Course Descriptions, Winter 2020
More information on courses, including weekly schedule and recommended readings, can be found as indicated at the end of each description.
All courses begin the week of January 6, unless otherwise indicated.

John Barbour: Middlemarch

8 Mondays (Jan. 6—Feb. 24), 9:30-11:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit: 18

George Eliot’s Middlemarch (published 1872) is the classic Victorian novel, and by most accounts one of the greatest novels of any time or place. This course involves close reading and discussion of the novel, focusing each week on one of its eight Books. Among many themes we will discuss: the challenges of marriage, the possibility of morality with and without belief in God, the impact of change on rural England, the roles of women, Eliot’s psychological insights, the search for meaningful work and vocation, relationships between older and younger generations, and the historical and intellectual backgrounds of the novel. We will consider Eliot’s literary techniques, especially characterization, plotting, and the narrator’s perspective and voice. Using several recent studies of Eliot’s remarkable life, the instructor will sometimes interpret the novel as what one biographer calls “the transferred life of George Eliot”—that is, the ways in which Middlemarch grows out of the author’s experience. If you engage deeply with Middlemarch, you will have one of the most engrossing, profound, and satisfying reading experiences of your life.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Barbour

John Barbour was a Professor of Religion at St. Olaf College for 36 years until his retirement in 2018. His academic field was Religion and Literature, focusing on the modern novel and religious autobiography from Augustine to the present. He has written four scholarly books and Renunciation: A Novel.



Richard Noer: It’s About Time

8 Mondays (Jan. 6 – Feb. 24), 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.

This is a repeat of a Winter 2019 course.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Noer

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.



Richard Jorgensen: A Long and Winding Road—How the Bible Became the Bible

6 Tuesdays (Jan. 21, 28; Feb. 4, 11, 18, 25), 9:30-11:30
Mill City Senior Living, Faribault
Enrollment limit: 20

The book that has come to be known as “The Bible” is both the source of and the record of the faith and faith history of Judaism and Christianity, and, as such, has accompanied those religious communities on the “long and winding road” of their journey from the mists of pre-history to our present age of “modernity.” Of course the Bible is not a “book,” but a small library of books: Poetry, histories, stories, songs, sermons, letters, philosophy, religious instruction, and much more; written by a variety of authors, addressed to diverse communities, over the course of thousands of years—all before the invention of the printing press.

But why these books? Who decided? How did they survive for millennia in a pre-printing world? What caused them to achieve the status of “holy scripture” in the Judeo-Christian tradition? And—beyond the religious context—what of the oft-heard claim that the Bible is “the world’s most influential book?”

These and other questions will form the outline of this six-session course. Although we will examine some of the interpretive principles that have been applied to the Bible throughout history, this class will present no particular denominational or spiritual point of view; our curiosity has to do with the story of the Bible itself.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Jorgensen

Richard (Dick) Jorgensen grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota, and received degrees from Augustana College, the University of Minnesota, and Luther Seminary. He was ordained in 1976 and served parishes in Minneapolis, Anchorage, and Faribault, where he retired in 2013 after serving as senior pastor of First English Lutheran Church for twenty-four years.



John Robison: Key Modern U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

8 Tuesdays (Jan. 7—Feb. 25), 9:30-11:30
FiftyNorth 106
Enrollment limit: 18

Most people are aware of the results of important U.S. Supreme Court decisions, but few non-lawyers understand how and why the Court reached those conclusions. The primary purpose of this course is to explain and discuss the legal reasoning and analysis behind those cases. Was the Court right? In the process, we will address the role of the Court in our government and our society.

We will also address three continuing themes: Should the issue in this case be resolved by the Court or by the legislature? Does this opinion follow the law, or just reflect the desired outcome of the Justice who wrote it? Is the Constitution alive or dead?

Each participant should have access to a copy of the Constitution and purchase a paperback copy of Michael G. Trachtman’s The Supremes’ Greatest Hits (2016 edition; available at Content and online for about $10), which provides a nice overview of most of the cases we will be discussing. However, it will not be necessary to read all of the cases. The instructor will recommend certain opinions as interesting reading for those who wish to do so. The opinions are available online for no charge from several sources.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Robison

John Robison was a business lawyer for 41 years, spending most of that time in Madison, Wisconsin. He followed U.S. Supreme Court decisions during that time as a hobby.




Robert Entenmann: One Hundred Years of Chinese Communism

8 Tuesdays (Jan. 7—Feb. 25), 1:30-3:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit:18

China is one of only five Communist-led countries in the twenty-first century, and by far the most powerful. This course examines how Chinese Communism evolved over the last hundred years. In the early twentieth century, China was an empire in decline. The Qing dynasty fell in 1911, but hopes for fundamental change remained unfulfilled. The Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang) sought to create a united and modern Chinese republic. But to many, this was not enough. Communism promised liberation from class exploitation and imperialist aggression. In 1921, Mao Zedong and other young revolutionaries, inspired by the Russian Revolution, founded the Chinese Communist Party. After a lengthy and bitter struggle, the Communists, under Mao’s leadership, defeated the Nationalists in 1949 and established the People’s Republic of China. Nine years later, Mao’s utopian vision inspired the Great Leap Forward, an experiment that failed disastrously. In 1966 Mao and his supporters launched the Cultural Revolution, which led to horrendous consequences. After Mao’s death in 1976, the Communist Party abandoned his program, and China has since evolved into a society with a dynamic private sector. The Chinese Communist Party, however, remains in power, autocratic and still ostensibly committed to Communist goals.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Entenmann

Robert Entenmann is Professor Emeritus of History and Asian Studies at St. Olaf College, where he taught Chinese history for 36 years. (He also taught three courses at Carleton and is married to a Carl.)  His first of twenty visits to China was in 1972, during the Cultural Revolution.


Art Higinbotham: Climate Change—History, Causes and Consequences

8 Wednesdays (Jan. 8—Feb. 26,), 9:30-11:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit: 18

The subject of global warming is very much in the news these days. Exactly what its contours are, how it might be measured, what its cause or causes might be, and indeed whether it even exists are much debated issues. This course will look in detail at the more general issue of climate change, not merely at changes occurring right now, but rather at broader issues of climate change past, present, and future. Readings from Mark Maslin’s Climate Change, brief lectures by the instructor, and presentations by two visiting speakers will provide grist and motivation for class discussions on these vital issues.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Higinbotham

Art Higinbotham has an A.B. from Amherst College in Physical Chemistry and an S.M. from MIT in Chemical Engineering. He has served as an Instructor in Chemical Engineering, 1960-61 at MIT, as an Engineer with Esso Standard Eastern, Bombay, India, 1961-1964, and as an Engineer, Manufacturing Director, Technical Director, Division Vice President, and Group Vice President of 3M Co., 1964-1996, including a stint as Engineering and Manufacturing Manager of 3M Brasil, 1969-1973. In retirement, he attended the University of Minnesota Law School, 1996-1998.





Solveig Zempel: The Plays of Henrik Ibsen

8 Wednesdays (Jan. 8—Feb. 26), 9:30-11:30
Fifty North 106
Enrollment limit: 18

This class will introduce students to one of the world’s greatest playwrights, Henrik Ibsen. We will read and discuss a selection (six or seven) of Ibsen’s major plays as well as some supplementary readings for additional context. Classes will consist of short lecture/presentation, clips of performances, reading and acting out scenes from the texts, and discussion by class participants. Those who are interested might want to attend the Jungle Theater presentation of Doll House II, which brings back Nora, the main character in Ibsen’s Doll House, to show what happened to her after “the door slam heard around the world.”

This is a revision of a course previously offered Spring term, 2015.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Zempel

Solveig Zempel is Professor of Norwegian Emerita at St. Olaf College. For many years she taught courses in Norwegian literature as well as a semester-long course on Ibsen that focused on ethical issues in Ibsen’s plays.



Jim Holden: Writers Talk about Writing

5 Wednesdays (Jan. 8, 15, 22, 29; Feb. 5), 1:30-3:30
Kildahl Park Pointe
Enrollment limit: 18

Maybe you’re not a writer, but you love to read and you’ve often wondered what motivates people to put pen to paper. Where do they get their ideas? How do they do it? How long do they have to practice before they become good writers? Or are they born geniuses, like Mozart?

This five-week course will address these and other questions as local writers share their thoughts about being writers. Speakers  include the following: novelists Chris Norburg and Kaethe Schwenn; poets Toni Easterson, Riki Nelson, and Rob Hardy; sports and children’s writer Packy Maeder; children’s author Mary Beth Bleckwehl; nonfiction writers Jane McDonnell, Joy Riggs, and Deborah Appleman; and journalists Scott Richardson and Cory Butler. Each session will address a particular type of writing: (1) nonfiction,  (2) novels and short stories, (3) poetry, (4) children’s literature and sports writing, and (5) journalistic writing.

Required reading will include short essays on writing and excerpts from Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead: a Writer on Writing. Visiting speakers will discuss their work and answer “student” questions. Students will not be required to read works by our panelists, but they may have an opportunity to purchase books by the authors.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Holden

Jim Holden, a retired Northfield High School English teacher and St. Olaf education professor, is the author of A History of Boys’ High School Tennis in Minnesota; A Yank in Queen Elizabeth’s Court; and Heron Thieves, a Bat out of Hell, and other Flyfishing Stories, Essays, and Poems. This is the seventh course he has taught in CVEC.



Perry Mason: Philosophy Before Socrates

8 Thursdays (Jan. 9—Feb. 27), 9:30-11:30
Fifty North 106
Enrollment limit: 18

Most educated persons know that Western philosophy burst into full flower in the late fifth century and the fourth century BCE in the brilliant intellectual careers of Socrates (470-399), Plato (429-348), and Aristotle (384-22). But this blossoming was preceded by nearly two centuries of serious, inventive philosophy in Greece.

This course will look at the philosophical perspectives, conclusions, and reasoning of the major thinkers of this period. Not much of their writings has survived to our time—we have only snippets, usually quotations or summaries in others’ writings about them, universally designated as “fragments.” These fragments comprise fewer than 170 pages in the edition to be used in this course. But in them we will find the first Western theories of matter, the first philosophical theology, a theory of the evolution of life forms, and the first atomic theory of matter, as well as paradoxical claims that motion and even multiplicity are impossible in the real world.

A repeat of a course offered earlier in CVEC.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Mason

Perry Mason is a Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Carleton, where he taught philosophy of religion and ancient Greek philosophy for over 30 years. He has taught several courses in CVEC and currently serves as the program’s Curriculum Director.


Richard Schulte: Electricity in Your Past, Present, and Future

8 Thursdays (Jan. 9—Feb. 27), 1:30-3:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit: 18

In recent years, 80% of the energy used in the U.S. economy has been derived from the mining and burning of fossil fuels – natural gas, oil and coal. Part of U.S. society now believes that carbon dioxide (CO2) discharged to the atmosphere during the combustion of fossil fuels poses an evolving threat to the existence of mankind. That part of society further believes that fossil fuels should be left in the ground, energy use should be made more efficient, and the U.S. economy should migrate to using renewable energy sources (falling water, sunlight and wind), along with nuclear power. A potential way to accomplish this migration is to make increased use of electricity derived from renewable sources.

This course will address the opportunities and the challenges present in shifting consumers from fossil fuel to electricity use for space heating and cooling, water heating, transportation, and industrial applications. Renewable resources, by nature, are intermittent sources of energy. The course will explore obstacles to and alternatives for making energy from intermittent sources available 24 hours per day. Anticipated impacts of electricity-from-renewables on land use and aesthetics, transmission line needs, power system reliability and electricity pricing will be discussed with the help of invited, outside experts.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Schulte

Richard Schulte was raised in South Dakota. He holds degrees in Electrical Engineering and in Aeronautics and Astronautics. Richard served in the U.S. Air Force and then worked thirty years in U.S. electric and gas utility industries. He also participated in the management and governance of technical standards development for U.S. industry at large. In retirement, Richard has been a management consultant, the owner/operator of a home improvement business, a member of the City of Northfield Planning Commission, and boiler operator for St. Dominic School.



Tim Madigan: The Sins, Glories, and Music of the 1960s

8 Fridays (Jan. 10—Feb. 28), 9:30-11:30
Fifty North 106
Enrollment limit: 18

 “We would like to live as we once lived, but history will not permit it.”

John F. Kennedy

The 1960s in America was a time of change, conflict, and great music, as well as a historic moment experienced by all of us now 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 class members’ memories of their own experiences.

The course is not intended to be a complete history of the period, rather to investigate the major themes of the time and its unique aspects. It will include music, video clips, readings, and discussion of provocative issues.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Madigan

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


Randall Ferguson: Music of Early Minnesota

8 Fridays (Jan. 10—Feb. 28), 1:30-3:30
Village on the Cannon
Enrollment limit: 18

A music history course covering both popular and serious music in the territorial and early statehood days of Minnesota. Topics will include An Overview of Native American Music in the Territory, Songs of the Voyageurs, Music at Fort Snelling, 19th Century Parlor Songs,  Scandinavian and German Music of Immigration and Emigration, The Hutchinson Family Singers, History of the Minneapolis Symphony, (later renamed Minnesota Orchestra), The Schubert Club.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Ferguson

Randall Ferguson taught music in the Farmington school system for 38 years and for 20 years taught several classes in world ethnomusicology and music at Hamline University. He is a professional classical and flamenco guitarist and regularly presents recitals on antique and modern guitars. He is also the Senior Choir Director at the Northfield United Methodist Church.