Winter 2023

Course offerings for the Winter 2023 six-week Demi-Term include selections in History, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Social Sciences, and Writing.

Courses may take place in person, on Zoom, or in a hybrid format where participants can choose whether to participate in person or on Zoom for the same course. The location listings on this page will remain up-to-date.


Longing, Belonging, and Home

8 weeks, Wednesdays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.

If you had to leave your home, with very little notice and no choice, what would you take with you? What is “home” to you?

According to UN statistics, by mid-2020, 80 million people had been displaced worldwide as a result of conflict, persecution, human rights violations, and violence. What is the definition of home and is it possible, through memory and mementos, to transport your home and recreate it in a new location? Should refugees and displaced persons seek to recreate their original homes or to reshape new identities and cultural mores so as to “fit in”? 

Displacement—the forcible removal of people from their homes—is not a new concept, but the study of the impacts of displacement on refugees and persecuted people is a fairly modern discipline. Material culture, family history, and even food often play roles in “replacing” the displaced.


Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter in Print and on Screen

6 weeks, Mondays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.

I do believe there is such a thing as women’s writing or women’s filmmaking. […] When I am let loose, given a little bit of money and space to tell the story I want to tell, it’s about motherhood. It is about the domestic, and it does include a lot of scenes in the kitchen. Can stories about the domestic really be seen as high art?—Maggie Gyllenhaal about her film The Lost Daughter

What do the terms “women’s writing” and “women’s filmmaking” have to offer in the 21st century? This six-week course will consider these questions through a study of Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s film adaptation of Ferrante’s novel.

“I, Too, Am America”: The Literature of the Harlem Renaissance

12 weeks, Wednesdays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

This course will focus on selected works of Afro-American literature published during the 1920s and early 1930s in America, an era in which there was an unparalleled artistic and socio-cultural awakening in the Black community. During these years Harlem in particular was the seedbed of an unprecedented dynamism in music, dance, painting, sculpture, and in literature as well. Fascination with the Afro-American renaissance in the arts spilled into the wider world outside Harlem, creating a strong demand for access to the work of these artists. In the case of literature, publishers of periodicals and books showcased Afro-American literature.

King Arthur: History and Legend

6 weeks, Tuesdays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

When it comes to King Arthur, it is not easy to disentangle myth from reality. In this course, we will be sorting through the record and indicating where uncertainty exists and where previously held theories have been debunked by more recent research. Accounts of the way the legend evolved in different geographical regions will be discussed. We will briefly explore elemental themes of kingship: courage, virtue, loyalty, romantic love, and devotion to God. We will trace how the myth of King Arthur developed across time, clarifying many misunderstood aspects of the narrative, such as the origins of the Round Table and the figure of Merlin, the illicit love between Lancelot and Guinevere, and the varied manifestations of the magical Holy Grail. As we trace Arthur’s evolution and that of his principal knights, we will ask what underlies the appeal of this figure whose consistent reappearance in Western culture has realized the medieval prophecy that he would be rex quondam et futurus: the once and future king

Literary Montreal en deux langues

6 weeks, Tuesdays, 10:00 to 12:00 p.m.

Contemporary urban environments are characterized increasingly by demographic diversity and flux. Their cultures, often described as postmodern, are shaped by persons who often locate themselves on the socio-economic margins. Some of these persons are creating literary works that offer radically different images of Montreal and what it means to live here. Other writers, whose roots in this city may be older, are lending their voice to those who are on the margins—and in the process, redefining their own literary identity and reconstructing Montrealers’ self-understanding of their urban environment.

“Where First I Read of You”: Canadian Women’s Poetry

6 weeks, Wednesdays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.

As we continue our ongoing series on women’s poetry, we turn in this course to the voices of Canadian writers. Following on from our first two instalments, we continue to ask what might be at stake in the descriptor “women” when added to the genre “poetry”: How or why do we speak of “women’s” poetry at all? Does some elusive thread tie together the diversity of women’s experience and creative work? Or, is it all just an illusion? By placing our question in the Canadian context, we will inquire about how women’s poetry speaks from particular historical and cultural locations.


A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Symphony IV

12 weeks, Mondays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Here’s your chance to experience the wonders of the symphony orchestra from Mozart to the present day. Every week we will study works being performed in upcoming concerts, both symphonic and chamber music This course surveys the evolution of the orchestra and its repertoire, with special attention paid to works performed during Montreal’s concert season. Time permitting, we will also explore the instrument families of the symphony orchestra: strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion. We will also discuss the history of conducting. And, if possible, a visit to an orchestra rehearsal will be organized.

Previous courses in the series are not prerequisites.


Reading Machiavelli: On Being the Lion and the Fox

6 weeks, Thursdays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.
**Atwater or Zoom**

And many have imagined republics and principalities that have never been seen or known to exist in truth; for it is so far from how one lives to how one should live that he who lets go of what is done for what should be done learns his ruin rather than his preservation. —Machiavelli, The Prince, XV.

Known as the father of political realism, Machiavelli (1469-1527) seeks to pull back the veil of what was hitherto seen to constitute a model political order. A ruler should not behave as a philosopher king, or assume the best in everyone as the medieval mirrors of princes suggested. Instead, to succeed, human nature should be truly considered. Individuals act out of self-interest, not morality, according to Machiavelli, and decisions should always be made with this in mind.

The Spirit of Inquiry

6 weeks, Thursdays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

How, as adults, do we retain or regain the sense of wonder that emerged spontaneously in our early childhood? How can we stimulate, rejuvenate, our natural desire to know? Why do questions matter? What is the role of imagination in the questioning process? And, how do we spot and follow through on the questions that are percolating just below the surface of our everyday life?

In this six-week course we will give full rein to the spirit of wonder, curiosity, and inquiry that is the wellspring of adult human learning. Readings will include selections from M.T. Carley’s Creative Learning & Living, Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon’s Interpretive Discussion, Bernard Lonergan’s Insight, and Plato’s Symposium, as well as various poems and short stories.


“In order for the alive to win out”: a poetry workshop series

6 weeks, Mondays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.

I write to make a statement of presence in language. In order for the alive to win out. So that, in the ordeal of the alive, words be the lust sparking a thousand provocative presences that fall into place in the middle of thoughts.

—Nicole Brossard, Elle serait la première phrase de mon prochain roman.

How can poetry help us to uncover, explore, and express that which makes us feel alive? How can metaphor help us to externalise the interior worlds, and bring them to life so that others might understand? How do we write desire, fury, frustration, compassion, empathy? This six-week workshop series will use poetry exercises to dig deep and let the alive out. Come prepared to write.


Breaking Bread Together

6 weeks, Wednesdays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

As Byron wrote in Don Juan, “Since Eve ate apples, much depends on dinner.” Eating together has been a hugely important social activity for many millennia. In fact, it’s one thing that sets us apart from other species. What does the act of eating together teach us about being human? How has food preparation changed over the centuries? The choice between eating out and eating in is largely a matter of privilege, but cheap and simple street food has long been a daily pleasure for millions around the world. 

Digital Dilemmas

6 weeks, Thursdays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

This course aims to bridge the divide between those who live happily in the digital world and those who dread technological advances. We will explore the following questions: What are the advantages and disadvantages of engaging in our 21st-century digitally connected environment? What evidence is there that our youth, and our culture more generally, are suffering from addiction to the gratifications offered by smartphones and social media? How do these forms of communication impact the development and ongoing cultivation of our capacity for reflection and critical thinking? Are we yet in a position to judge the impact of the technological world on our mental health? The course will focus on Stephen Kurczy’s The Quiet Zone: Unravelling the Mystery of a Town Suspended in Silence as well as supplementary readings.

How Stories Shape Our Reality: The Case of Trumpism and Alternative Narratives

6 weeks, Tuesdays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.

Are we hard-wired to respond to stories more than non-fiction? According to Yuval Noah Harari, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, and equations.”

In this course we will explore these issues in relation to attempting to understand better how the narratives we believe can shape the way we see the world. Can the sway that Donald Trump has in the United States, and his support by the Republican Party, be explained in terms of story-telling? Do new stories need to be told to counter the possible threat to the future of democracy that his beliefs and actions represent? How can satire and alternative stories provide effective counterweights to dangerous narratives?


Repas collectifs, repas rituels

6 semaines, les mardis, 19h00 à 21h00 (dès le 17 janvier 2023)

Quand sont apparus la table à manger? Et les couverts? Pourquoi a-t-on créé une société de tempérance en 1517 en Angleterre pour mettre fin à l’habitude de faire flotter un morceau de pain grillé dans les verres d’alcool pour porter « un toast »? Que faisaient les spectateurs une fois que les nobles avaient fini de manger et se retiraient de table? Pourquoi les convives s’assoyaient-ils tous du même côté des tables? Pourquoi les Arabes buvaient-ils de l’eau versée avec une louche de bois? Pourquoi chez les Chaggas la mère qui a préparé le repas est la seule à table à ne pas avoir d’assiette devant elle? 


Three Score and Ten Plus: Readings of Lives at Seventy

6 weeks, Mondays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

The pandemic that hit in 2020 made many of us feel that, contrary to certain claims, 70 isn’t the new 50, but, rather, 70 is the new 70. Those hoping to be effective “olders” have to accept being vulnerable too. But 2020 was also the year a man in his late 70s became the oldest ever president of the United States and did so while showing his age. Such clarifying ambiguity has made some of the debates about the pros and cons of aging that proliferated BC (before COVID-19) less resonant.

Perhaps what we need now are not new logical paradigms but what Lynn Segal (Out of Time: The Pleasures and Perils of Ageing) calls “alternative stories about ageing.” Each of the three very different fictional works to be studied in this course draws on hybrid genres: memoir and literary analysis (An Odyssey), the short story cycle (Olive Again), and what might be called rural drama or shocking fairy tale (And the Birds Rained Down). In this course, we will ask: How does literature shed light on intergenerational misunderstandings, painful acknowledgements of past failures, and possibly new ways of caring? How do recovered myths help to validate contemporary journeys? Can growing older allow for changing or completing the narrative of one’s life? What alternatives to the claims for “family first” might added years allow? Are there memorable artistic inventions in these texts that reinforce the power of stories?

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