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Upcoming Literature and Theater Seminars

This list is of upcoming seminars only. Since most seminars meet more than once in a term, if a class has already met at least once, it will no longer show up on this list. To find a seminar that has already started or has finished, use the calendar and set the date range to include the seminar’s starting date.

Starting: Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Tuesdays, September 16 – November 18
Both sections of this class are full. Registration has closed.
The First World War, 1914–1918
Led by Frank Biletz

Note: There are two sessions of this class to accommodate demand. They both have the same content.

The First World War transformed the European political and social order, as well its cultural life, completely and irrevocably. As we approach the centennial of its beginning, this course will delve into the many ramifications and interpretations of WWI, including the...


Starting: Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Tuesdays, September 16 – November 18
Upstate–Downstate: Chicago in Illinois, the Midwest, and the World
Led by Tim Lacy

This discussion-based seminar will survey the “Upstate-Downstate” divide in Illinois history. Is it a reality? If so, how powerful is the trope? If mythical, what undermines the idea? If half true, what topics transcend the divide? Readings include Spinney’s City of Big Shoulders, Biles’ Illinois: A History of the Land and Its People, and Longworth’s Caught in...


Starting: Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Wednesdays, September 17 - November 19 (class will meet October 30 rather than October 29)
Medieval Britain 1066-1307 through Historical Fiction
Led by Matthew Bird

Explore the highlights of Medieval British history– including the Norman Conquest, the Anarchy, the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, and the Conquest of Wales–through quality historical fiction. Novels by Morgan Llywelyn, Sharon Penman, and others will introduce the period. With the readings as background, class meetings will discuss issues such as church-state relations, food and drink,...


Starting: Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Wednesdays, September 17 - November 19
Moral Philosophy 101: Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics
Led by Thomas Zebrowski

Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics is one of the most influential textbooks of moral philosophy ever written. Celebrated in antiquity, canonized in the Middle Ages, and widely rejected in the Early Modern period, Aristotle’s ethical theory is undergoing a resurgence today. This seminar offers a close reading of the Ethics, moving through the great themes that engaged its author...


Starting: Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Wednesdays, September 17 – November 19 (class will not meet September 24)
The Hobbit: J.R.R. Tolkien's Mythic Sources
Led by Karl E. H. Seigfried

Discover the roots of The Hobbit in Norse mythology, German legend, and English literature. Participants will read J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel in detail as they explore ancient poems and tales of wizards and wanderers, dwarves and dragons, heroes and hoards.

Award-winning Norse mythologist Karl E. H. Seigfried writes The Norse Mythology Blog,...


Starting: Thursday, September 18, 2014
Thursdays, September 18 - November 6
No Exit for Art: European Drama, 1906-1968
Led by Todd Bauer

This lecture and discussion-based seminar will examine the rich period of European theater from the first half of the twentieth century. From the existentialism of No Exit and Six Characters in Search of an Author, to the innovations of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and The Birthday Party, as well as the landmark works of Chekhov and Beckett, the...


Starting: Saturday, September 20, 2014
Saturdays, September 20 - November 22
Dostoevsky's The Gambler and The Idiot
Led by Julia Kriventsova Denne

Note: There are two sessions of this class to accommodate demand. They both have the same content.

We will examine Dostoevsky’s sprawling and mysterious The Idiot against his compact and fast-moving novel The Gambler and several film adaptations, including Akira Kurosawa’s The Idiot. Through interactions between characters and exploration of...


Starting: Saturday, September 20, 2014
Saturdays, September 20 - November 22 (class does not meet September 27 and October 4)
Shakespeare's Wars of the Roses Power, Action and Conflict
Led by John Nygro

Shakespeare populates his Wars of the Roses plays with vividly drawn characters who use their power to take actions against opposing forces. We will focus our attention on these complex indivudals by studying, viewing, and discussing nine important characters from Shakespeare’s first tetralogy (Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, 3 and Richard III). During each session, participants...


Starting: Saturday, September 20, 2014
Saturdays, September 20 – November 22
Victoria and Edward VII: The British Monarchy, 1837–1910
Led by Frank Biletz

The Victorian and Edwardian periods encompassed enormous social, political, and cultural changes. In this exploration of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and her pleasure-loving son, we will discuss the Victorian ideals of domesticity, Prince Albert and the Great Exhibition of 1851, political reforms during the era of Disraeli and Gladstone, challenges to the dominance of the British...


Starting: Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Tuesdays, September 23 – November 11
How War Changed Women: Perspectives on British Life, Fiction, and Fashion during World War I
Led by Debra Mancoff

This seminar considers the lives of British women from the years leading up to the Great War through its aftermath (1910–1925). As women coped with wartime, they forged and expressed new identities through memoirs, novels, imagery, and dress. Seminar discussions will include Brittain’s Testament of Youth, West’s Return of the Soldier and Barker’s Life Class,...


Starting: Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Tuesdays, September 23 - November 11
Tales of the Jazz Age
Led by Leslie Anne Singel

Although it was a short period in American culture, the Jazz Age (1919–1929) continues to attract and excite students of American literature and history. We will read literature from Lost Generation and Harlem Renaissance writers to better understand the thrall and significance of the era. In addition to critical articles and essays, we will read This Side of Paradise by F. Scott...


Starting: Saturday, September 27, 2014
Saturdays, September 27 – November 15
Louis XIV, His Court, and Seventeenth–Century France
Led by Jeanine Teodorescu

This course offers a well-rounded introduction to Louis XIV’s energetic and complex personality, his complicated love-life, his sophisticated political skills, and his accomplishments in the expansion and modernization of France. Nancy Mitford’s deeply researched The Sun King and W. H. Lewis’ witty and sharp overview of French society in The Splendid Century will contribute...


Starting: Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Tuesdays, September 30 – December 2 (class will not meet November 25)
Marcel Proust's The Guermantes Way
Led by Mike Levine

The third volume of In Search of Lost Time, Proust’s monumental novel, is a dazzling portrait of the salon society of late nineteenth-century Paris rendered in loving detail even as it is ruthlessly satirized. The narrator discovers the shallowness of a world he had mythologized as a boy in Combray. At the same time, mysterious figures at the margins of the previous volume assume...


Starting: Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Wednesdays, October 1 – November 12
This class has been cancelled.
Mightier than the Sword: The Legacy of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin
Led by Rob Prince Obey

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin became a cultural phenomenon soon after it first appeared in the National Era abolitionist newspaper in June 1851, and it has remained an important, although complicated, literary landmark. Using a wealth of historical materials culled from the archives of theater, music, film, and literature, the seminar will reveal why ...


Starting: Thursday, October 2, 2014
Thursdays, October 2 - November 6
Twenty-first Century Literature
Led by Linda Levine

What’s new and great in contemporary literature? This seminar will examine recent, award-winning works, including two short novels–Julian Barnes’ Sense of an Ending and Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist–and short stories from Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth, George Saunders’ Tenth of December and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. We...


Starting: Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Wednesdays, October 15 - November 19
Mansfield Park at 200: An Exploration of Jane Austen’s Novel
Led by Jeffrey Nigro

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, probably the novelist’s most complex and challenging work. Fanny Price, the painfully shy heroine, and Edmund Bertram, the somewhat self-righteous hero, have had few supporters, even among Austen’s most devoted fans. While it is less obviously humorous than its beloved ...


Starting: Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Wednesdays, October 15 – November 19
Richard J. Daley: Man and Myth, Life and Legend
Led by Bill Savage

In this seminar, we examine the many ways in which Richard J. Daley shaped modern Chicago, both physically (expressways, universities, public housing) and metaphysically (in how Chicagoans understand each other and create their sense of identity). We will read Mike Royko’s Boss, excerpts from American Pharaoh, and media coverage of Daley in order to see the impact, both good...


Starting: Wednesday, October 15, 2014
October 15 – December 3 (class will not meet November 26)
Unfinished Manuscripts, Unresolved War: Kafka, Hašek, and Prague in WWI
Led by Dagmar Herrmann

Kafka, the inscrutable founding spirit of literary modernism, and Hašek, a satiric, cynic, and lapsed revolutionary, were born in the same city in the same year, spent most of their lives in Prague, wrote their world-famous books around the time of World War I, and died a year apart. What kind of an environment produced writers as dissimilar and alike as Hašek and Kafka? History, geography,...