geopolitics of Energy, Latin America, Afghanistan/Pakistan, and Nuclear Security.

A brief text will be available covering each of the topics, ten or twelve pages with bibliography, not required, but useful for about $20. Discussions will be led by Bob and Sharon Flaten with key additions by former diplomats and invited speakers.

Flaten, Bob&SharonRobert Flaten, an Ole grad, served as the American Ambassador to Rwanda from 1990 to 1993. He retired from the Foreign Service in 1994 after assignments in France, Pakistan and Israel and the State Department in Washington. He is past Chair of the Executive Committee of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Ambassador in Residence at St. Olaf and Vice President of the United Nations Association of Minnesota.  He was recently elected to the American Academy of Diplomacy. Sharon Flaten holds a BS from Concordia Teachers College, a BS from Wayne State University, and an MA from Eastern Michigan University. Sharon has coordinated and participated in Great Decisions programs since 2006 in Stillwater, MN and Northfield.


Emily Urness: Exploring the Short Story

8 Thursdays, 9:30-11:30, Northfield Senior Center 106.  Tuition $50.  Limit 12.

urnessThis course will give students the opportunity to explore concepts within writing the fictional short story. It will be equal parts analysis of literature and trying our hand at short fiction. Each class section will contain discussion, writing exercises, and lessons on craft. Topics to be discussed include, but are not limited to, structure, tone, style, setting, character, dialogue, and rewriting. Students will share their work and garner helpful feedback. This course is friendly for beginning level writers. It is a safe creative space for storytelling. Students should expect to leave this course inspired to continue writing fiction and with the tools to do so effectively. This course will culminate with a student reading event. The required textbook for this class is What If: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers (3rd edition). Supplemental readings and handouts will be made available as well throughout the course.

Emily Urness is writing instructor at Metropolitan State University. Her resume includes stints as a freelance writer, a newspaper reporter and editor, as well as a literary journal editor for several publications. Her own writing has received recognition through publication as well as honors from the Loft Literary Center and grant funding from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council. In addition to her writing endeavors, she is a regular facilitator of writing workshops at local libraries, senior centers, and Crossings Art Center. She enjoys the creativity and sense of community from her Elder Collegium students.

Daniel Sullivan: Myths and Controversies in American Higher Education

8 Thursdays, 1:30-3:30, Village on the Cannon.  Tuition $50.  Limit 20.

This course engages a series of myths, counter-intuitives and controversies in American higher education such as: Why does college cost so much? Why can’t a college be more like a firm? Isn’t intercollegiate athletics in elite private colleges Sullivan, DanCand universities the paradigm for what should be? Why can’t anyone say with good evidence if students leave college with better higher-order skills than when they arrived? Is it a liberal arts education – or a liberal education – that students need for work, life and engaged citizenship in the 21st century? What are free speech and academic freedom, exactly, in the collegiate context – are trigger warnings appropriate? Why is it that the wealthiest colleges and universities educate the smallest number of low-income students? Classes will involve readings and their discussion.

Daniel Sullivan is President Emeritus of St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and former chair of the board of directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. In June, 2013 he and his wife Ann moved back to Northfield where he began his career at Carleton teaching sociology from 1971-1986.


Jeff Jarvis: Historic Mills of the Cannon Valley

4 Thursdays, March 30-April 20, 3:00-5:00, Faribault Senior Center.  Tuition $30.  Limit 20.

This course is a history of the flour mills, the people, and milling technology developed in the Cannon Valley between 1855 and 1895. Find out how these combined elements made Cannon Valley flour superior to all others, for a time commanding top prices at home and abroad. In part, this is a repeat of last year’s course and is being offered again. This class is open to all, especially to those who missed a spot in last year’s class.

For an expanded description, click here.

Jarvis, JeffJeff Jarvis is a Faribault native and holds a B.F.A. from Mankato State University. He has worked with the City of Faribault Parks & Recreation Department for 17 years. An artist and author, Jarvis has been involved in a 10-year book project—researching and writing Historic Mills of the Cannon Valley. During this time, he has enjoyed sharing his research with many groups and individuals.

Karen Madsen: Music Listening

8 Fridays, 9:30-11:30, Northfield Senior Center 106.  Tuition $50.  Limit 20.

You probably know what to listen to, but do you know how Madsen, Karento listen? Explore the inner workings of music throughout history. Gain a fuller appreciation of great works and composers, and understand how history molded music and how music molded history. You might also gain a few new favorite pieces or composers along the way. No experience is required for this course, just an interest in music and a willingness to uncover the mysteries of classical music. (You will be doing some listening out of class, so a CD player, computer, or other listening device will be really helpful.)

Karen Madsen has been involved with music her whole life, starting with a Schroder piano as a toddler. She coaches the Northfield High School Music Listening teams, which guides students through an array of music from earliest history to recent works. The Northfield teams have advanced to the State contest 16 of the past 17 years, and they have five first-place titles and several second and third-place finishes. Karen teaches violin, viola, and cello lessons, plays cello in several ensembles, and runs String Solutions, a violin shop in Northfield.