CVEC is offering fifteen courses for Spring 2024, fourteen in person and one via Zoom. This page contains (1) a summary listing of the title, instructor, time and place of each course, and (2) a full description of each course with a brief biography of each instructor.

To view that information, start by scrolling down the list of courses. When you want to view the full information about a course and instructor, click on the “down” arrow near the right-hand margin of the page opposite the course name. The full course description will appear immediately below, and the arrow you clicked will become an “up” arrow. To hide the course description again, click on that “up” arrow and the course description will again be hidden.

We invite you to register for one or more courses by using the online form in this website. IMPORTANT NOTE: YOU ARE NOT ENROLLED IN A COURSE UNTIL YOU RECEIVE AN EMAIL CONFIRMATION OF YOUR ENROLLMENT FROM CVEC. We recommend that you NOT purchase the course materials until you receive that confirmation. If you have not heard from CVEC one week before classes are to start, then please contact Nicole Barnette at nbarnette@cvec,org to determine your status. Please review the “Registration Process” document in this website for a detailed description of the rules for registration.

Dan Van Tassel:  Poetry 101
8 Mondays; March 25-May 13, 9:30-11:30
Village on the Cannon Community Room
Enrollment limit:  20

Dan Van Tassel is author of Back to Barron, a chronicle of growing up in small-town America at mid-century; Journey by the Book: A Guide to Tales of Travel; and articles on Shakespeare, Hardy, Lawrence, and Beckett.  He graduated from St. Olaf College, earned graduate degrees from the University of Iowa, and taught literature at Pacific Lutheran University, Muskingum College, and Cal State San Marcos. This will be the eleventh CVEC course, all different, he has taught.

Overview: This course welcomes both those who have been turned off on poetry from the get-go and those who have been enjoying reading—maybe even writing or memorizing—poetry all along. The poems selected for our focus, all quite short, encompass traditional and free verse, represent voices both male and female, and range in composition from the Renaissance down to current times, some the work of laureates. We’ll get familiar with elements of prosody and figurative language and become attuned to the way in which in poetry sound and sense uniquely reinforce each other. 

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  The design of the syllabus and calendar of readings will have us taking up the poems neither chronologically by date of composition nor alphabetically by authors but by groups according to form (sonnets, elegies, dramatic monologues, odes, lyrics), common theme (such as war, love, despair, reflection, or celebration), and narrative structure. For our reading and discussion, we’ll allocate a half-dozen—give or take one or two—poems per session.

The syllabus below pinpoints, by title and author, the poems assigned for discussion on given dates. A week or so prior to our first session, you’ll be emailed, as an attachment, a class roster to help you start getting acquainted with other members of the course. At the time you register for the course, you can purchase a printed course packet in advance for $8 and have it delivered to your home address. In way of priming the pump, the course packet includes notes, study guides, and discussion questions for each of the poems.

For an anthology, we’ll use Joseph Kelly’s Seagull Book of Poems (W. W. Norton, preferably 3rd or 4th edition), an inexpensive paperback with a glossary of terms, biographical sketches, and an intro providing helpful commentary on imagery and types of poems, meter, rhyme, and stanza patterns; the contents are conveniently arranged by poets’ names in alphabetical order. Used copies of the poetry book (in various editions, any of which will work for our purposes) can be ordered through, Abe Books, thrift books, and other online vendors for between three to six dollars. It may make for a bit of a scramble, but many of the poems are online and included in other anthologies available at libraries and bookstores.

Week 1:  First, we’ll verify the course roster and take time to get acquainted with each other.  After briefly orienting ourselves to the course packet, I’ll introduce some principles and elements basic to poetry.  Then together we’ll read and discuss a potpourri of six short poems, four of which being exquisite expressions of love, the other two occupied with compelling social issues:  Herrick, “Upon Julia’s Clothes”; Campion, “There is a Garden in Her Face”; Burns, “A Red, Red Rose”; Elizabeth Browning, “How Do I Love Thee?”; Hughes, “Harlem”; and Brooks, “We Real Cool.”

Week 2: We’ll review characteristics of the sonnet form and, having beforehand read the assigned sampling of sonnets and addressed the pertinent study guides for them, engage in discussion of Shakespeare, Sonnets 18, 73, and 130; Donne, Sonnet 14; Hardy, “Hap”; Collins, “Sonnet”; and Heaney, “The Forge.”

Week 3: We’ll go over background information on elegies as poetic meditations on death and, having checked out the study guides for each of the assigned poems, occupy ourselves in discussing Housman, “To an Athlete Dying Young”; Cummins, “Buffalo Bill’s”; Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays”; Wordsworth, “She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways”; Rossetti, “After Death”; Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”; and Heaney, “Digging.”

Week 4: Today we’ll discuss and compare selected poems reflecting on war, namely:  Yeats, “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”; Hardy, “Channel Firing” and “The Man He Killed”; Sassoon, “Dreamers”; Owen, “Dulce Et Decorum Est”; Jarrell, “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”; and Komunyakaa, “We Never Know.”  Again, prepare for class by reading (and rereading) the poems closely and taking account of the relevant study guides.

Week 5: We mount a discussion today of a bevy of poems that celebrate a special event:  Collins, “On Turning Ten”; Kinnell, “Blackberry Eating”; Lee, “The Gift”; Rossetti, “A Birthday”; Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”; Housman, “Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now”; Williams, “This Is Just to Say”; and Wallace, “Building an Outhouse.”   Be sure to make use of the study questions geared for these poems.

Week 6: Today we’ll be discussing an assortment of poems exploring social injustice, domestic disharmony, and hate and lack of charity:  Blake, “A Poison Tree” and “The Chimney Sweeper”; Robert Browning, “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”; Frost, “Acquainted with the Night”; Dove, “Daystar”; Piercy, “Barbie Doll”; and Jarman, “Unholy Sonnet.”  Again, besides reading the specified poems, go over the respective study guides.

Week 7: Our discussion today centers on a handful of poems that busy themselves telling a story or recounting an impressive incident.   Either in advance or while or after reading each of the assigned poems, ponder the questions and observations in the study guides and jot down any additional questions or observations you wish to share in class.  The narrative poems we’re focusing on are Larkin, “Church Going”; Bishop, “The Fish”; Stafford, “Traveling through the Dark”; Heaney, “Mid-Term Break”; and Thomas, “Fern Hill.”

Week 8: We wrap up the course with a potpourri of poems exploring a variety of subjects and perspectives and showcasing different techniques and forms of versification. These include Herbert, “Prayer”; Arnold, “Dover Beach”; Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”; Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”; Auden, “Musee des Beaux Arts”; and Stokesbury, “Unsent Message to My Brother in His Pain.” The study questions are likely to aid your understanding and appreciation of these poems.

Steven Soderlind:  “The Worldly Philosophers”—Still Relevant
8 Mondays; March 25-May 13, 9:30-11:30
Northfield Community College Classroom
Enrollment limit:  20

Steven Soderlind taught economics at St. Olaf College for over forty years, specializing in urban and regional economies, social choice, and the history of economic thought. He also led international travel studies and taught across the curriculum in statistics, great works, and the history of science.

Overview:  This course will explore the history of political economy—sometimes called social economics—with the help of Robert Heilbroner’s famous and still relevant The Worldly Philosophers, covering contributions from the likes of Smith, Ricardo, Mill, Marx, Veblen, Weber, Hayek, and others. This subject area is widely overlooked these days under the influence of abstract economic theory and related scientific aspiration, with the result that rich and still consequential sources of wisdom about social organization, technology and human nature are ignored or widely misunderstood. Political economy responded to historical realities, including social unrest, industrialization, and ramifying technologies. It asked questions like: Who dominates decision making? Are human needs being met? Are there shortages or gluts? Might there be a natural system of social organization to replace kings, bishops, and moguls? Might constitutional government reshape outcomes?

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  Our core text will be Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers, (New York, Touchstone, 1999); available via for less than $15 new or $4 used.  Other readings will be distributed via a coursebook at an additional cost of $13.

The Heilbroner text and ancillary readings cover key concepts for this course.  Lectures and discussions will clarify arguments and expand on biographical and historical contexts.  

As we explore competing and controversial ideas, good notes will be useful for recall and discussion.  Finally, the internet provides a wealth of resources on Heilbroner, economic thought, social philosophy, and history. Play with your favorite search engine and explore for yourself.

Week 1:    Roots of our study.  Heilbroner, Chs. 1 and 2: “Introduction” and “The Economic Revolution”

Week 2:  Classical Economists I: Smith, Malthus, and Ricardo.  Heilbroner, Chs. 3 and 4, “The Wonderful World of Adam Smith” and “The Gloomy Presentiments of Malthus and Ricardo.” (plus excerpts from Smith in coursebook)

Week 3:  Classical Economists II: Owen, Mill, and Marx.  Heilbroner, Chs. 5 and 6, “Dreams of the Utopian Socialists” and “The Inexorable System of Karl Marx.” (plus excerpts from Mill and Marx in coursebook)

Week 4:  Abstract Markets and Claims of Efficiency.  Heilbroner, Ch. 7, “The Victorian World and the Underworld of Economics”—with notes on Mises, Hayek, Samuelson

Week 5:  Critiques of the Laissez-Faire Market System.  Heilbroner, Chs. 8, 9, and 10, “The Savage Society of Thorstein Veblen,” “The Heresies of John Maynard Keynes,” and “The Contradictions of Joseph Schumpeter.” The lecture will also touch on contributions from August Cournot and Joan Robinson.

Week 6:  Economic Systems. Read Heilbroner, Ch. 11, “The End of the Worldly Philosophy?” This session will begin with the Great Debate between Ludwig Mises and Oskar Lange (1930s), leading to various historical systems: State Capitalism (Soviet-style Central Planning), Free Market Capitalism, Mixed Economies, and Welfare States. 

Week 7:  Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), “Introduction,” Ch. 1, “Economic and Political Freedom,” and Ch. 2, “The Role of Government in a Free Society.” (In coursebook) The lecture will also touch on contributions from Friedrich Hayek and Gunnar Myrdal.

Week 8:  Contemporary Issues: distribution, global warming, and confusion. Arthur Okun, Equality and Efficiency (Washington DC: Brookings, 1975 – find a 16-page summary approved by Brookings in coursebook.) McKinsey & Co., “Pathways to a Low-Carbon Economy” (excerpts in coursebook). This report from 2009 ponders the reduction of atmospheric carbon to limit the global temperature increase to 2oC in 2030.  Social media and the ascent of lies, deceptions, and fabrications.

Peter Bailey: ‘Everyone Loves His Illusions’—Films of Woody Allen
8 Wednesdays; March 27- May 15, 9:30-11:30 (note change in day and time)
On-line via Zoom
Enrollment limit:  15
Peter Bailey head shot

Peter Bailey is Piskor Professor of English Emeritus at St. Lawrence University.  His teaching and writing focus on literary and film criticism.  He is the author of Reading Stanley Elkin (1985), The Reluctant Film Art of Woody Allen(2003, 2nd ed. 2016)and Rabbit (Un)Redeemed: The Drama of Belief in John Updike’s Fiction (2006), along with edited volumes on Allen, Kubrick, J.D. Salinger, and Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. For CVEC he has taught courses on the films of Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese.

Overview:  In the view of a roustabout in Shadows and Fog (1992), the illusions everyone loves are those of Armstead, the circus magician. Armstead’s creator’s non-cinematic illusions have garnered a much more mixed response. Nonetheless, Woody Allen has created the most various and prolific film oeuvre of any living American director, and his movies remain as deserving of serious critical attention as they were before (and following) Farrowgate. From his “early funny movies” (slapstick comedies like Take the Money and Run and Sleeper) through the mixed genre melodramas (like Stardust Memories, and Hannah and Her Sisters) to the darker dramas(like Shadows and Fog, Sweet and Lowdown, and Match Point), Allen and his ensemble casts and crews have produced some of the most philosophically and morally probing movies of our lifetimes. We will cover two films per class.

Course Materials and Class Schedule: Before each class session, I provide students with extensive handouts on the films for that week, the document incorporating production details, cast and crew interviews, insights from Allen, and excerpts from substantial movie reviews and film criticism.  These materials offer a synoptic vision of the Allen films of the week, while introducing a few of the critical debates the movie provoked, thereby enriching the starting points of our discussions.  Because Allen’s films are usually under 90 minutes, and because the oeuvre is so vast, we will cover two films per class; all course films are available on Amazon Prime at an average rental cost of $4 each, or, regrettably, “free with ads.”

Week 1: Play It Again, SamAnnie Hall
Week 2: Manhattan, Stardust Memories
Week 3: Broadway Danny Rose, Radio Days
Week 4: Zelig, Purple Rose of Cairo
Week 5: Shadows and Fog, Hannah and Her Sisters
Week 6: Crimes and Misdemeanors, Bullets Over Broadway
Week 7: Husbands and Wives, Deconstructing Harry
Week 8: Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine

Joe Moravchik: History and Current State of U. S. Policing
(Re-teach of Fall 2023 course)
 8 Tuesdays; March 26-May 14, 9:30-11:30
Village on the Cannon Community Room
Enrollment limit: 20  COURSE CANCELLED
Joe Moravchick head shot

Joe Moravchik has a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a J. D. from the William Mitchell College of Law.  Holder of a State of Wisconsin DOJ Board of Standards Police Officer’s License, he did his training at the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s & Police Academy. Rising through the ranks of the Racine, WI Police Department he was a multi-time winner of the Wisconsin Attorney General’s prestigious Exemplary Officer Award for high quality performance and professional dedication.


Overview:  We will examine the history and current state of policing in America: the laws, amendments and court cases that guide policing; the authority and role of the police; police operations and philosophies; police discretion; police terminology such as reasonable articulable suspicion, totality of circumstances, and probable cause; searches; surveillance and technology; police and the media; crimes and contemporary cases; and the importance of the role of policing, and community trust in policing. The goal is to broaden understanding and provide needed context for the serious and important public policy discussions regarding policing that are underway at the local, state, and federal levels of government.

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  Each class will involve lectures, PowerPoint/Google Slides, short videos, music, and occasional partner work to set up class discussions.  Preparation for class will include reading court cases and contemporary news articles and listening to podcasts.  Joe will provide the readings for all classes at the first meeting of the class.

Class #1: To prepare for our first class, listen to the KYMN podcast Public Policy This Week, originally broadcast Sept. 30th, 2022. Joe and St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell (Ret.) discuss their police careers and the current state of U.S. policing: aul-police-dept/ . In class, we will discuss the role of police in our society, and the major changes and challenges to police service, focusing on the past 25 years, including The North Hollywood Shootout, Columbine, September 11, 2001, and the George Floyd in-custody death.  

Class #2: To prepare for our second class, listen to the KYMN podcast Public Policy This Week, December 2, 2022 edition. Joe interviews Northfield Police Chief Mark Elliott, and Rice County Behavioral Health Supervisor Dante Hummel-Langerfeld on the topic of 1st responder mental health care:  We’re going to be joined in class by a member of the Northfield P.D. to discuss and examine directly a modern patrol car and the equipment of a police officer.  Additionally, we will discuss police operations, and policing theory, from the broken windows theory all the way to predictive policing and everything in-between. 

Class #3: To prepare for our third class, listen to the KYMN podcast Public Policy This Week, July 15 2022 edition.  Joe interviews Dr. James Densley on the topic of mass shootings:  Additionally, read the court cases Terry v. Ohio, Minnesota v. Dickerson, and Chimel v. California. In class, we’re going to discuss the history of U.S. policing, police legitimacy, the origins of our system of laws, and the 4th Amendment, including what to expect when the police show up at your door.  

Class #4: To prepare for our fourth class, listen to the KYMN podcast Public Policy This Week, June 23, 2023 edition. Joe interviews Dr. James Densley on the topic of gangs:  Additionally, read the case Miranda v. Arizona. In class, we will discuss the court cases that shape police procedure, police investigative stops and arrest procedure, including the concepts of reasonable articulable suspicion and probable cause, searches, detaining a citizen, the 5th Amendment, and due process.

Class #5: To prepare for our fifth class, read the court cases New York v. Belton and Arizona v. Gant. In class, we will continue our discussion of police procedure:  traffic stops, vehicle and foot pursuits, K9’s, DUI/implied consent, the use of force continuum, qualified immunity, and liability.

Class #6: To prepare for our sixth class, listen to the KYMN podcast Public Policy This Week August 18th, 2023 edition. Joe interviews Dr. Andrew Baker of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office on the topic of the role of the medical examiner: Podcast Link Forthcoming. In class, we will discuss crime scene investigation and case studies, including the topics of jurisdiction, chain of custody, grid searches, biological evidence, digital evidence and latent prints, the role of the medical examiner, notification, and the media.

Class #7: To prepare for our seventh class, there will be readings on former police officers Jeronimo Yanez, Derek Chauvin, Kim Potter, and Thomas Lane. We will discuss a profession in crisis, focusing on those Minnesota cases—especially the case of Thomas Lane: wrongful political prosecution?  In addition, we will examine cracks in police/public trust and the media’s role in that, referencing the cases of Louis Gates Jr., Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and Michael Brown.

Class #8: To prepare for our eighth class there will be readings on police reform and the modern role of police in our society.  Class discussion will focus on the topics of recruiting/hiring, training, trust; the relationship between the District Attorney’s Office and the police; the homeless, drug addicted and mentally ill; repeat offenders, incarceration and recidivism, interventions, and the undercurrent of violence.

Thomas Drucker:  Quantifying Chance
8 Tuesdays; March 26-May 14, 1:30-3:30
Northfield Community College Classroom
Enrollment limit:  20

Thomas Drucker is an emeritus lecturer from the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater. He has written extensively on historical and philosophical aspects of probability and was the president of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Statistical Association.

Overview:  The current world runs largely on the machinery of probability, the mathematical expression of chance. The notion of chance has been around for millennia, but the translation into numerical terms has been a development of the last five centuries. This course will seek to understand how that translation began and how far it has been carried. It will also raise the issue of whether our reliance on probability is always well-founded. Well point out how some of the attempts to apply probability have led to results we are no longer inclined to accept. Is there a possibility that some of the results we currently accept may seem equally implausible in generations to come? No mathematical background is required.

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  The primary text will be Ten Great Ideas About Chance by Persi Diaconis (a mathematician) and Brian Skyrms (a philosopher). It proceeds in chronological order from one success to another.  We’ll end with a chapter from Theodore M. Porter’s Trust in Numbers about worrisome aspects of such current applications. Ten Great Ideas About Chance is available through at prices ranging from about $25 for a new copy and less than $10 for a used copy.  The chapter from Porter and other readings will be made available via email as pdfs.  Classes will be a guided discussion of the text with plenty of Q & A.

Week 1: Tutorial on Probability, Appendix to Diaconis & Skyrms.  Chapter 2, ‘A History of Probability and Statistics and Their Applications Before 1750’ (available electronically)

Week 2: Cardano, Chapter 1 of Diaconis & Skyrms.  Pascal & Fermat (same chapter)

Week 3: Applications of Probability.  Pascal’s Wager (pages from Hald, available electronically); John Craig (also from Hald); Leibniz (scanned from Ian Hacking, ‘The Emergence of Probability’

Week 4: Ars Conjectandi. Chapter 4 of Diaconis & Skyrms; De Usu Artis Conjectandi (scanned from Hald)

Week 5: Hume and Laplace. Chapters 6 and 10 from Diaconis & Skyrms

Week 6:  Applications to Human Sciences.  Quetelet and Galton, scanned from Stephen Stigler, ‘History of Statistics’

Week 7: Applications to the Physical Sciences. Chapter 9 of Diaconis & Skyrms

Week 8: The Political Philosophy of Quantification (Chapter 4 of Porter, ‘Trust in Numbers’, scanned in)

Pat Johnson and Elizabeth McKinsey:  Democracy Awakening
8 Tuesdays; March 26-May 14, 1:30-3:30
Village on the Cannon Community Room
Enrollment limit:  20

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 taught several courses for CVEC and taken a number of others.


Elizabeth McKinsey taught American Studies and English for many years – at Bryn Mawr College, Harvard University, and Carleton College – interspersed with stints as Director of the Bunting Institute at Harvard and Dean of the College at Carleton. One of her most recently developed courses at Carleton was “Democracy: Power, Race, and Sex in 19th century American Novels.” This will be her first time teaching for CVEC.

Overview:  In 1863, President Lincoln set out the test our nation faced: Could a nation dedicated to liberty and equality endure? In Democracy Awakening, Heather Cox Richardson argues that the United States now faces a similar test. She traces the history of how a group of people have moved us toward authoritarianism, claiming that they follow the true principles of our national origins. She shows us how easily our democracy can be lost. Richardson also traces “how democracy has persisted throughout our history despite many attempts to undermine it.” Those whom the powerful have tried to marginalize have persevered, working to make the founding ideas of liberty and equality real. Her challenge to us is to resolve to keep our democracy, to meet the test that we now face.

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  Participants are asked to purchase Heather Cox Richardson, Democracy AwakeningNotes on the State of America.  The book is widely available for less than $30. We will be sure that Content has copies. Participants should also have access to copies of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution and should follow Heather Cox Richardson’s blog at  Additional readings will be provided either via online links or in electronic form.  Class format will emphasize discussion and will include some presentations by the instructors. 

Week 1: Origins of the Current Crisis to 1960. Read the Foreword and Chapters 1-4 (pages xi-xvii and 3-32).

Week 2: From Nixon to Reagan and Gingrich. Read Chapters 5-8 (pages 33-65).

Week 3: The 1990s to 2016. Read Chapters 9-12 (pages 67-99).

Week 4: Destabilizing Abroad and At Home. Read Chapters 13–16 (pages 101-132).

Week 5: Embracing Authoritarianism. Read Chapters 17–20 (pages 133-160).

Week 6: The Declaration of Independence and Constitutional Barriers. Read Chapters 21-23 (pages 163-186).

Week 7: The Civil War, Race, and Democracy. Read Chapters 24-27 (pages 187-219).

Week 8: Can America Become Progressive Again? Read Chapters 28-30 and the Conclusion (pages 221-253).

Laurel Carrington: The Age of the Renaissance
8 Wednesdays; March 27-April 17 and May 1- May 22, 9:30-11:30
Village on the Cannon Community Room
Enrollment limit: 20
Carrington, Laurel

Laurel Carrington is Professor Emerita of History at St Olaf College, teaching courses in the periods of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation. In addition, she taught many cohorts in The Great Conversation program (now called Enduring Questions), a five-course interdisciplinary sequence exploring works in western humanities and the fine arts. 

Overview:  The Renaissance has a powerful place in the imagination, even centuries after its time. The beauty of its art, the freshness of its ideas, and the richness of its literature continue to command attention. In this course we’ll read and engage with some of the classics of the period, including Dante’s Inferno, Machiavelli’s Prince, and Thomas More’s Utopia, as well as works of art for which the Renaissance is best known. We’ll look at the ways in which both artists and writers saw the ancient world as an inspiration and a pattern for emulation, engaging in a dialogue between their own time in history and the distant past.

Course Materials and Class Schedule: There will be three books to purchase: Dante’s Inferno (translated by Ciardi), Machiavelli’s Prince (Modern Library edition), and More’s Utopia (Dover Thrift edition). All three are available at reasonable cost on (Inferno: less than $10 new or $5 used, ISBN:  978-0451531391, and available for free download through the Internet Archive.); Prince: less than $15 new or $5 used; Utopia: Abe Books less than $10 new or $5 used). In addition, there will be other readings available in a course book to be mailed to students before the first class meeting.  Students will be asked to pay an additional $13 for this ahead of time to cover reproduction and mailing costs.

Week 1: Introduction to the Renaissance, a term meaning “rebirth.” Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue; introduction to Dante and his world.
Week 2: Selections from Dante’s Inferno; discussion of theology, punishment, and guilt; introduction to Petrarch.
Week 3: Petrarch Ascent of Mount Ventoux; selections from Letters. Discussion of plague narratives; introduction to civic humanism.
Week 4: Civic Humanism: article from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; introduction to Renaissance Neoplatonism. 
Week 5: Neoplatonism in philosophy and art; Pico della Mirandola Oration on the Dignity of Man. Introduction to Vasari.
Week 6:  Vasari’s Lives of the Artists; introduction to Machiavelli.
Week 7: Machiavelli The Prince; introduction to Utopia.
Week 8: Thomas More Utopia; summary of the course.

Jim McDonnell:  The Irish Literary Hit Parade Part 1—1904-1966
8 Wednesdays; March 27-May 15, 1:30-3:30
Village on the Cannon Community Room
Enrollment limit: 20

Jim McDonnell retired from the Carleton English Department in 2007 after teaching there for 38 years.  He spent most of his early childhood in rural Ireland and returns there frequently.

Overview:  The term “Hit Parade” is probably a misnomer for what I seek to accomplish in this course and (hopefully) its continuation some time in the next academic year. As defined by Wikipedia. a “hit parade” is a “a ranked list of the most popular recordings at a given point in time, usually determined either by sales or airplay.” That sounds very ephemeral and merely fashionable. What I have in mind is to pay tribute to authors and literary masterpieces written in Ireland that seem to me to have deservedly endured. We’ll start with W.B. Yeats, the grandmaster of the circus (to adopt his sardonic self-description in his penultimate poem, “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”) and conclude with Frank O’Connor who was hailed by Yeats as “Ireland’s Chekhov.” On the way we will read James Joyce’s first and most widely read book, Dubliners, a collection of short stories that concludes with “The Dead” (we will take a peek at John Huston’s splendid movie version of it). We will also read two of the most enduring plays of the 20th century, J.M. Synge’s Playboy of the Western World and Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and The Stars.

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  Students will need to obtain two texts—James Joyce, Dubliners (Penguin Classics) edited by Terence Brown: new $12 or less, used $5 or less) and Frank O’Connor, An Only Child (Syracuse University Press: new $20 or less, used $6). Other readings will be made available as e-mail attachments or handouts at no charge to students.

Week 1: Introduction to course and to W.B. Yeats.  Poems by W.B. Yeats: “No Second Troy”; “September 1913”; “Easter 1916”; “The Wild Swans at Coole”

Week 2:  More poems by Yeats: “The Second Coming; “A Prayer for my Daughter”; “Sailing to Byzantium”; “Leda and the Swan”; “Among Schoolchildren”; “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”; “Under Ben Bulben”

Week 3:  J.M. Synge, Playboy of the Western World

Week 4:  James Joyce, Dubliners, 1-133: The Sisters; Araby; Eveline; Counterparts, Clay; A Painful Case; Ivy Day in the Committee Room.

Week 5: Joyce, Dubliners: 134-225: A Mother; Grace; The Dead. 

Week 6: Sean O’Casey, The Plough and the Stars

Week 7: Frank O’Connor, An Only Child, Chapters 1-12. Short Stories: My Oedipus Complex, First Confession, News for the Church.

Week 8: Frank O’Connor, An Only Child, Chapters 13-19. Short Stories: Guests of the Nation, Uprooted, The Long Road to Ummera. 

Barbara Evans:  Focus on Northfield—A Closer Look at the Built Environment
7 Thursdays; April 4-May 16, 9:30-11:30 (1st three sessions), 9:30-noon (last 4 sessions) Village on the Cannon Community Room 
Enrollment limit: 15
Barbara Evans headshot

Barbara Evans is a retired high school speech and English teacher.  After teaching in Rochester for 34 years, she relocated to Northfield where her interest in architecture blossomed.  She is a member of the Heritage Preservation Commission, has given walking and bus tours of the city, and is deep into the process of restoring her Arts and Crafts home.

Overview: Northfield has a varied and interesting built environment: commercial buildings; homes; sacred spaces; colleges; public buildings; and landscapes. Participants will learn about the post-contact history of these elements and tour selected places by arm-chair or site visits. Sessions will include information about “lost” sites also. This class will not duplicate any previous classes or require having taken any previous classes. Participants should expect fewer “Big Picture” overviews and more in-depth focus on specific sites, architects, and stories about individuals connected to those sites. Learn about the people who built Northfield and what remains of those sites today.

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  Two texts, both available at the Northfield Historical Society, will be required:  Northfield:  The History and Architecture of a Community (you may already have this one if you’ve taken other classes by this instructor), $5.00; and Historic Happenings by Susan Hvistendahl, $12.95 (her first book in the series, not additional books about Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges)

This class will begin one week after the term begins and will continue for seven (7) sessions.  Sessions 1-3 will be two hours long (9:30-11:30). Sessions 4-7 will be two-and-a-half hours long (9:30-Noon).  The last session may include an option for a lunch together.

In order to do site tours and to look at areas of town, participants can expect to walk 2-6 blocks and stand for 30+ minutes during site visits. There may be stairs to climb with railings.

Description of the Sessions (subject to change as course further develops and on-site visits arranged):  

Session 1: Commercial Structures. Historic District around and north of Bridge Square.  Emphasis will be on the Nutting Building and Nutting Block, Library, Lyceum, Ware Auditorium (Grand Event Center). Architects J.E. Cooke and Harry Wild Jones. “Lost” Hotels (American, Lampier Hotel, The Archer House), and buildings like Citizen’s Bank and Dairies.

Session 2: Residential Styles and Time Periods. May include Kit Homes (Carleton’s Bird House and Davis Sears Kit Home); Nutting House (toured Spring 2023), National Register Houses (Nutting, Lord, and Rolvaag); the Peterson home (SMSQ with Frank Lloyd Wright connections); Organic (Schwandt); Morton House (recently locally designated); Craftsman (Evans); “Lost” residences that have been demolished (Laura Baker), moved, and divided.

Session 3: Sacred Spaces and Public Buildings.  May include All Saint’s Episcopal; St. John’s Lutheran; First U.C.C.; Valley Grove; Library; Schools; “Lost” public spaces and buildings include the Odd Fellows Home, several churches, Dundas Episcopal church, and the Schilling Museum.  

Session 4: Landscapes and other structures. May include bridges and parks like Central Park, Lashbrook Park, and Way Park.  Places like the Japanese Garden at Carleton (designed by David Slawson) and the Veblen farmstead fall into this category. “Lost”  landscapes like Lyman Lakes by Morell & Nichols and others may be included.

Session 5: St. Olaf College.  May include Old Main & Steensland Library (on National Register); Holland Hall; Rolvaag Memorial Library (Architect: Sovik); “Lost” St. Olaf structures include original buildings downtown, Old Ytterboe Hall, Finsted Bandstand, original Art Barn, Moen Chapel, Viking Village and others.

Session 6: Carleton College.  May include Scoville Hall, Skinner Chapel, Willis Hall, Goodsell Observatory (on National Register); Sayles-Hill Gymnasium; Architects include Harvey Ellis and Yamasaki (West Gym, et al.). The Weitz building example as it rises out of the Old High School to transform into modern creative center. “Lost” First buildings include first downtown structures, a Ladies dorm, first observatory, early plans, and recently removed houses.

Session 7: Commercial Historic District. Historic District around and south of Bridge Square. May include the Scriver building (tour and survey of the archives); Central Block, Scofield Building comprising “Reunion” and Dr. Scofield’s story. “Lost” structures include the original Grist Mill (recently the site of an archeological dig), early North houses; and entire blocks west of Water Street to build Highway 3. *** Optional class lunch after class not part of program fee.

Raymond De Vries:  Fixing American Health Care
4 Thursdays; March 28-April 18, 9:30-11:30
Northfield Community College Classroom  
Enrollment limit: 20

Raymond De Vries is Professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. From 2006 to 2021 he was a member of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, with appointments in the Departments of Learning Health Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Sociology. Before moving to Michigan, he was a member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at St. Olaf College (1988-2005).

Overview:  By now, the story is familiar. In their recent report, the Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit with a mission to improve the quality and equity of American health care, compares the United States health systems with 38 high-income countries. They found:

– Health care spending, both per person and as a share of GDP, continues to be far higher in the United States than in other high-income countries. Yet the U.S. is the only country that doesn’t have universal health coverage.

– The U.S. has the lowest life expectancy at birth, the highest death rates for avoidable or treatable conditions, the highest maternal and infant mortality, and among the highest suicide rates.

– Americans see physicians less often than people in most other countries and have among the lowest rate of practicing physicians and hospital beds per 1,000 population.

The goal of our class is to understand how American health care came to be: why it is organized the way it is, why it costs so much and yet performs so poorly.  Short answer: it is the product of history, politics and business interests.

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  The course will be interactive – at each class meeting we will link your own experiences with American health care – both good and bad – to the larger structural and cultural forces that shape the way care is organized and delivered. We will also hear from caregivers and other local experts who have struggled with the problems facing health care – financial, organizational, and relational – and listen to their ideas about how to improve the current system. And because what we do in this class has implications beyond the four walls of our classroom, I hope to collect the stories we share and the things we learn into a short opinion piece for the Star Tribune.  

At our first meeting we will review the current state of American health care and share our own stories, both positive and negative, of interactions with the health system. In the following classes we will look more closely at the way we pay for health care, including what it takes to keep a local hospital (e.g., Northfield Hospital) up and running, and we will consider the technological/pharmaceutical bias of American medicine. We will use a combination of videos (accessible on-line) and readings, most of which will be made available electronically, and you will be asked to come to class prepared to share your experience with the health care system.  

Week 1: How did we get here? The current state of American health care and the accidents of history responsible for our medical system

Week 2: Follow the money: How we pay for health care in the United States (you may be surprised) and what it means for your relationship with your caregivers

Week 3: We are more than our bodies: the psychology and spiritual dimensions of health

Week 4: Getting better care: using what we learned to find individual and policy solutions to the problems in US health care

Susan Evans:  Braiding Sweetgrass—Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Re-teach of Winter 2024 course)
8 Thursdays; March 28-May 16, 1:30-3:30
Northfield Community College Classroom
Enrollment Limit: 15
Susan Evans

Susan Evans grew up as the daughter of an ecologist and a reference librarian and has always felt the pull between book learning and direct experience of the natural world.  She has degrees in Literature and Theology and is a Spiritual Director.  Sue has led adults in discussions of spirituality and literature for most of her adult life, including through CVEC in a course focused on novels by Louise Erdrich.  She is chair of the CVEC Board.

Overview:  In Braiding Sweetgrass, a beautiful and deeply wise book by Robin Kimmerer, we find a shaped assortment of essays braided together, as Kimmerer says, and “meant to heal our relationship with the world.” The three strands that are braided together in these essays are “Indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service to what matters most … .” We will be reading these stories carefully, discussing how they relate to each other and to our own experiences in the world.  Robin Kimmerer is an excellent guide, having a deep relationship with native spirituality, years of experience as a botanist and Professor of Environmental Biology, and a poet’s ability to translate between her two worlds. She gives her readers the tools to open themselves to the healing joy experienced by living in a reciprocal relationship with the natural world.

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  Participants will be expected to read the weekly assignments of approximately 50 pages, and come to class prepared to discuss Kimmerer’s writing and their own responses to her essays. We will learn from each other as well as from Kimmerer.  Additional information will be distributed and used to deepen our discussion as seems appropriate.

Students will be expected to purchase a copy of Braiding Sweetgrass, which is widely available for purchase either new ($13.25) or used and can be borrowed through the library.  Copies will be available for purchase at Content Books.

Week 1:  Before class read Preface through page 32 in Braiding Sweetgrass.  We will spend the first portion of class introducing ourselves by each describing the landscape of our childhood and how it has influenced our lives.
Week 2:  Read pages 33-59.
Week 3:  Read pages 60-117.
Week 4:  Read pages 118-174.
Week 5:  Read pages 171-240.
Week 6:  Read pages 241- 300.
Week 7:  Read pages 301- 347.
Week 8:  Read to the end of the book, including Epilogue, Notes, and Acknowledgements.

Paul Zorn:  To Infinity and Beyond
(Re-teach of Fall 2022 Course)
4 Thursdays; April 25-May 16, 1:30-3:30
Village on the Cannon Community Room
Enrollment limit: 20

Paul Zorn is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at St. Olaf College.   For 38 years he taught St. Olaf courses, mainly in mathematics but also in science writing and in St. Olaf’s Great Conversations program, a 5-semester general education sequence spanning over 4000 years of human culture.   In the 2000’s he served both as president and as a journal editor for the Mathematical Association of America.   He has also written a (small, finite) number of mathematics textbooks, some joint with his late friend and colleague Arnie Ostebee.

Overview:  Humans have always had, and still have, vague or inchoate views of infinity and the infinite: Big.  Very BigBigger than [you name it].  Unreachable.  Metaphorical.  Ethereal.  Those are true enough, but infinity is also a mathematical “thing”, with a long and sometimes tortured history.  Real progress toward a mathematical theory of infinity—and infinities—came surprisingly late, after at least 2000 years of searching.  We’ll consider some ideas of infinity, something of how they developed, and some reasons why they matter.

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  One book (see below); other materials will be made available free in PDF form or with links to online sources.  

– Book:   The Mystery of the Aleph, by Amir Aczel (available through as low as $11.75 new or $3.49 used).  A readable introduction to forms of infinity and to originators, especially Georg Cantor (1845-1918), of the underlying theory.

– PDFs of two sections from PZ-authored textbooks, touching on infinity and cardinality.

– Short readings from general and literary sources, including “The Library of Babel,” by Jorge Luis Borges and an article on Zeno’s paradoxes from Scientific American; in PDF form.

– Three weekly “homework assignments”:  wholly optional but ideally revealing problems and puzzles, more to be pondered than completed.  

Notes:  Please read and/or work on these selections before class so that we can meaningfully discuss them.  We will spend some class time in breakout groups, for which it will be especially helpful to have pondered some of the “homework” problems; see definition above.

Class 1:   The basics:   big, small, finite, infinite.  
Reading:  Aczel book, through page 24
Class topics:  Getting started.  Euclid’s proof and the infinitude of primes.  Basic examples and a first look at Hilbert’s Hotel. 
Live questions: Does infinity exist?   If so, what is it?  Is the universe infinite?   Is infinity a number?   If so, can we do arithmetic?  Can anything be infinitely small
Sets and subsets.  Finite sets (“easy) and infinite sets (hard), with key examples. The pigeonhole principle.   Cardinality as the “right” measure of size for sets.  The Cantor-Schröder-Bernstein theorem:  a big name for a basic but subtle result.    

Class 2:   Paradoxes, ancient and “older” history.  
Reading:  More of Aczel book.  Zeno’s paradoxes.  Start PZ textbook sections on cardinality.      
Class topics:    Check-in on “homework”, including return to Hilbert’s Hotel.  More on cardinality.  Positive integers equinumerous with all integers.  Zeno and friends.  Infinite sums and their arrangements.       
Live questions:  Can infinitely many positive numbers have a finite sum? Is movement possible?  What does this have to do with infinity?    

Class 3:   Modern history, “big” and “small” infinity.  
Reading:  Aczel book through page 190; skimming OK.
Class topics:    Check-in on “homework”.    Beyond rationality.  The square root of 2 is not rational, but it exists.  Why it exists.  A glance at completeness of the real numbers, and why it matters.  Cantor’s diagonal proof that real numbers are uncountable.  Limits.  Derivatives, integrals, and infinitesimals.     
Live questions:  Which sets are “countable”?  Are the rational numbers countable?  The reals?  Why?  What does this have to do with the calculus?        

Class 4:   To infinity and beyond.  
Reading: Finish all readings, including Borges (only 9 pages).  Investigate on your own, if interested:  Ideas of infinity in the bible.  Augustine on God.  Anselm on God. Berkeley on “departed quantities”.  More on the Kabbalah.   
Class topics:  Check-in on “homework”.  Discuss optional topics.  Infinity and divinity.  Cantor, Russell, alephs, and the continuum hypothesis.  The axiom of choice and Zorn’s lemma (that’s another Zorn).  ZF and ZFC theories:  Pro-choice or anti-choice?   
Live questions:  Do infinities “really” exist?  How “big” is the set of real numbers?  How many books are in Borges’s library?  Is the universe infinite?  If not, will it “run out” eventually?     

Ted Johnson: User’s Guide to the Immune System
 8 Fridays; March 29-April 26 and May 3-17, 9:30-11:30
Village on the Cannon Community Room
Enrollment limit: 20

Ted Johnson taught microbiology and immunology courses at St Olaf College over a 40-year career. He has led four international abroad semesters with St Olaf students and several trips with alumni. His research was centered on the immune response to cancer related to age.

Overview:  Viruses and bacteria enter our bodies every day and immune responses are generated resulting in recovery from the disease. How are we protected against further encounters with that microbe? How does a vaccine protect an individual? Is being vaccinated risky? Why do some individuals still get ill after exposure to the virus even after having been vaccinated? How does the immune system prevent cancer from developing? Why does cancer still develop in some individuals? How is immunotherapy used to treat cancer? Organs can be transplanted to replace failing organs. What can be done to prevent the immune system from rejecting the transplanted organ? Immune responses can also be harmful by over-reacting to an allergy or forming an autoimmune response against the body. How is autoimmunity treated? Join us as we navigate these complexities to help you understand the immune response.

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  No textbook will be required, but online resources reflecting the concepts presented in class will be available, in addition to questions raised in class by students. The material to be covered is at the basic introductory level, so that a prior background in science is not needed.

Session One: Cells and lymphoid organs
What cells and organs make up the immune system? What are white blood cells and what is their role in the immune system? What does an increase in white blood cells indicate? What is leukemia and why is it so difficult to treat? How does innate immunity differ from acquired immunity? How does the immune system change from birth to ageing in an individual?

Session Two: Innate immunity
How does the body react to the invasion of a bacteria when it enters the body? What is the innate immune response and how does that response protect an individual? What is phagocytosis? Why don’t the white blood cells cause damage to the individual? What is inflammation? When is the process helpful and when can it be harmful to an individual? How should inflammation be treated when it is causing problems? What is septic shock?

Session Three: Antibodies/structure and function
What types of antibodies are in your body and what is their role in generating an immune response?  How do antibodies stop an infection with a virus or block a bacterial toxin? How is the structure of an antibody related to its function? What is the role of complement in the function of antibodies? What are the different red blood cell types used when blood is transfused?

Session Four: The role of antibodies in the immune response 
How do antibodies react and protect the body?  Is the antibody reaction to a foreign invader specific? How does the immune response protect you when exposed a second time to the microbe or virus? Why do some individuals still develop a mild disease (COVID) even after having been vaccinated? Why is breast feeding important in feeding a newborn infant?

Session Five: T lymphocytes, cytokines and cell mediated immunity
What are T lymphocytes and why are they important in the immune response? What are cytokines? What role do cytokines play in the immune response? How do cytokines accelerate and amplify the immune response? How do T cells kill a damaged cell without harming the surrounding cells? 

Session Six: Antibody formation and T cell activation
Describe how antibodies form from B cells? What type of antibodies form after exposure and how do they change over time? How does the memory response differ from the initial exposure?  How does a vaccine prevent disease? How are T cells activated? How are T cells controlled? How is the immune response regulated? 

Session Seven: Immune response to cancer and to transplanted organs
How does the immune system identify and reject cancer cells that develop in the body? How do T cells kill cancer cells? Why does cancer still develop in some individuals? How is immunotherapy used to treat cancer? When cells or organs are transplanted in an individual, what can be done to prevent immunological rejection of the transplant? 

Session Eight: Allergies and autoimmune diseases
What is an allergy and why is it harmful to the individual? What mediates an allergic response? What are the different types of allergies? What tests are used to determine what the individual is allergic to once a response has occurred? What therapy can be used to treat an allergy? What is autoimmunity? How is autoimmunity diagnosed and treated? Is there a difference in incidence of autoimmunity regarding age and gender?

Rod Christensen, MD:  Making Health Care Decisions—Am I Sure I Want That?
(Revision of Spring 2023 CVEC course)
8 Fridays; March 22-April 19 and May 10-May 24, 9:30-11:30
Kildahl Park Pointe
Enrollment limit:  20
Christensen, Rod, head shot

Rod Christensen, MD is a retired family physician who practiced in Northfield for 25 years before finishing his career in leadership positions with Allina Health.  In those roles, his responsibilities included improving clinical quality and patient experience, and improving shared decision making while addressing cost and value.

Overview:  The pandemic challenged all of us to make health care decisions with incomplete or conflicting information, and clearly demonstrated how different people make very different choices. In this course we will learn how to interpret the available (and unavailable) evidence, what questions to ask, and how to understand our own biases and preferences as we make our own health care decisions. We will use many real-life examples, including cancer screening, laboratory testing and imaging, treatment of acute and chronic diseases, and claims from advertising and media. Without doing difficult math, we will use basic statistical concepts to increase our confidence. We will explore how making judgments about value requires thinking about costs in a careful way, and how it is always complicated to simply “follow the science.”

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  The course will be designed for active participation and discussion, using examples from current events, advertising, official recommendations, and common experiences.  We will not discuss individuals’ specific cases except in the abstract, but we will use detailed examples as a way to develop and test the concepts.  When needed for class preparation, outside readings will be shared with the class in the form of emailed pdfs or links.  Participants should expect to bring questions and work together in class to understand them.  The course will not teach statistical methodology, but rather the concepts necessary to understand the data commonly presented to patients and the public.  We will begin with personal health care decisions, and will then move on to public policy, to see how the same concepts apply and how they interact with political and societal planning.

While not required for participation, in the last course several students found it helpful to read “Your Medical Mind” by Groopman, MD and Hartzband, MD.   It touches on some of the topics we’ll cover, but is especially useful in describing the ways in which our personal preferences and psychologies influence the kinds of decisions we make in our health care.

Week 1:  Introduction and Topics of Interest.  We will review and define the range of topics and concepts to be covered, and use examples to show how our “common sense” does not always work so well.  The questions and topics brought forward by the class will be used to shape the course.

Week 2:  Risks and Benefits.  How well can these be understood for the decisions we make?  How can they be quantified?   How can statistics be used to mislead or better inform us?   How can patients and clinicians be confused by the placebo effect, and by our personal experiences?

Week 3:  Risks and Benefits, part 2.  We will apply what we’ve learned to a variety of examples, further defining what we mean by “effectiveness” and “harm”.  We will practice thinking about both short and long term effects, unexpected consequences, and alternative plans of care.

Week 4:  Cost and Value.   We will discuss the particular challenges of defining value in health care, given the wide range of insurance coverage and personal goals and expectations.  Specific examples will help us at least ask the right questions more clearly.

Week 5:  What is “the science”?  We will discuss both the amazing progress that has been made in modern medicine and the gaps in our knowledge.  How does research work?  What are its limitations?  We will emphasize the commonly misunderstood difference between causation and association, as that affects our personal decision-making constantly.  We will practice looking for missing information in what we read.

Week 6:  Public policy.  How do these concepts apply to groups of people?   How do policy makers balance individual autonomy with public health?   When do decisions made by individuals have a broader impact?   How are new expensive medications or treatments to be managed?

Week 7:   Shared decision-making.   How can complicated data be presented to facilitate more informed decisions?   Can that be practical in the clinic?  How can experts, advocates and advertisers share what they know effectively?  Can we tell when we are being misled?

Week 8:  Examples and review.  We will review historical examples of how health care data was used, both successes and failures, including the Covid-19 pandemic.  We will also work through examples suggested by the class, incorporating and practicing what we’ve learned.

Philip Spensley:  The Intersection of Theatre, Religion and Politics—Shifting Agendas
8 Fridays; March 29-May 17, 1:30-3:30
Kildahl Park Pointe
Enrollment limit:  20
Philip Spensley head shot (2017?)

Philip Spensley, Professor Emeritus of theatre from Concordia University in Montreal, was a member of Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare and Shaw Festival companies, has acted, written, directed and designed professionally for stage, acted for film and television (US, Canada and Europe), taught for university and professional theatre programs in Canada and the US, and has lectured, and given workshops around the world on theatre practice and pedagogy.  He served as the first Chair of the Northfield Arts and Culture Commission from its inception in 2007 to 2016 and has taught previously for the CVEC.

Overview:  In prehistoric times religion, politics (governance of the group) and the theatre were one and the same. Their focus was on ensuring survival: in effect to bring order out of chaos. Over time their roles in society have separated, with one or another being dominant. The theatre serves us by showing ourselves to ourselves through the enactment of the human condition, and in the process moving us to tears, provoking laughter, and getting us to think, as it seeks to help us find meaning and sustain order. Over the course of eight weekly classes and assignments students will, through viewing and reading a selection of representative plays and contemporary accounts as well as through lecture and discussion, look at the role the theatre has played at significant moments in the evolution of our Western society from its beginnings to today.

Course Materials and Class Schedule:  Following the first class, which will be mostly illustrated lecture, students will view and/or read the assigned representative plays before the following class so that each succeeding class will begin with a discussion of them, to be followed in the second hour with an illustrated lecture pertaining the next era after which they will read a representative play or two again.  That way plays are read or viewed in contextual understanding, and the ensuing discussion will focus primarily on how the play served as a reflection of the period’s issues.  Links for play scripts and viewings (free of charge), as well as other pertinent information from time to time, will be provided by the instructor.  The following is the planned weekly content, though it is possible that some changes may be made if appropriate as the course progresses.

Week 1:  Prehistoric origins. Emergence and transitions in Greece and Rome: from religion to politics, from freedom to control. Assignment: Reading The Trojan Women (tragedy by Euripides), and Lysistrata (comedy by Aristophanes).

Week 2:  Medieval Europe.  Religious suppression to religious resurrection, service and servitude. Assignment: viewing of a performance of part of The York Cycle (The Mysteries Part 1) performed by England’s National Theatre, and reading two short plays to be assigned.

Week 3: The Tudor/Stuart era. Battles: Religion and Politics, control, struggle, survival, suppression.  Assignment: reading of The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare) and some selected commentary.

Week 4:  Italian Discovery, learning, imitation, innovation, influence.  Technology first.  Assignment: view The Drottningholm Court Theatre to see the period’s technical innovations imitating Greek and Roman theatre during the performance of opera (the period’s contribution to the drama.

Week 5:  Romance to Realism.  Getting inside the societal underbelly (Environment, Heredity, Sociology, Psychology) influenced by Darwin, Compte, and Freud).  Assignment: Spring Awakening (Wedekind)), and one to be assigned from among Ghosts, A Doll’s House, The Lady From The Sea (all by Ibsen).

Week 6: The effects of two world wars. The quest to find new meaning.  Assignment: an Expressionist play (though we might watch one), and an Absurdist play (perhaps by Ionesco).  TBD.

Week 7: Theatre in America.  “There’s no business like show business” meets “we the people”. Assignment:  read The Crucible (Miller) and one play of the student’s choice from what is being written today so that discussion will be broad-ranging and provide learning of other plays and authors addressing issues facing us today.

Week 8: Theatre today.  Discussion and wrap up.  What’s in the mirror now?  How effective is its voice?