Spring 2021

Course offerings for the Spring 2020 semester include selections in Classics, History, Literature, Music, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Writing.


The Early Days of Rome: Kings and Consuls

12 weeks, Wednesdays, 6:15 p.m. - 8:15 p.m.

Was Rome founded by the fratricidal Romulus, by the Trojan Aeneas, or by both? Were the mothers of Rome the abducted Sabine Women? How was the downfall of the Kings of Rome said to be brought about by the lust of Sextus Tarquinius and the virtue of Lucretia? What part in the founding of the Roman Republic was played by Lucius Junius Brutus, who drove the Tarquins into exile and turned Rome into a republic? What links exist  between those early days and the final days of the Republic, when another Brutus joined with other Senators to kill Julius Caesar, inadvertently bringing about the end of  the Republic and the start of the Empire?


An American Experiment: Liberty, Equality and Democracy in the United States? Part One, 1492-1877

12 weeks, Tuesdays, 6:15 p.m. - 8:15 p.m.

This course, an introduction to the political history of the United States, will examine the principles upon which the Republic was founded—the inherent equality of all men and their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—and the practice of those principles. What did the framers of the American Republic understand by the concept of "liberty"? Who was free in this new Republic? What were the factors that made it so difficult for the country to embrace equality and to what extent do these factors still exist today? When did the United States come to see itself as a Democracy as opposed to a Republic? How did democratic processes further or limit the founding principles? Did the Civil War and the Amendments to the Constitution which followed in its wake represent a re-founding of the United States? Who really won the Civil War? How were these political developments being viewed from what is now Canada?


Angels and Animals: Innocence and Responsibility in Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead

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

Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk’s book Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead examines what she calls “the systems of mutual connections and influences of which we are generally unaware”: systems including the bond between humans and animals, the role of religious beliefs and practices, the traditions of cultures and society. The book, loosely organized around William Blake’s ode “Auguries of Innocence,” is both timeless and timely. It impels the reader to explore questions such as: Are all things that exist interconnected parts of a single whole? If so, what are the obligations of those with experience to those who are innocent—Blake’s “angels”? Do animals have rights and, if they do, to what lengths must one go to recognize and protect them? What makes us embrace or, alternatively, neglect these duties? In what ways does literature induce us to question long-held beliefs and practices and to assume new responsibilities?

Montreal: The Imagined City Through New Eyes

10 weeks, Tuesdays, 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. (first meeting 23 March)

This course will look at how writers in our home town have imagined and experienced—and often embellished—Montreal over the last 10 to 15 years. The intricate relationship between familiar place, writer, and reader inspires, confounds, and engages. What does the reader experience as reconstruction or distortion? Is there a shared cultural shorthand being accessed by the writer? In this course we will explore the idea of a city as an intersection of urban reality, history, and imagination.

Reading Boccaccio: Sexuality & Sublimation in the Decameron

12 weeks, Thursdays, 1:30 pm. - 3:30 p.m.

Alongside Petrarch and Dante, Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) is one of the great authors of the Italian Renaissance. Drawing on the idea that stories should be both useful and delightful, Boccaccio’s Decameron seeks to give enjoyment to the reader while also providing sophisticated commentary on the social norms and customs of Late Medieval Europe. Set in the Tuscan countryside, ten young men and women, who are escaping a Florentine plague, entertain themselves by recounting tales. Swapping tales laced with sexual and moral undertones, the youths escape their earthly circumstances over a period of ten days and provide the reader with one hundred stories—each, though often comedic, championing Medieval virtues and rejecting vices.

Shakespeare in the Spring

6 weeks, Mondays, 1:30 pm. - 3:30 p.m. (first meeting 12 April)

This six-session course will explore two Shakespeare plays, at least one of which will be performed at the 2021 Stratford Festival. A complete course description will be available once Stratford announces its theatre offerings for 2021.


Invitation to Music: The Elements of Appreciation III

12 weeks, Mondays, 1:30 pm. - 3:30 p.m.

Each week, participants will have a chance to discuss and explore a particular aspect of music, under the guidance of discussion leader François A. Ouimet. During our time together we will discuss the basic constituents of music (how we hear music, what is a musical sound, rhythm, basics of music theory), then we will get acquainted with the family of instruments in the orchestra, with the help of Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Bela Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.


The Inner Life of Animals

12 weeks, Tuesdays, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Peter Wohlleben's latest tour de force is The Inner Life of Animals. He opens a window onto the latest research into how animals interact with the world, shedding new light on the Earth community we are all part of. This course will ask the following questions: Do bees plan for the future? Do animals dream when they sleep? Do they grieve, feel shame, devotion? Are domesticated animals our prisoners? Do animals possess mirror neurons, the hardware of empathy? How can we change the way we relate to animals' amazingly different ecosystems, alternate worlds, and heightened sensory perceptions? What can animals teach us about ourselves? Do the images we retain from children's literature colour our feelings?


Latitudes of Loss: On not getting over it

12 weeks, Mondays, 6:15 p.m. - 8:15 p.m.

Have we lost the capacity to meaningfully distinguish between sorrow and depression, between mourning and melancholia? Why do we pathologize, and medicalize, intense emotional responses that arguably might be considered as falling within the normal range of human experience? How is it that, while we are more than ever inclined to deploy the concept of trauma, we also find ourselves thinking that, after a period deemed to be appropriate, mourning should proceed to “closure” and the bereaved should “let go” of the deceased, “get over” the loss, and “move on” with their lives? What do thoughts of this sort betray about our beliefs concerning the depth of our attachment to others and about the extent of our resilience in the wake of loss?


The Art and Strategy of Writing for the Screen

12 weeks, Thursdays, 6:15 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. 

We will address, in a collegial and supportive atmosphere, many of the most basic and important questions in the business. Why do almost all films break down into three acts? Why is the question, “What do I want the audience to feel?” so crucial? How can you make your characters not only credible, but also relatable? What techniques can be deployed to generate and maintain dramatic conflict? How can the climax you envision shipwreck your whole project? Why do the majority of films have a happy ending? What do you need to know about the businesses of film and TV in order to succeed as a screenwriter?

Polishing Your Craft: Intensive In-House Writing Retreat

3 weeks, Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. (starting 1 May)

Are you eager to hone your writing skills, further polish your work, and explore more advanced aspects of your craft? In this short, intensive writing retreat, we will meet at TMI over three consecutive Saturdays to discuss, write, edit, and share our ongoing work with one another. Using Ursula LeGuin's wonderful workbook, Steering the Craft, as our guide, we will explore a variety of narrative elements ranging from the sound of the language to the way we impart information. Students should bring one short piece or excerpt from a longer piece that they would like to polish (max 1,500 words). The piece may be nonfiction, memoir, or fiction. In addition to class discussions and assigned in-class exercises, there will be ample time for writing and editing of the pieces you bring. You should be prepared to offer and receive constructive, guided criticism from the instructors and one another.

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