Course Descriptions: Winter 2019

More information on most courses, including schedule and recommended books, can be found online as indicated at the end of each description.
All courses begin the week of Jan. 7 unless otherwise indicated.

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Ed Lufkin and Mike Harper: DNA for Non-scientists

8 Mondays, 9:30-11:30
Northfield Retirement Center’s Nygaard Theater
Enrollment limit: 25

DNA controls the structure of genes, the basic units of all biological information, and in recent years research into the structure and function of DNA and genes has accelerated, enabling dramatic advances, not only in medicine – prediction and prevention of diseases, understanding of genetic diseases and development of drug therapies – but in such far-flung fields as criminal forensics and genealogy.  We will cover the developing science, the DNA-enabled advances, and several related questions of public policy, law and ethics.

For further information, click here.

Ed Lufkin is a retired physician, a graduate of Carleton College and Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago. After 8 years of military medicine, he had his main career as an internist-endocrinologist at Rochester Mayo. He has taught several courses on medical topics for the Elder Collegium.

edwardlufkin4@gmail.com

Mike Harper is a retired lawyer, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, who spent his entire legal career at Faegre and Benson in Minneapolis.  He has taught several history courses for the Elder Collegium.

mike@harp3r.com

 

Dan van Tassel: American Nature Writers – Thoreau, Leopold, and Carson

8 Mondays, 9:30-11:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit: 20

In this course we’ll focus on three signal works, now classics, by American naturalists: Walden by Henry David Thoreau, A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, and The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson. The first two of the trio came to know intimately the land and its native flora and fauna. Thoreau plumbed the mysteries of a pond in the woods outside the village of Concord, Massachusetts. Leopold studied the rivers, lakes, soils, and plants and animals of rural Wisconsin. Carson, the third member of the trio, documented the splendors and rhythms, the chemistry and creatures, of the ocean from floor to surface. All three eloquently explored and expounded on the utility and beauty of the environment they came to know, honor, and love. Now in the throes of global warming, we cannot afford to ignore but need to return to and heed the findings and forecasts of these earlier ecologists as well as acknowledge and respond to the work of contemporary climate scientists.

For further information, click here.

Dan van Tassel, author of Back to Barron and articles on Shakespeare, Lawrence, Hardy, and Beckett, grew up in Wisconsin, graduated from St. Olaf College, and earned graduate degrees from the University of Iowa. He taught at Concordia College, Pacific Lutheran University, and Muskingum College, where he served as academic dean and professor of English. Upon retiring, he and his wife moved back to Northfield after a decade in southern California, where he was on the faculty at Cal State San Marcos. Previous Elder Collegium courses taught include Humor, Poetry 101, The British Isles, and most recently Sonnets and Soliloquies.

drvantassel2@gmail.com

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Rich Noer: It’s About Time

8 Mondays, 1:30-3:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit: 20

“The concept of time has never ceased to intrigue and puzzle those who think about it. We feel that, whatever happens, time must go on unceasingly and yet, when we come to analyze it, we find good reasons for rejecting the idea that time exists in its own right.” (G. J. Whitrow in The Nature of Time) Does time actually exist as an objective entity, or is it simply a construct of our minds? Does it have a beginning, and if so, what came before it?(!) How have people measured time, and how can we decide whether a particular measurement technique is valid? Why does the “arrow of time” always point toward the future, and can time travel to the past occur? In this course we’ll examine these and other questions about time, sometimes finding answers, other times discovering confusion. We’ll look at past views of time as cyclic as opposed to linear, how Einstein’s relativity theory upset the idea of a universal “now”, and how recent developments in cosmology and quantum theory bring into question other once settled ideas. Clearly we’ll be doing a good bit of history and philosophy as well as physics.

For further information, click here.

Rich Noer taught physics for 38 years at Carleton. Courses connecting physics with the humanities, usually through history and philosophy, were a special interest. His five previous courses in the Elder Collegium continued this interest.

rnoer@carleton.edu

Randall Ferguson: Music of the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars

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

In the Revolutionary War, soldiers’ campfire songs, chronicling the events of specific battles, were later accepted and used as historical documents.  Church hymns reflected the patriot spirit. In both the Revolutionary and Civil wars, battlefield signals were given by fife and drum to relay the orders to the troops. On the Union side alone, there were over 40,000 boy musicians under the age of 18, 300 under the age of 14, and 25 under the age of 10. It is believed that similar numbers were on the Confederate side. The Civil War was often referred to as “The Boys War.” These boys provided a crucial service to the war effort. In a very short time, they went from being a child to a hardened adult in a child’s body. Lincoln supported brass bands on the battlefield to boost the morale of the troops. In addition, they gave the soldiers a false sense of security.

Through government documents, photographs, newspaper stories, diaries and recordings, the history and role of military music in early America will be explored, not only as to its direct involvement in the wars, but how it affected the future of American music.

For further information, click here.

Randall Ferguson taught several classes in world ethnomusicology and music history at Hamline University from 1985 to 2005 and served as choral and instrumental music instructor in the Farmington Minnesota school district for 38 years.  A professional classical and flamenco guitarist, he is also the Senior Choir Director at the Northfield United Methodist Church.

rferguson@charter.net

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Kristin Twitchell: From Form to Free Verse – An Exploration of Poetry Styles

6 Tuesdays (Jan. 22–Feb. 26), 9:30-11:30
Paradise Center for the Arts, Faribault
Enrollment limit: 20

This course explores how contemporary poets use different poetic styles as a framework for their poetry. From ancient poetic forms like the Acrostic poem (Psalm 119 is an example), to traditional forms like the Sonnet and Sestina, to modern forms like Concrete poems and free verse poetry, we will explore how form “informs” the themes and reading of a poem. Come prepared to read, discuss and write as we experiment with various poetic styles and contemporary poets. The course will end with a class reading of either an original poem or a poem you discovered during the course.

For further information, click here.

Kristen Twitchell currently serves as the Executive Director of the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from the University of Michigan, and a BA in Writing from the Winona State University Honors Program. She is the recipient of the prestigious Stadler Semester for Younger Poets, where she studied under Molly Peacock, one of the foremost formalist poets in the US. Twitchell published her first chapbook through Bucknell University Press as part of the Stadler program. She has published poems in local and regional journals and did her undergraduate poetry internship with the Great River Review. She has taught writing and humanities courses at several different colleges over the years, along with community poetry workshops and courses. She lives in Northfield with her husband and 3 school-age children, surrounded by books and assorted pets and toys.

director@paradisecenterforthearts.org

Gary Iseminger: Philosophical Aesthetics – Arguments about Art

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

This is a course in the philosophy of art. We will use the tools of contemporary philosophy to discuss questions as general as: “What is a work of art?” “What makes an experience aesthetic?” “What are the arts?” and questions as specific as “Is there an art of food?”, “What makes a performance of a piece of music authentic?”, “What is wrong with a forgery of a painting?”. We will typically approach the general questions by way of some of the specific ones, which will often require us to make at least tentative stabs at the big ones.

The class’s readings consist mainly of arguments, that is, conclusions that are supported by reasons. We will extract and try to clarify and evaluate these arguments by identifying theses that are proposed as conclusions and premises that aim to justify them. We will then ask whether those premises entail the conclusion and, if they do, whether they are themselves plausibly true, so that the argument makes a plausible case for the thesis. We are unlikely to achieve certainty or unanimity, but we are bound to understand art and the aesthetic better for having engaged with these questions in this way.

For further information, click here.

Gary Iseminger is a retired professor of philosophy at Carleton, where he taught philosophical aesthetics, logic, and theory of knowledge for over forty years. He has published several books, including The Aesthetic Function of Art.

giseming@carleton.edu

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Steve Kelly & Eric Nelson: Hollywood Musicals

8 weeks, 2 sections: Wednesdays 9:30-11:30 and Fridays 9:30-11:30
Film showing (combined sections): Tuesdays 3:00
Northfield Retirement Center’s Nygaard Theater
Enrollment limit: 20 in each section

Ninety-one years ago film found its synchronized “voice”. But 1927’s The Jazz Singer didn’t just give voice to text, its six songs gave voice to music as well. Since then, musical films have had a significant place in American film history, sometimes at its center, sometimes at its periphery. In this course we’ll explore seven classic Hollywood film musicals. Some – West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Cabaret – began as theatrical productions. Others – Swing Time, Stormy Weather, Singin’ in the Rain – were conceived as movies. One, Beauty and the Beast, began as an animated feature, morphed into a highly successful stage musical, and morphed yet again into a live-action movie. We will be looking at its latest 2017 incarnation.

The class will be team-taught by Steve Kelly and Eric Nelson. Written introductions will be provided for each of the films. For those who don’t have access to the films (e.g. through Netflix) there will be a common viewing scheduled in the Nygaard Theater.

This is a repeat of a Winter 2018 course.

For further information, click here.

Eric Nelson is Professor Emeritus of English at St. Olaf College, where he taught film classes and screenwriting as well. He has taught numerous CVEC courses on film and directs its summer film festival. Stephen Kelly retired in 2011 from Carleton College after teaching music history and early music performance for thirty-seven years. For the Elder Collegium he has taught courses on jazz history and the American songbook. He plays sax and clarinet in Occasional Jazz.

nelsoner@stolaf.edu     skelly@carleton.edu

Ed Langerak: Pivotal Figures in Western Ethics

8 Wednesdays, 9:30-11:30
Kildahl Park Pointe
Enrollment limit: 16

This course begins by clarifying the concept of ethics and how it relates to law, etiquette, religion, morals, mores, feelings, intuitions, and one’s own moral training. Then for each of six weeks we discuss and compare two pivotal authors: Plato and Aristotle, Epicurus and Epictetus (Stoic), Augustine and Aquinas, Hume and Kant, Mill and Wollstonecraft, and Nietzsche and de Beauvoir. The final week we discuss how to cope with the different and conflicting (but often plausible) moral viewpoints as well as contradicting decisions on specific issues. This overview emphasizes breadth and connections rather than the in-depth treatment all of these thinkers deserve. And, although we do not avoid debate about specific controversial moral issues, the emphasis is on basic principles. Participant discussion is encouraged; previous knowledge of ethical theories is not assumed, but the value of the course is greatly enhanced by reading the suggested pages in The Great Conversation, by Norman Melchert (see the expanded description).

For the expanded description, click here.

Ed Langerak is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St Olaf College where he taught for 40 years, including in The Great Conversation program. He previously taught Elder Collegium courses on the role of religion in public life.

langerak@stolaf.edu

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Richard Collman: Cathedrals

8 Wednesdays, 1:30-3:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit: 20

Why do Christians build cathedrals, and what stimulated the frenzy of cathedral building in Europe from 1000-1300? Are new ones yet being constructed today? These and other questions will be examined in this course as history, architecture, and symbolism are looked at to usher us into meaning within these structures. There will also be an emphasis on the Washington National Cathedral and a field trip to one of the first cathedrals in this country. Time will be provided in class for people to share their “cathedral experiences” if they choose.

Students will find The Secret Language of Churches and Cathedrals by Richard Stemp useful. It will be available at Content Books. Other material will be available in duplicated format.

For further information, click here.

Richard Collman is a retired minister and musician, and has served as the Regional Co-Chair for the Washington National Cathedral for the state of MN. He developed his “cathedral complex” from travels in the British Isles and Europe, finding cathedrals an amazing mixture of faith, beauty, stone, music, and humorous gargoyles. Richard has taught numerous CVEC classes over the past decade.

rkcollman@msn.com

Mary Caroline Henry: Sex and the Evolution of Plants and Fungi

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

Why do plants need to have genders and sex? How have their methods of reproduction enabled the evolution of the plants we see around us? Why are fungi in a kingdom of their own, and how is their classification related to their (to us) weird forms of reproducing? And how have the evolution of plants and of fungi become intimately intertwined? We will learn answers to these and other questions and will try to look at as many live or preserved examples as we can.

For further information, click here.

Mary Caroline Henry was born to missionary parents in Egypt, grew up in North Carolina, and attended college and graduate school in Pennsylvania. She has taught biology at Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges. Although her areas of greatest expertise are animal behavior and neurobiology, she became interested in plant and fungal life cycles through teaching introductory biology at St. Olaf and wants to share that fascination with Elder Collegium students.

marycarolinehenry@gmail.com

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Tim Madigan: The 1960s – A Shared Experience

8 Thursdays, 9:30-11:30
Buckham West (formerly Faribault Senior Center)
Enrollment limit: 18

The 1960s in America was a time of change, conflict and controversy, as well as a historic moment experienced by all of us over the age of 60. The purpose of this class is to explore the history of the 1960s by touching on topics of the time through a variety of media, including sharing the experiences of class members.

The course is not intended to be a complete history of the era, but rather an opportunity to investigate the unique themes of the time. The course will include video clips, music, readings, and discussion of provocative issues.

This is a repeat of 2016 courses.

For further information, click here.

Tim Madigan retired from the city management profession after 35 years in five Minnesota cities, including Faribault and Northfield. He started his professional career as a high school history teacher. He has also served as an adjunct instructor at MSU Mankato.

tmadigan55@hotmail.com

 

John Matthews: The Life and Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

5 Thursdays (Jan. 3 – 31), 1:30-3:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit: 18

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life (1906-45) spanned four decades of the early twentieth century and was shaped within the crucible of two European wars and an economic depression. Born in 1906 and raised in an upper middle-class German family, he was schooled to be a pastor, further educated as a theologian, involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, and was finally hanged by the Nazis only days before the end of World War II. His life story is more than one more tragic episode in the history and horrors of the Holocaust. His was also a life filled with great blessing, even when requiring great courage and incredible sacrifice. The authenticity of Bonhoeffer’s Christian faith and the integrity of his theology continues to inspire people today. During that time when most people understandably struggled to protect their own lives, as well as the lives of those they loved, he often ventured by faith into uncertain territory, risking his reputation – and life – to advocate for others. Rarely does one encounter an individual whose inner convictions and outward actions so consistently and courageously match-up. Certainly a gifted pastor and theologian, Bonhoeffer has also been called a 20th century martyr for Christ. The course will look at five different aspects of Bonhoeffer’s legacy: theology, ecclesiology, ethics, resistance, and community.

This is a shortened revision of a Winter 2016 course.

For further information, click here.

John Matthews is the senior pastor of Grace Lutheran Church (Apple Valley), adjunct instructor at Augsburg University (Minneapolis), and past-President of the International Bonhoeffer Society – English Language Section.

johnwaltermatt@gmail.com

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Bill Carlson: The United States Economic Story

8 Fridays, 9:30-11:30
FiftyNorth 106
Enrollment limit: 20

This course will begin with the industrial revolution in Britain. That foundation will be linked to a rapidly expanding economy, which led to world economic leadership by 1900. Economic change will be traced from that time through and after the great 20th century depression, examining factors leading to the collapse and the lessons learned. The more egalitarian economy after World War II and the changes leading to our present economy will be explored. We will be viewing this later part of history from personal memory. Background readings for each class will be supplied through the “One Drive”. We will provide an easy way for you to access that material as a member of the class. The longer online course description shows the ideas from each class.

This is a repeat of earlier courses.

For further information, click here.

Bill Carlson is Professor Emeritus in Economics at St. Olaf College. His principal teaching emphasis was statistics and quantitative economics. He led a number of International Study Programs to many places in the world. He has written three textbooks, numerous papers, including considerable research on highway accidents. He was the only member of the St. Olaf faculty with an undergraduate degree in Mining Engineering and an honorary election to Phi Beta Kappa.

carlsoncharbill@msn.com