Course offerings for the Spring Term 2023 include selections in Classics, 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.
Joni Mitchell, a Canadian Icon
4 weeks, Monday, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
In these four meetings we will explore the music of singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, considered to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century. Her writing style, her guitar-playing, and her unique approach to very personal themes have had an influence on countless famous musicians. Her album Blue, from 1971, is often cited as one of the best pop albums ever. Joni Mitchell is one of the first female singer-songwriters to really succeed and hold her ground, and in so doing she became a beacon for succeeding generations of aspiring women artists.
The Secret Lives of Objects: Creative Writing at the MMFA
8 weeks, Tuesdays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.
This course is perfect for creative writers in all genres who want to stimulate their imagination while exploring the exhibits currently available at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Students will saunter through the museum's catalogue, which will serve as the basis for creative writing exercises.
Waiting for the Macedonian Empire: Ancient Greece in the Time of Aristotle
12 weeks, Tuesdays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.
The fourth century began in Ancient Greece with a period of turmoil where the country was kept in constant warfare between city-states that struggled for hegemony, only to be brought down by their neighbours after a few years. It also saw Aristotle develop critical and ethical thinking along new lines, while the Athenian orator Demosthenes tried to warn his fellow citizens of the onslaught soon coming from Macedonia (where Philip’s son Alexander was being educated by the same Aristotle).
We will try to decipher the issues of this critical period, and the society and values of these centres, with contemporary historians, philosophers, and orators like Xenophon, Plutarch, Aristotle, Diodorus Siculus, Diogenes Laertes, Demosthenes, Aeschines, Lysias.
The Fiction and Nonfiction of James Baldwin
12 weeks, Mondays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.
Despite his reputation as one of the great American essayists, James Baldwin saw himself primarily as a novelist and wrote many important fictional works throughout his career. This course will examine Baldwin’s contributions to American literature as both a writer of fiction and nonfiction by reading his novels and short stories alongside many of his most celebrated essays.
In reading these works together, we will consider such questions as: How does Baldwin explore topics such as race, class, sexuality, religion, the importance of art, the dangers of American innocence, and the redemptive power of love through both his fiction and nonfiction? How do his novels and short stories bring to life the social conditions and struggles for identity and belonging that he describes so powerfully in his essays? To what extent does Baldwin’s social problem fiction resist the sentimentality and simplistic morality that he criticized in “protest novels” like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Richard Wright’s Native Son? And more broadly, how can fiction move readers in ways that nonfiction cannot, and what are the limitations of fiction as a mode of social critique?
Shakespeare in the Spring
6 weeks, Tuesdays, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
**Atwater or Zoom**
This year’s “Shakespeare in the Spring” will look at two beloved Shakespearean plays on stage this summer at the Stratford Festival, Much Ado About Nothing and King Lear. While the comic Much Ado has been thought of as the first rom-com, with its word-duelling pair of Beatrice and Benedick, and Lear as the darkest of tragedies, replete with cruelty, madness, and death, and thus the plays would seem to have nothing in common, both works look at the elemental bonds between families: those between fathers and children, brothers and sisters.
Ancient Chinese Philosophy
12 weeks, Tuesdays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.
“Don’t grieve when people fail to recognize your ability. Grieve when you fail to recognize theirs.” Confucius (Kong Fu Zi), The Analects.
Three great philosophies emerged from Imperial China: Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. This course will examine their influence on Chinese spirituality, government, military strategy, social structure, family relations, science, and the arts. We will also learn about philosophies that were part of the Hundred Schools of Thought, such as Legalism, and later developments of these belief and moral systems, such as Neo-Confucianism or the School of Principle.
Arjuna’s Dilemma: Exploring The Bhagavad Gita
12 weeks, Wednesdays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
As The Bhagavad Gita opens, the mighty warrior Arjuna surveys the two armies marshalled on the plain of Kurukshetra. One army belongs to himself and his brothers, the Pandavas, determined to regain the kingdom of which they are the rightful heirs. The other belongs to their cousins, the Kauravas, who reject the Pandava claim to the kingdom. As the two armies await the signal to engage, Arjuna finds himself overwhelmed by doubt. Although the Pandavas’ claim is just, the impending war will likely destroy the extended Kuru family, and lead to the ruin of the kingdom. Moreover, to win this war Arjuna must fight, even kill, his former teachers and mentors (men he loves and respects), as well as related family members and friends.
At the Existentialist Café
12 weeks, Thursdays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.
Where does meaning come from? Do we make it for ourselves, and if so, how? According to existentialism, “existence precedes essence”: First we come to be, then we (must) define the meaning of our being. What is the freedom to make meaning worth if we don’t have the option of refusing it? How can radically free beings act responsibly? If freedom is the definitive quality of being human, what then of aspects of our lives over which we have little or no control, such as love, death, suffering, ignorance, passion? Sarah Bakewell asserts that existentialism strongly informs our current views on such questions, which is why, “when reading Sartre on freedom, de Beauvoir on oppression, Kierkegaard on anxiety, Camus on rebellion, Heidegger on technology, or Merleau-Ponty on cognitive science one feels one is reading the latest news.” We will read Bakewell’s highly accessible At the Existentialist Café as a way of entering into these and related questions concerning freedom, suffering, and meaning
De la Scandinavie au Vinland… l’épopée des Vikings
6 semaines, Mardis 19:00-21:00
Les Vikings étaient-ils des explorateurs ou des hordes sauvages? Qu’est-ce qui a déclenché leur période d’expansion au 8e siècle? Quelle a été l’ampleur de cette expansion? Comment s’inscrit l’épopée viking dans une Europe chrétienne, à l’heure de l’islamisation du bassin méditerranéen? Les Normands ont-ils poursuivi le mouvement des conquêtes des Vikings? Le fameux « Vinland » a-t-il révélé tous ses secrets?
Dans ce cours de huit semaines, nous explorerons ce volet de l’histoire de l’Occident qui suscite encore beaucoup d’intérêt.