Spring 2018 GU Learning Community Courses

GU Learning Community, Course Descriptions, Spring 2018

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Ron Murphy, S. J.

George M Roth Distinguished Professor of German, Emeritus.

Fr. Murphy interested in the intersection of religion and literature throughout the history of German literature, more recently in the role of Germanic mythology in the interpretation of medieval literature and culture in the Germanic world.

The Myth of the Tree

Tuesday, March 13, 20, 27: 10:30–12:00 p.m.

March 13: PLEASE NOTE VENUE CHANGE for this session to Intercultural Center, ICC 204B

March 20, 27: McShain Lounge, Large

The course follows the three realms in which the mythic tree Yggdrasil is, I believe, the key to interpreting the meaning of the cultural monument, or poetry, being studied. Objects in these realms run from stave and round churches; tree trunk burials (including the 84 found made in 2016 at Great Ryburgh, East Anglia), the Dream of the Rood and the runes, to the Yuletide wreath and Christmas tree. My Tree of Salvation, Yggdrasil and the Cross in the North (OUP 2013) contains the heart and structure of the course.


Alison Hilton

Wright Family Professor Art History, Emeritus, Department of Art and History

Alison's research emphasis is on Russian folk art, Russian realism and impressionism, the avant-garde, nonconformist art, women and gender issues in Soviet art, and studies of individual artists such as Kazimir Malevich and Natalia Goncharova; roles & practices of museums in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Revolutionary Art: Russia 1917–2017

Wednesday, March 14, 21, 28: 2:00–3:30 p.m. 

March 14, 21: Murray Room, 5th floor Lauinger Library
March 28: McShain Lounge, Large

The artist Kazimir Malevich declared that the "revolution in art" had anticipated the political revolution, and many avant-garde artists connected the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 with their own efforts to create new forms for a new social order. The explosion of radically new art forms in the early 20th century is the focus of the course; we will study the works, theories, and debates among such leading figures as Malevich, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, Vladimir Tatlin, Olga Rozanova, Liubov Popova, Varvara Stepanova, Alexander Rodchenko, and El Lissitzky. Using art and texts from the period we will consider how and whether radical art and radical politics can be mutually supportive. The suppression of the avant-garde under Stalin raises important questions about the role of government authority in the arts. We will conclude with a look at the legacy of the Russian avant-garde in our own time.  


Paul Lilly

Professor Emeritus, State University of New York at Oneonta, NY

Highlights of African-American Literature
REGISTRATION FOR THIS COURSE IS NOW CLOSED

Thursday, March 8, 15, 22: 10:30-12:00 p.m.

March 8: White Gravenor 407
March 15, 22: McShain Lounge, Small

We will start on March 8 with James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time (1955) and Richard Wrights’ short story, “Almost a Man” (1931, available online). On March 15 we will discuss Zora Neal Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), and Ralph Ellison’s short story, “The Party at the Square,” from his Flying Home and Other Stories (1997). For the final class, March 22, we will look at Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2017), as well as Toni Morrison’s short story, “Sweetness” (2015) in The New Yorker.


Steven R. Sabat

Professor Emeritus of Psychology

For the past 37 years, Steven have been engaged in research regarding the intact cognitive and social strengths of people with Alzheimer’s disease, including their selfhood and subjective experience.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: What Everyone Needs to Know

Wednesday, March 28, April 4, 11: 10:30–12:00 p.m.

Healy 106

Dementia in general and Alzheimer’s disease in particular are said to be among the most feared conditions facing people as they grow older. A great negative stigma is associated with these conditions primarily, as with other conditions, because they remain poorly understood by the general public. For most of the past century, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have been understood mainly from a biomedical point of view that logically emphasizes what is wrong with persons diagnosed. In this course, we will explore these conditions from a bio-psycho-social point of view that (1) identifies many of the abilities that remain intact and strong and (2) shows how the self-esteem of the person diagnosed can be innocently undermined by healthy others, and (3) how the diagnosed person’s social world can actually be supportive of his or her self-worth as well as of other strengths.


Sandra Horvath-Peterson

Associate Professor of History, Emerita

Jews, Christians, and the Holocaust (Shoah)

Tuesday, April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1: 2:00–3:30 p.m.

Murray Room, 5th floor, Lauinger Library

NOTE: This course has five sessions

This course is designed to help answer a very important and challenging question that comes from a late 20th century Vatican document: “How could the Holocaust have happened in the bosom of Christian Europe?” The course will start with an abbreviated overview of the long history of anti-Semitism, and then, moving into the 20th century, we will review the consequences of issues like: the 19th century fin-de-siècle explosion of racialism; World War I; the appearance of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. The politics and religious attitudes at this time—the period of the Weimar Republic (1919–1933)—become more prominent and feed into the Holocaust/Shoah. All of the above information should provide a good background for the core of this course, which focuses mainly on the reactions of European Christians to Hitler’s plan to make not just Germany but all of Europe judenfrei. This is where you will learn of both Christian heroes and villains and what they did or did not do to help the Jews. The final section of this course will bring us to the “Post-Auschwitz” period, – which is the aftermath of the Holocaust/Shoah. This period, basically from the 1950s to the present day, is where Christians start to fathom the fact that 6 million Jews in Europe were murdered, just because they were Jews – a covenant people of God. For this section, I will provide a short sketch of what has been accomplished, leaving this course on a note of hope for the future. As for materials for this course, I will: show a few short videos in some of our classes; provide a few handouts for some classes; send you, by email, a few optional articles to read; and share with you some of my experiences from a two-week, very academic “Holocaust Travel and Study Tour” that I took in 2010.


Anthony Tambasco

Professor Emeritus of Theology

Anthony focuses on biblical studies, Bible and social justice, and liberation theology

Lutheran–Catholic Dialogue after 500 Years

Tuesday, April 17, 24, May 1: 10:30–12:00 p.m.

PLEASE NOTE VENUE CHANGE: The April 17 and 24 meetings will take place in Intercultural Center, ICC 204B; the May 1 meeting will take place in White Gravenor 407

The course will discuss why the anniversary of the Reformation last year was so different from any earlier major anniversaries. Topics will include the ground-breaking agreements between Lutherans and Roman Catholics about justification by grace, the doctrine that was central to the original break between the churches, and the dialogues over the role of the popes, bishops, and priests, the ordination of women, the controversies over sacraments and the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the role of Mary and the saints. Insights will be drawn that have application to the relationships of Roman Catholicism with other Protestant denominations and implications for the role of Christianity in a secularized world today.

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