Course Descriptions: Fall 2019

More information on most courses, including schedule and recommended readings, can be found online as indicated at the end of each description.
All courses begin the week of September 9 unless otherwise indicated.

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Pat Johnson: Friendship and a Life Well-lived

8 Mondays (Sept. 9 – Nov. 4, no class Oct. 21), 9:30-11:30
FiftyNorth 106
Enrollment limit: 18

Is friendship fundamental for living a good life? Early western philosophers viewed friendship as central to their reflections on what it meant to live a full human life. But why should we trust friendship to guide and sustain the journey of life? This course will begin with Plato and Aristotle, move on to medieval reflections by Aelred and Aquinas, and then examine modern and contemporary philosophers who have reflected on friendship. In conversation with these thinkers we will address questions about the role and meaning of friendships for our own lives.

The primary text is Other Selves: Philosophers on Friendship edited by Michael Pakaluk (cost: $18). There will be additional readings made available electronically or in paper form. Participants will also be asked to prepare reflections on the questions set out for each week. The course will encourage discussion.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Johnson

Pat Johnson taught philosophy at the University of Dayton for thirty-five years. While there she served as Director of Women’s Studies, Chair of the Department of Philosophy, Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Alumni Chair in Humanities. She has published books and articles, several of which focus on friendship.

pjohnson2@udayton.edu

 

Ed Langerak: Mortality and the Meaning of Life

8 Mondays, beginning Sept. 16, 1:30-3:30
Kildahl Park Pointe
Enrollment limit: 15

Humans are members of the only species on earth who know we will die. We are also the only ones who ask about the meaning of our lives. How does our knowing that we will die (but usually not knowing when) affect how we think and feel about the meaningfulness of our lives? The focus of this seminar is not on the significant worries about how we will die, that is, about our fragility and suffering during what might be a lengthy dying process (though this issue does get raised in a Tolstoy story). Rather we will read and discuss how literature, social science, theology, and philosophy integrate thoughts or feelings about the fact of our mortality and our yearning for meaning.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Langerak

Ed Langerak is an emeritus professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College, where he taught for 40 years. He has previously taught Elder Collegium courses on the role of religion in public life and on the history of Western ethics.

langerak@stolaf.edu

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Bob Nyvall: Effect of Plant Diseases on People’s Lives, Past and Present

8 Tuesdays, beginning Sept. 17, 9:30-11:30
FiftyNorth 106
Enrollment limit: 18

History is replete with incidences of plant diseases that have affected human populations. The iconic example is the Irish Potato Famine that caused the death of a million or more people and forced the emigration of millions more. Lesser known examples are the shaping of the Russian Empire, the Salem Witch Trials, and pressures on the Roman Empire. Diseases of rice created several famines that resulted in starvation of millions of people in India and China. A plant disease destroyed Henry Ford’s vision of rubber plantations to supply rubber for his tires and a disease of bananas caused political instability in Central American countries. Dutch elm disease, oak wilt, and Verticillium wilt of maple recently changed the landscape of urban areas. New diseases are affecting coca trees, coffee bushes, wheat, and corn. Other diseases frustrate and puzzle the home gardener and home owner.  The cause of diseases and their management will be discussed and how they have affected human society. Classes will be lectures aided by hand-outs. Discussions and plant disease samples are encouraged.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Nyvall

Robert Nyvall has been a plant pathologist for 45 plus years. He was Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist at Iowa State University, returning to the University of Minnesota, heading up its North Central Experiment Station. He has done extensive research and has led clinics on a variety of plant diseases. He has authored a book entitled Field Crop Diseases and co-authored a book on biological control of weedy plants.

 

Gerald Hoekstra: Music in the Courts and Cities of Renaissance Europe

8 Tuesdays, 9:30-11:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit: 18

When we visit the great cities of Europe today, we marvel at the wonderful palaces, churches, piazzas, and city halls, many of which date from the Renaissance Era. They offer a glimpse into the lives and activities of the people who inhabited them, as do the beautiful sculptures and paintings that grace their walls. But these spaces are largely mute today. They bear little witness to the sounds of the worship services, ceremonies, and daily life that took place in them. This course will examine the soundscape of Renaissance Europe by focusing on music and musical life in some of its greatest courts and cities. Sample topics: music at the Burgundian Court of Philip the Good, music in Florence during the time of the Medicis, sacred music in the Sistine Chapel, and ceremonial music in the piazza and Basilica of San Marco of Venice.

This is a slightly revised version of a Fall 2017 course.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Hoekstra

Gerald Hoekstra taught music history at St. Olaf College for 33 years before his retirement in 2014. His specialty is the Renaissance Era, and in addition to teaching courses in music history, he directed the St. Olaf Early Music Singers and the Collegium Musicum, both of which performed music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

hoekstra@stolaf.edu

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Eric Nelson: Immigrants and Refugees in Film

8 Wednesdays, 9:30-11:30
NRC Nygaard Theater

Enrollment limit: 25

In this course we will explore the experiences of immigrants and refugees portrayed in four stories that span a century. In Sweet Land, a German “postal bride” comes to a small Norwegian community in southern Minnesota following WWI and is greeted with hostility and suspicion. In Brooklyn a young Irish woman, newly arrived in New York in the 1950s, is torn between the claims of her family in Dublin and her new life in America. In El Norte, set in the 1980s, a Mayan brother and sister flee the violence of Guatemala on a perilous journey through Mexico to California. In The Visitor, a modest act of generosity entangles a reclusive college professor in the fate of an undocumented Syrian man and his Senegalese girlfriend. We will examine these movies primarily through discussion, watching each film in class and then discussing it the following week.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Nelson

Eric Nelson is an emeritus professor of English at St Olaf College where he taught film studies as well. He has offered courses in cinema in the Elder Collegium for more than a decade.

nelsoner@stolaf.edu

John Blackmer: Of Predators, Pets, and Poop – The Influence of Animals on Human Societies

Course cancelled – low enrollment

8 Wednesdays, 9:30-11:30
Mill City Senior Living, Faribault
Enrollment limit: 20

Human society didn’t evolve in a vacuum, but in an ecological context that shaped and molded developing cultures and usually with dramatic, if not catastrophic, results. We converted wild enemies into allies, learned to harvest bountiful – but often finite — new resources, and reacted to the limitations placed upon us by ecosystems that we struggled to understand. This course will be a reflective investigation into the role animals, wild and domestic, have played in history and cultures around the globe.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Blackmer

John Blackmer is a science teacher and formerly a department chair at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School as well as a former Chief Naturalist at River Bend Nature Center.

John.Blackmer@s-sm.org

 

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Richard Crouter: Reinhold Niebuhr on Democracy in Perilous Times

8 Wednesdays, 9:30-11:30
FiftyNorth 106
Enrollment limit: 18

When Reinhold Niebuhr wrote The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness: A Vindication of Democracy and a Critique of its Traditional Defense in 1944, he was sure of the defeat of Nazism. But he worried at length over the failure of competing idealists (liberal democrats, socialists, communists, and capitalists) to stop a cynical Nazi state from taking hold in his ancestral homeland. In the process he coined the aphorism, “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” His core argument is that cynics, who have no moral standards, invariably win out over idealists, but that idealists who know this is the case are better able to pursue justice in a troubled world.

In addition to reading Niebuhr on democracy we will also take up wider themes from the instructor’s book, Reinhold Niebuhr on Religion, Politics, and Christian Faith (2010). No prior acquaintance with Niebuhr is needed. Our aim will be to make his thought accessible so that we can debate and assess the relevance of his views for our own day.

This CVEC course is significantly revamped from others the instructor has taught on Niebuhr.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Crouter

Richard Crouter‘s background is in the historical study of religion as it interacts with culture. He taught courses on the Christian tradition and modern religious thought at Carleton for 36 years with a special interest in Friedrich Schleiermacher, Søren Kierkegaard, and, especially since retirement, Reinhold Niebuhr.

rcrouter@carleton.edu

Kerry Hjelmgren: Dying Well – Discussions, Decisions, & Documents

5 Wednesdays (Oct. 2 – 30), 1:30-3:30
Rice County Historical Society, Faribault
Enrollment limit: 12

This course will help participants understand our relationship with death as individuals and a society, explore our own definition of quality of life, and learn how to meaningfully engage in and complete the process of advance care planning. We will explore personal values, beliefs, and goals, and how they help us define our preferences for end-of-life care and comfort. Participants will have the opportunity to complete a health care directive or revise a previous version. Sessions will include a combination of group discussions, lectures, video, and self-reflection activities.

This is a repeat of a Fall 2018 course.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Hjelmgren

Kerry Hjelmgren is the Executive Director of Honoring Choices Minnesota.  Her mission is to increase awareness and educate individuals and families about the importance of advance care planning through interactive engagement opportunities. Kerry is certified both as a respecting choices advance care planning facilitator and as a facilitator instructor.

kerryhjelmgren@gmail.com

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Jerry Mohrig: The History and Chemistry of Cooking

8 Wednesdays, 1:30-3:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit: 18

Cooking, the transformation of the raw stuff of nature into nutritious and appealing things to eat, is one of the most interesting things we do, and its wonders rely on a magic that is accessible to us all.  Cooking connects us in a web of social and ecological relationships with plants and animals, with the soil, with farmers, with the microbes both inside and outside our bodies, and with each other. By using heat or by the manipulation of specific micro-organisms, cooking will be explored through the chemistry of the main constituents of food – fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Questions we will address include why meat turns brown when we cook it and why bread rises.  Along the way, we will consider how cooking may have made us human, plus health issues and the senses of taste and smell. We will have a cheese tasting and perhaps visit a nearby cheese maker.

This is a repeat of courses offered in Spring and Fall, 2015.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Mohrig

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. Jerry thinks that it’s fun to learn how the world works.

mohrig@carleton.edu

Carol Trosset: Welsh Culture and Language

8 Thursdays (Sept. 12 – Nov. 4, no class Oct. 3), 9:30-11:30
FiftyNorth 106
Enrollment limit: 18

Wales is a small country with a rich cultural identity. It shares its Celtic heritage with Ireland, Scotland, and Brittany, and Welsh is the most widely spoken of the Celtic languages. After an introduction to the country’s history and geography, we will explore several dimensions of Welsh culture. Since Wales is known as the “land of poets and singers,” we will read some of its medieval folklore and excerpts from modern literature in translation, and listen to singing, recitation, and harp playing as maintained through the competitive eisteddfod tradition.

We will explore the differences between Welsh and English attitudes toward class and status, discuss Welsh nationalism and the status of the language, and consider why the “Celtic fringe” voted against Brexit. Throughout the course, the instructor will connect all these topics to the ways Welsh people experience their ethnic identity. Finally, we will learn how this identity persists in the Welsh “colony” in Patagonia.

Each class session will include information presented by the instructor, class discussion of reading materials, and a brief language lesson. Despite its appearance, Welsh is not lacking in vowels!

For further information, go to cvec.org/Trosset

Carol Trosset is an anthropologist who lived in Welsh-speaking Wales for two years doing fieldwork on cultural identity and values. After publishing the ethnography Welshness Performed, she did comparative research on Welsh populations in Argentina and Australia. She speaks Welsh and enjoys teaching it to people who think they can’t learn a foreign language.

caroltrosset@gmail.com

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Sam Ouk: Understanding our Immigrants and Refugees

5 Thursdays (Sept. 12 – Oct. 10), 3:00-5:00
Mill City Senior Living, Faribault
Enrollment limit: 20

This class will teach participants about the journey of refugees. The program will be divided into two halves. The first two classes will look at the struggles of refugees and their difficult journey to get to the United States. The remainder of the classes will focus on their resettlement experiences in the United States. The second part of this session will focus primary on learning about the resources and lack of resources available to refugees. We will take a trip to visit the Buddhist Temple and the Mosque which are the community center of our Cambodian and Somali refugees. Finally, we will discuss the positive opportunities we have in Faribault to engage and learn more about the diverse communities we have in Faribault.

This is a repeat of Fall 2016 and Fall 2017 courses.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Ouk

Sam Ouk’s family survived the Cambodian Killing Fields and immigrated to the United States in 1982. Sam has his Master’s in English as a Second Language education from Hamline University. He taught ESL for six years in Rochester, MN before becoming the school district’s ESL Coordinator there. Recently he moved to work in Faribault as the ESL Coordinator for the school district. Sam is also a board member for the Faribault Diversity Coalition. Throughout his life, he has been actively involved with refugee work and has also written on the acculturation experiences of refugees.

souk@faribault.k12.mn.us

Jim McDonnell: The Irish Revolution – Literature and Violence, 1916-1923

8 Fridays, 9:30-11:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit: 15

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. 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 outburst of extreme violence in Dublin. The 1916 Rising is now generally regarded as the most important single event in modern Irish history, although at the time it was widely considered by most Irish people to be a gratuitous terrorist outrage. Feelings changed when the British shot the leaders. 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 them. We will read poetry, fiction, and dramas of W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, and others. We will also watch videos and listen to music.

For further information, go to cvec.org/McDonnell

Jim 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.

jmcdonne@carleton.edu

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Dan Geslin: The Religion of Whiteness

8 Fridays, 9:30-11:30
FiftyNorth 106
Enrollment limit: 18

We will begin by defining “religion,” based not on faith but sociology. What is religion as a group phenomenon? What does it give to its adherents? What do they give to it? How does it perpetuate itself? Can the continuum of racism, from radical white supremacy to common everyday prejudice, be seen as a “religion of whiteness”? How can change/conversion happen?

The course will be built around the following readings: Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debbie Irving, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Race by sociologist Robin DiAngelo, White Rage: the Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson, and “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic, June 2014). The books are available through online sellers (check on bookfinder.com for prices, all under $15) and at Content Books; and the Coates article is available online.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Geslin

Dan Geslin holds degrees from St. Olaf, the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, and the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. He has led progressive churches in Minneapolis, Cleveland, Denver, and Los Angeles, including anti-racism work. He was one of an ecumenical team of five who wrote Feasting on the Word, a six-volume resource of essays, prayers and poetry for use in congregational worship and personal spirituality.

dangeslin@gmail.com