BASIC PROGRAM OF LIBERAL EDUCATION FOR ADULTS
Graham School, University of Chicago
- Alumni Courses open to all in 2014-2015
- Courses & Talks Archive 2013-2014
- Papers on Academia.edu (on Homer, Shakespeare, Melville, Tolstoy, and Fernando Pessoa)
- List of 102 Great Novellas (a reading list created in collaboration with the students in my Novella class)
- Virginia Woolf: Three Novels. A ten-week Basic Program alumni course. Registration through Basic Program site. Tuesday, January 9-March 13; 6:00 PM-9:15 PM. Description: “Words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind,” Virginia Woolf comments on the writer’s craft. “And how do they live in the mind? Variously and strangely, much as human beings live, ranging hither and thither, falling in love, and mating together. It is true that they are much less bound by ceremony and convention than we are. Royal words mate with commoners.” We will study Woolf’s unique, innovative word-expression of consciousness in Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and The Waves (1931) – the novels that, according to E. M. Forster, demonstrate “her genius in its fullness.” Syllabus: VirginiaWoolfBASC70132-18W1
- Silver with Red: 1917 and Russian Literature. Friday, October 6, 2017, 12:15 PM – 1:30 PM. Chicago Cultural Center. Free Public Lecture sponsored by Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults, Graham School, University of Chicago. Description: If literature is a mirror of life, then the revolution of 1917 could be seen as a hammer that broke that mirror into multiple pieces. Some writers chose exile, others stayed. Of those who stayed, some believed in the party line and complied with it; others didn’t. Some works were published in a million hardcover copies; others were read in typewritten “samizdat” copies or kept “in the drawer” for decades. This lecture explores the impact of 1917 on Russian authorship and readership: What did it mean to be Akhmatova, Mandelstam or Tsvetaeva under Stalin? How did the situation of Bulgakov or Pasternak differ from that of Gorky or Sholokhov? How did Bunin and Nabokov or, later, Solzhenitsyn and Brodsky, fare abroad? And what does it mean to be a reader of these writers – then and today?
- Philip Roth’s Short Novels. A ten-week Basic Program alumni course. Registration through Basic Program site. Tuesday, Sep 26-Dec 5 (no class Nov 21). 6:00 PM-9:15 PM. Description: We will study two groups of loosely related novels concerned with human vulnerability to chance, history, society’s blind enforcement of norms, and death. The “Kepesh” novels, which include The Breast (1972), The Professor of Desire (1977), and The Dying Animal (2001), share a common character – literature professor David Kepesh – and insights about the complex relationship between one’s imagination and capacity for emotional commitment. Roth’s last novels – Everyman (2006), Indignation (2010), The Humbling (2009), and Nemesis (2010) – comprising the “Nemeses” group, tell the stories of four men, each brought down by a sudden catastrophe. Syllabus: Roth Short Novels BASC70111
- Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater. A six-week Basic Program alumni course. Registration through Basic Program site. Description: We will devote six weeks to a thorough exploration of Sabbath’s Theater (1995) – a novel shockingly teasing like Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) and majestically sharp like American Pastoral (1997). In Roth’s words, “Sabbath is a jokester like Hamlet, who winks at the genre of tragedy by cracking jokes as Sabbath winks at the genre of comedy by planning suicide. There is loss, death, dying, decay, grief — and laughter, ungovernable laughter.” Contrary to the belief that wisdom lies exclusively in the words and deeds of admirable characters, Roth’s anti-hero, Mickey Sabbath, becomes a surprising source of insight about the meaning of life. Syllabus: MitovaRothBASC70074_Summer2017
- The Silver Age of Russian Poetry. An eight-week Basic Program alumni course. Registration through Basic Program site. Description: “Brightly, the silver moon was growing cold over the Silver Age.” This image in Anna Akhmatova’s “Poem Without a Hero” foreshadows the destruction of Russian modernism by the Revolution of 1917 and the terror of Stalinism. Our study of the clash between the power of human creativity and political power will be informed by poetry, art, and philosophical thought representative of the Silver Age of Russian culture. We will focus on Anna Akhmatova’s most cherished works, with detours into some poetry and short prose by Alexandr Blok, Nikolay Gumilyov, Boris Pasternak, Osip Mandelshtam, Marina Tsvetaeva, Vladimir Mayakovski, and other writers. Syllabus: MitovaSilverAgeBASC70114_Summer2017
- The Devil: Romantic and Modernist. A ten-week Basic Program alumni course. Registration through Basic Program site. Description: Two of the most complex literary incarnations of the Devil, found in Goethe’s drama, Faust – Part One (1808, revised 1828-1829), and Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, The Master and Margarita (1928-1940, published 1967), complement each other in a number of ways beyond mere influence. Goethe’s Mephistopheles and Bulgakov’s Devil, Woland, embody the human quest for transcendent knowledge and freedom, including political freedom as well as the awareness of the limitations of human condition. While both works tell compelling universal stories of passion and destruction, Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita also responds to the terror in Stalinist Russia with imagination, sarcasm… and romanticism. Syllabus.
- Three Counterlives by Philip Roth. A ten-week Basic Program alumni course. Registration through Basic Program site. Course ID: BASC 50032. January 10-March 14, 2017. Tuesday, 6:00 – 9:15 PM, Gleacher Center, downtown. Syllabus: mitovarothbasc-witer2017. Course description: Established in his novel, The Counterlife (1986), Roth’s theme of alternative lives is further explored in Deception(1990), Operation Shylock: A Confession (1993), and The Plot Against America (2004). These novels present three highly imaginative forms of duality: an adulterous relationship consisting entirely of dialogue, which might be taking place not simply in one room, but in one mind; an impersonator promoting a reverse exile of the Israeli Jews to Europe under the identity of the narrator Roth; and an astounding “what if” alternative history of the United States in which Lindbergh has defeated Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election. For our first class, please read chapters 1-3 of Operation Shylock. No prerequisites.
- March 3: Counterlives: Philip Roth in Context. Friday, March 3, 2017, 12:15-1:45 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theatre, Chicago Cultural Center. Free admission. Sponsored by the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults, Graham School, University of Chicago. Description:
Fiction is an opportunity to entertain roads not taken, to live vicariously, to test the boundaries of one’s empathic potential and open-mindedness. Even the most autobiographical writers are aware of this dimension of their art. Philip Roth, who coined the word “counterlife,” might be the most thorough living explorer of this function of literature. In his oeuvre, counterlives are a trope, a theme, and a prompt for reflection on that exclusively human way of conquering mortality called imagination. The lecture will consider Roth’s counterlives in the context of the Western tradition, e.g., Homer, Plato, Shakespeare, Kierkegaard, Fernando Pessoa, and Kafka.
- Petronius’ Satyricon & Apuleius’ The Golden Ass. Alumni Sequence: Romans II. Registration through Basic Program site. Course ID: BASC 61212. January 12-March 16, 2017. Thursday, 7:45 – 9:15 PM, Gleacher Center, downtown. Syllabus: Course description: Texts dealing with daily life allow us to explore areas of the Roman world that are not always seen in lofty genres. The comic novels of the tutorial give a satirical look at the pleasures and anxieties that are found in all levels of Roman society. In the seminar, we move from the ridiculous to the sublime, from slapstick to different kinds of religious expression. Prequisites: Romans I, Fall quarter of Romans II.
- The Art of the Novella. A ten-week Basic Program alumni course. Registration through Basic Program site. Section 1: September 20-December 6, 2016, Tuesday, 6:00 – 9:15 PM, Gleacher Center, downtown. Syllabus: Mitova BASC 50031 01 Novella. Section 2: September 24-December 10, 2016, Saturday, 9:30 – 12:45 PM; Cobb Hall, Hyde Park. Syllabus: Mitova BASC 50031 02 Novella. Description: Novellas combine the focused, intense plot of the short story and the in-depth exploration of human character found in lengthy novels. We will enjoy a variety of approaches to the genre in eleven masterpieces: Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (1784; revised 1787) and Novella (1828), Tolstoy’s Hadji Murat (1912), Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog (1925), Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1972), Heinrich Böll’s The Lost Honor of Katharina Bloom (1974), Garcia Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981), Naguib Mahfouz’s The Day the Leader Was Killed (1983), Marguerite Duras’ The Lover (1984), Patrick Suskind’s The Pigeon (1988), and Mario Vargas Llosa’s In Praise of the Stepmother (1988).
- Public Lecture: Shakespeare the Master of Ambiguity. Friday, December 2, 12:15-1:45 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theatre, Chicago Cultural Center. Free admission. Sponsored by the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults, Graham School, University of Chicago. More information. Description: In life, ambiguity frustrates us. In poetry it delights us. In drama? As long as we are reading a masterpiece that allows for multiple interpretations, we perceive ambiguity as richness. Uncertainty intrigues us. But how does one stage the ambiguity we perceive in Shakespeare’s characters, in the plots of his masterpieces, in his half-closures, in his brilliant puns? We’ve seen very different King Lears, Hamlets, and Iagos, all of whom said the same words. Midsummer Night’s Dream is not always funny and The Winter’s Tale can be quite bitter, despite its “happy ending.” This lecture explores the tension between text and theater caused by Shakespeare’s ambiguity.
- Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil. An eight-week Basic Program alumni course, Gleacher Center, downtown. Registration through Basic Program site. June 23 – August 11, 2016, Thursday, 10 AM – 1:15 PM. Description: The Death of Virgil (1945), by the prominent Austrian modernist of Jewish descent, Hermann Broch (1886-1951), is an imaginative and delightfully challenging story about the last day of Virgil’s life. Often described as a philosophical novel, Broch’s seminal work reflects and inspires reflection on life and death, civilization and politics, and the nature of fiction and poetry in their relationship to reality. According to George Steiner, The Death of Virgil is “the only genuine technical advance that fiction has made since Ulysses.” Weekly reading assignment: 70 pages. Visuals and handouts from other relevant texts will supplement the discussions.
- The World of Wislawa Szymborska. An eight-week Basic Program alumni course, Gleacher Center, downtown. Registration through Basic Program site. June 21 – August 9, 2016. Tuesday, 6 PM – 9:15 PM. Description: One of the fifteen women awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) has been described as “the Mozart of poetry.” She has penned about 400 poems in which wisdom, humanity, and philosophical depth blend with sparkling humor, irony, and playfulness. Inspiration, Szymborska believes, is “born from a continuous ‘I don’t know’” and in her poems she questions knowing with intelligence and compassion. Accessible and distinctive, Szymborska’s oeuvre provides abundant material for engaging conversations on the human condition. Each week we will read about twenty poems by Szymborska and will discuss several poems in depth.
- Russia Poetic and Prosaic: Pushkin and Gogol. A ten-week Basic Program alumni course. Registration through Basic Program site. Section 1: March 31 – June 2, 2016, Thursday, 10 AM – 1:15 PM, Gleacher Center, downtown; Section 2: March 26 – June 11, 2016, Saturday, 9:30 – 12:45 PM; Cobb Hall, Hyde Park. Description: Like Dante, Pushkin is credited with establishing the national literary tongue: his novel in verse, Eugene Onegin (1833), develops the Russian language of emotions. Also like Dante, Gogol started his own divine comedy with the epic poem in prose, Dead Souls, (Part 1, 1842), but he was unable to continue beyond the inferno of Post-Napoleonic Russia. These two early classics enchant the reader with vivid descriptions of Russian country life, multinuanced humor, and social insight. In addition, we will read a selection of poems and short stories (e.g., Pushkin’s Belkin’s Tales and Gogol’s Evenings on the Farm Near Dikanka).
- García Márquez, the Storyteller. A ten-week Basic Program alumni course, open to all. March 29 – May 31, Gleacher Center, downtown, Tuesday 6:00-9:15 PM). One Hundred Years of Solitude and a selection of short stories. TEXTBOOKS: One Hundred Years of Solitude (Harper Modern Classics, 2006) and Collected Stories (Harper Modern Classics, 1999). A ten-week Basic Program alumni course, open to all. March 29 – May 31, Gleacher Center, downtown, Tuesday 6:00-9:15 PM). Registration through Basic Program site. Description: A close reading of One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and a selection of short stories by Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014), with a focus on the storytelling genius of the Colombian Nobel laureate. We will explore questions of cultural heritage, time and space, plot and character, realism and imagination, crisp imagery and ambiguity of meaning, narrative rhythm and disruptions of flow. Most likely, at the end of this course, we will not be able to explain García Márquez’s enchanting realism but, together, through exciting conversations, we will have marveled at his magical worlds – we will have dwelled in Macondo.
- Philip Roth’s American Trilogy. (A ten-week Basic Program alumni course, open to all. Catalogue number: BPOPRT 16W1). Meets Tuesday, 6:00 PM – 9:15 PM, January 12 – March 15. Registration through Basic Program site. We will continue to explore the relationship between Philip Roth and his alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, in American Pastoral (1997), I Married a Communist (1998), and The Human Stain (2000). These three novels, which re-evaluate the “American dream” of prosperity and equality, are representative of Roth’s mature artistry. The course will conclude with Roth’s last novel narrated by Zuckerman, Exit Ghost (2007). Weekly reading assignments: 110-140 pages. For our first class please read Part I, “Paradise Remembered” (110 pages), of American Pastoral. Textbooks and reading schedule.
Note: The Philip Roth sequence will continue in Winter 2017, with a course on Deception (1990), Operation Shylock: A Confession (1993), and The Plot Against America (2004), followed by a course on Sabath Theater in Summer 2017, and a course on Roth’s short novels in Winter 2018.
- Fear of Doubt in Shakespeare’s Othello. First Friday Lecture, December 4, 12:15-1:45 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theatre, Chicago Cultural Center. Free admission. Sponsored by the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults, Graham School, University of Chicago. A presentation based on a book chapter currently available on Academia.edu: https://chicago.academia.edu/KatiaMitova
- Roth & Zuckerman. (A ten-week Basic Program alumni course, open to all. Catalogue number: BPOROZ 15A1). Meets Tuesday, 6:00 PM – 9:15 PM, September 29 – December 8. Registration through Basic Program site. We will explore the relationship between Philip Roth, his alter ego Zuckerman, the narratives of The Ghost Writer (1979), Zuckerman Unbound (1981), The Anatomy Lesson (1983), The Prague Orgy (1985), The Counterlife (1986), and Roth’s semi-autobiography, The Facts (1988). Textbooks and reading schedule.
- García Márquez, the Storyteller (June 22 – August 10, Gleacher Center, downtown, Thursday 10 AM-1:15 PM). One Hundred Years of Solitude and a selection of short stories. Description & Registration. TEXTBOOKS: One Hundred Years of Solitude (Harper Modern Classics, 2006) and Collected Stories (Harper Modern Classics, 1999). Reading Schedule.
- Magical Short Stories (June 25 – August 13, Gleacher Center, downtown, Monday 6:00-9:15 PM). Cortázar, Karpentier, Fuentes, Borges, García Márquez, and Isabel Allende. Also E. T. A. Hoffman, Gogol, Kafka, Bruno Schulz, Mikhail Bulgakov, Italo Calvino, Toni Morrison, and Donald Barthelme. Description & Registration. TEXTBOOK: Magical Realist Fiction, ed. by D. Young and K. Hollaman (Oberlin, 1984). Reading schedule.
- Moby-Dick at the Lookingglass Theatre. Post-matinee panel discussion of the play on July 12, 4:30 PM. With Dr. Janna Henning and the theatre’s artistic director, Andrew White. Topic: “Obsession, Revenge, Fanaticism and Madness in Moby Dick.” See an earlier lecture on Moby-Dick on Academia.edu: https://chicago.academia.edu/KatiaMitova.
- Russia in Short Stories (Gleacher Center, downtown, Tuesday, 6-9:15 PM: Russia in Short Stories BPORSS – TU and Thursday 10 AM-1:15 PM: Russia in Short Stories BPARSS – TH).
- The Makers of the Odyssey. Saturday, April 24, 9-10:30 AM. Lecture at the Basic Program Spring Weekend Study Retreat on Homer’s Odyssey, April 24-26, The Abbey Resort, Fontana, WI. Description & Registration. Click here to read a full version of the lecture: The Makers of the Odyssey.
- The Early Philip Roth (Gleacher Center, downtown, Tuesday, 6:00-9:15 PM). Course Description, Books & Registration. We will be reading about 100 pages of Roth’s fiction a week as well as some additional materials (e.g., interviews with Roth and articles). The Philip Roth sequence will continue in Fall 2015 and Winter 2016.