Adventures in Lifelong Learning


9:00 am – 10:30 am

The Brothers Karamazov: “Why is Such a Man Alive?”                                                    Helen Heineman, PhD

Einstein considered The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky’s last published work, the supreme summit of all literature, while Freud called it “the most magnificent novel ever written.” And indeed, this great masterpiece of world literature, revolving around the murder of a father, taxes the intellect and calls on readers to think about the great questions of life: What is happiness? Is there a God? Is life worth living? What does it mean to be a father? Why is there suffering in the world? Dostoevsky asks these questions, even while presenting an absorbing murder mystery, a passionate love story, a courtroom drama, and any number of intellectually taxing sections (The Grand Inquisitor and The Russian Monk) in which he presents religion both as an institution and a spiritual force for creating a happy life.  But the characters are unforgettable, real and vital, even while he also casts them in the form of embodied ideas, illustrating the most powerful themes and issues of his day and ours. The book was first published serially in The Russian Messenger in 1879, and was translated into English for the first time in 1912 by Constance Garnett, who allowed Dostoevsky’s strange new voice to invade English literature.  Dr. Heineman will be referring to the 2011 Norton Critical Edition of The Brothers Karamazov, which was originally translated by Constance Garnett.    Please read Part 1, Books 1, 2, and 3, for the first day of class.

Jazz History: Part 3                                                                                                         Paul Buono, JD

Jazz history is American history – the study of culture, politics, and economics of the 20th century. Its characters are the geniuses, virtuosos, outcasts, pioneers, eccentrics, and revolutionaries of American history. Post-Civil War America presented tremendous division within the country, but this landscape gave rise to a form of music often referred to as America’s only true art form. 

Jazz History Part 3 begins with the music of the late 1920s into the '30s, the music of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie, and the emergence of the dance band. Through listening examples, videos, and selected readings from the text students will gain a deeper understanding of the historical context that gave birth to jazz.

10:45 am – 12:15 pm

African American History Since Reconstruction                                                          Maria Alessandra Bollettino, PhD

An examination of African American history from Reconstruction through the mid-twentieth-century Civil Rights Movement. This course is organized chronologically, with a focus on how Black culture, communal identity, and political thought and activism evolved over time. We will examine a wide range of Black American individuals and the organizations, institutions, and movements they created to sustain themselves as they worked to withstand and combat discrimination and exploitation, and as they struggled to ensure their inclusion in our body politic as full and equal citizens of the United States. This course rests upon the premise that the history of the United States cannot be understood without an in-depth understanding of the history of Black Americans and that the study of African American history offers an invaluable means of assessing how cultural, economic, political, and social change happen.   

Eclipsed Understandings:How to Understand, Watch, and Enjoy the Solar Eclipse of April  2024                                                                                    Lawrence McKenna, PhD                                                     

The second “Great American Solar Eclipse” will race across the US from Texas to Maine on April 8, 2024. If you’ve never seen a total solar eclipse, you should: there are few experiences more stunning, moving, and extraordinary than watching the sun disappear mid-day. In this LLL class, we’ll examine the how and why of eclipses, see how we use them to determine how fast Earth’s rotation is slowing, test Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, even calculate the date of volcanic eruptions during the Little Ice Age. Finally, we’ll look in detail about how and where to observe the April 8th, 2024 eclipse right here in New England.

1:15 pm – 2:45 pm

Free Speech and Free Elections: Money, Politics and the Presidential Election of 2024 tomorrow?                                                                                         David Smailes, PhD

The First Amendment guarantees the right to “freedom of speech,” But what does that phrase mean in American life?  Join us as we explore the scope and limits of freedom of speech under the Constitution, how the increasing role of money in politics allows some to “speak louder (and often in misleading ways) than others, and how social media in particular has distorted our political dialogue (including the upcoming 2024 presidential election).