Course Descriptions: Winter 2021

More information on most courses, including schedule and recommended readings, can be found online as indicated at the end of each description.

All courses will be presented online. For more details, click here.

All courses begin the week of January 4.

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Dan Van Tassel: Thomas Hardy—Novelist and Poet
8 Mondays (Jan. 4 – Feb. 22), 9:30-11:30
Enrollment limit: 15

It will be our pleasure to read and discuss two of Hardy’s great novels, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. The title characters encounter various strains of Christianity and counterfeit Christianity in a quest to define true morality, which for Hardy is synonymous with charity.  Here the author’s descriptive and visionary powers are at their height and tug at our imagination and soul.  We’ll witness the evocative Wessex landscapes replete with wildlife, dairy farms and fields, country churches, haunting legendary artifacts and architecture, and the glorified city of Christminster; the rhythm of passing seasons and the transitioning of folk from venerable old ways and traditions into the vicissitudes of the modern world; and characters playing out absorbing storylines tracing their fateful destinies. We’ll also get acquainted with a sampling of Hardy’s poetry, in which he poignantly and artfully registers regret at the loss of peace or love or faith.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Van Tassel

Dan Van Tassel graduated from St. Olaf College, earned graduate degrees from the University of Iowa, and taught at Concordia College, Pacific Lutheran University, Muskingum College, and Cal State San Marcos.  Previous CVEC courses offered include Humor, Poetry 101, The British Isles, Sonnets and Soliloquies, and American Nature Writers.
drvantassel2@gmail.com

Richard Bodman: Four by Ursula LeGuin
8 Tuesdays (Jan. 5 – Feb. 23), 9:30-11:30
Enrollment limit: 15

Over her prolific career, Ursula Le Guin (1929-2018) elevated both fantasy and science fiction to high literary art, winning many Hugo and Nebula Awards and the 2014 National Book Award. Scifi was for thought-experiments: Could a society thrive without sex roles, without a constant sexual drive? Could a society function without the institution of the state? Fantasy was for retracing the journey of the self, from immaturity to full selfhood, in epic form. If you’re interested in dragons and Taoism, marriage, mind-speech, and literary magery, please join in reading four novels this winter: A Wizard of Earthsea [1968], The Left Hand of Darkness [1969], The Dispossessed [1974], and Lavinia [2008]. We will also read selections from her essays and poems.

For further information go to cvec.org/Bodman

Richard Bodman is a retired professor of Asian Studies and Chinese from St. Olaf College who has taught Elder Collegium courses on China, Afghanistan, and fantasy and science fiction since 1995.
bodmanr317@aol.com

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Jim Rafferty: Color Vision: Psychology, Physics, Neuroscience, Philosophy…
8 Tuesdays (Jan. 5 – Feb. 23), 1:30-3:30
Enrollment limit: 15

Perceiving colors is something that we take as a given.  Color is an integral part of the world in which we live; it provides beauty, stimulates our imagination, gives information, and much more.  Yet, perceiving colors is neither simple nor straightforward.  We will examine the characteristics of our world that provide the stimuli that result in our perception of colors; this is the external information that is available to us.  Our visual system processes some of that information; our physiology determines how that external information is transformed into internal information.  The internal information is represented very differently from the external information; that internal information generates a construction of reality.  We will also examine this process in other organisms, real and hypothetical.  My goal will be to help you understand how color vision occurs but also to think critically about how perception must operate in any system that functions in the world.

The only required readings will be provided by email.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Rafferty

Jim Rafferty taught psychology for 39 years at Bemidji State University, after earning his Ph.D in Mathematical Psychology at UCLA.  He taught a wide variety of courses, but his strongest interests were perception, cognition, and neuroscience.  This will be the first course he has taught in CVEC.
cejmraff@gmail.com

Andrea Een: “Only Connect”—Two Novels by E.M. Forster and Their Film Versions
8 Wednesdays (Jan. 6 – Feb.24), 9:30-11:30
Enrollment limit: 15

E.M. Forster (1879-1970) is one of the most celebrated British writers. We will read two of his finest novels, Howards End from 1908 and Passage to India from 1924. Then we will discuss the excellent films made from these novels, the first (1992) by Merchant-Ivory and the second (1984) by David Lean. We will consider what is gained and lost by these film adaptations.Both novels deal with the British class system and the conflict of genders in a male-dominated world. They differ in that HE shows an Edwardian England that is fast industrializing and thereby losing its connection to the countryside and its rich cultural past. PTI is a study of one of the last decades of British rule in India and the great gulf between oppressive colonial Brits and their Muslim and Hindu subjects. Mores and cultural attitudes clash regarding religion, purdah, and proper etiquette that leads to comic as well as tragic results.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Een.

Andrea Een taught music for 40 years, the last 35 at St. Olaf College. In addition, she performed with the Minnesota Opera Orchestra for 27 years and was a frequent chamber music player and solo player on violin, viola, and the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. E.M. Forster is her favorite early 20th century novelist.
een@stolaf.edu

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Carol Trosset : Timing in Nature
8 Wednesdays (Jan. 6 – Feb.24), 1:30-3:30
Enrollment limit: 15

Phenology is the study of when things happen in nature, such as the migration of birds and the blooming of wildflowers.  The timing of many of these events is being affected by climate change.  Data collected by amateur “citizen scientists” have made important contributions to this field.This course is intended for nonscientists.  No prior knowledge is assumed about phenology, nature study, or how to read scientific research papers.Each week we will focus on a different group of animals or plants, using three approaches: (1) reading and discussing short articles, provided by email as pdf files and mostly focused on northern North America, (2) working with on-line photographs and other resources to practice the skills needed to observe these species, and (3) examining web sites hosting related citizen science projects.  Perhaps you will find one you want to participate in come spring!

For further information, go to cvec.org/Trosset


Carol Trosset has a master’s degree in biology and is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Instructor.  She began studying natural history as a child in southwestern Ohio and throughout her life has developed these interests and skills through nature activity groups, short courses, volunteer work, and travel.
caroltrosset@gmail.com

Kathy Sandberg & Deb Scheil: Connecting with Young People Across Generations
8 Thursdays (Jan. 7 – Feb. 25), 9:30-11:30
Enrollment limit: 15

The gap between generations is about more than the number of years between them. It is about the rapid pace of change in the world and the influence of society, technology, and environment. This interactive course will ground participants in their own growing-up experiences and explore the realities of young people today. Participants will also explore the nature of relationships between generations. Using a combination of research data, personal experiences, local resources, and academic sources, the course will explore the gap that may exist between generations through the lenses of social interactions, technology, human evidence-based strategies, will assist participants in enriching their relationships with the young people in their lives.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Sandberg

Kathy Sandberg has been a teacher, worked with people in alcohol and other drug use services, and most recently served as the Coordinator for the Rice County Family Services Collaborative. One of Kathy’s favorite activities is spending time with her own grandchildren, ages 10, 13, and 16.
ksandberg315@outlook.com

 

Deb Scheil spent most of her 39-year teaching career in the intermediate grades in the traditional and charter school settings. Staying connected to youth is important to Deb and motivates her to continue volunteering in the schools. She also enjoys spending time and learning with her own grandchildren, ages 1 to 10.
scheil@hickorytech.net

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Pat Johnson: The Enigma of Health
8 Thursdays (Jan. 7 – Feb. 25), 1:30-3:30
Enrollment limit: 15

Health is puzzling and inexplicable.  Health speaks in riddles and is full of hidden meaning.  Health is a condition of hidden harmony.  It is only when there is a disturbance that we reflect on health and are drawn to address questions about our human condition and it limits. We will explore some of these experiences, especially illness (including the COVID-19 pandemic) and death, and ask how they move us to understand and accept our finitude. We will also ask how these limit situations show us the possibilities of living together in active and rewarding engagement with everyday activities.The Enigma of Health, by Hans-Georg Gadamer (Stanford UP, 1996), available in hardback and paperback editions, is the primary text.  Summaries of the assigned chapters and additional readings will be made available.  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 has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto.  She was a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Dayton for thirty-five years.  She is currently professor emerita and distinguished service professor.
pjohnson2@udayton.edu

John Barbour:
The Novels of Marilynne Robinson

8 Fridays(Jan. 8 – Feb. 26), 9:30-11:30
Enrollment limit: 15

Marilynne Robinson’s series of novels set in the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa, during the 1950s has received widespread acclaim. This course involves close reading and discussion of the first three: Gilead, Home, and Lila. A fourth novel, Jack, was published in September 2020. We will also read several essays by Robinson that illuminate her fiction. The class will discuss Robinson’s literary techniques involving plot, setting, dialogue, characterization, and the narrator’s voice and point of view. Among the rich themes we will discuss: the meanings of home, family conflicts and love, race in American history, moral guilt and responsibility, marriage, and small towns. The Gilead novels explore profound religious ideas such as forgiveness, faith, suffering, the role of a minister, visions and conversions, and the meanings of biblical passages and symbols. Robinson portrays how Christian believers and doubters search for truth, relationship, and a good 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 is 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.
barbourj@stolaf.edu

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Perry Mason: The Philosophy of Plato
8 Fridays (Jan. 8 – Feb. 26), 1:30-3:30
Enrollment limit: 15

Plato is well known as the successor to Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle, as the middle figure in that Grand Trinity of ancient Greek philosophy. While Socrates remained content to say ironically that the only thing he knew was that he didn’t know anything else, Plato used Socrates’ dialectical method of reasoning to try to answer the full range of philosophical questions that had fascinated Greek thinkers for two centuries. By the time he died, Plato had developed a systematic intellectual view of the world and our place in it that stands yet today as a major philosophical archetype. The fullest single account that we have of his comprehensive philosophical position is his dialogue, Republic, which runs to well over 300 pages in standard editions. We will read and discuss roughly two-thirds of Republic. This is an online version of a course previously taught in the classroom.

For further information, go to cvec.org/Mason


Perry Mason taught philosophy at Carleton for over thirty years, including an annual course on ancient Greek philosophy. He has taught several CVEC courses and currently serves as the program’s Curriculum Director.
pmason@carleton.edu

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