Today we find ourselves in what seems to be a new historic moment. COVID-19 has not only taken lives, but its menace has spawned profound changes in social and cultural practices across the globe, from wearing facial coverings to social distancing. But coronavirus is not the first pathogen to threaten the human species.
Check out Graham School liberal arts courses
In this series, Michael Rossi, Assistant Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Chicago, will explore four pandemics—bubonic plague, cholera, influenza, and HIV-AIDS—that have likewise challenged human beings and transformed the ways that we have lived, worked, loved, and clashed.
Investigating these historical episodes will offer participants a new vantage point to reflect upon the novelty of our present circumstances, as well as to consider the ways we are traveling well-trodden pathways that have long linked disease to the human experience.
Michael Rossi is a historian of science and medicine at the University of Chicago. He teaches about medicine, disease, and society from the 1500s to the present. His research focuses on the historical metaphysics of the body: how different people at different times understood questions of beauty, truth, falsehood, pain, pleasure, goodness, and reality vis-à-vis their bodily selves and those of others. He is the author of The Republic of Colour: Science, Perception and the Making of Modern America, which deals with; color theory, politics, and aesthetics at the turn of the century. His newest project examines ways in which linguistics, physiology, and philosophy came together to make new forms of medicine in the twentieth century. He has written for the London Review of Books, Isis, and Cabinet, among other publications.
Offered remotely and free of charge by the University of Chicago Graham School, these four Wednesday sessions will combine live lectures by Professor Rossi with moderated discussions on short, pre-distributed readings. Pre-readings will be made available on each event’s page.
Registration is required. Curiosity and good will is expected. A certain sobering enrichment is anticipated, as is an appreciation for the hope and will to live that have guided people through time.
Lectures will be held from 6:30-8:00 PM CST, Wednesday evenings on May 20, May 27, June 3, and June 10.
Download the pre-readings on each lecture's registration page.
Register for the events below.
Your story's beginning must capture and commit your audience to your tale. We'll explore how to launch your story unforgettably into audience imaginations through crafting deeply written characters and devising structure that satisfies and snares.
Readings will explore the rise of the organs of democratic government from Homer to the historical Athenian Assembly, with a special focus on the authority of the People.
In this introductory course, we will explore the art and craft of writing memoir. Students will draw upon their life experiences to create works that will explore both individual lives and the human condition in general. In-class writing exercises will be aimed at beginning larger pieces of writing.
In this course, we'll read and discuss the Vimalakirti Sutra, an influential Buddhist scripture that focuses on paradox, non-duality, and the virtues of acting in seemingly unholy ways.
This discussion/lecture course will focus on the later history of Chicago, from around 1920 until the present, emphasizing the major events, politics, and peoples that make up one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world.
Virginia Woolf wrote Three Guineas in 1938 as a letter responding to requests to contribute a guinea each for female education, for women in the professions, and to preserve peace. These are the "three guinea" of the title. Please read Part One for the first class.
An in-depth exploration of the relationship between fantasy and realism in Nikolai Gogol's short stories "Diary of a Madman" (1835), "The Nose" (1836), and "The Overcoat" (1842).
The British novel came into its own during the 18th century, an era that also saw expansions of colonialism and exploration. This course will consider novels by Behn, Defoe, Swift, Johnson, and Shelley that imagine life beyond the bounds of Europe.
The Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults offers a rigorous, noncredit liberal arts curriculum that draws on the strong Socratic tradition at the University of Chicago and covers the foundations of modern Western political and social thought.
This course explores immortal hilarious texts that show why we are hard wired for laughter. Authors from Aristophanes to Tom Wolfe illustrate the liberation comedy grants from tyranny, phoniness, secret foibles, and the necessity of submission to reality.
This second course in a three-quarter sequence will examine the History of Western Civilization, focusing on the relation between technology and “wisdom.” Instead of a political framework, this year’s sequence will examine how changes in technology, primarily information technology, impacted the philosophical and spiritual ideas of a particular
Spiritual masterworks offer some of the most powerful musical experiences. This course will examine such icons as the requiems of Mozart, Berlioz, and Verdi, and cantatas from Bach to Stravinsky.
The Book of Exodus focuses on this foundational event for Judaism, in which Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt towards the promise land and receives the covenant legislation at Mt. Sinai, defining the community as a just society.
We will discuss three of Nabokov's English novels: The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Bend Sinister, and Lolita.
Thomas Jefferson, Virginian and yeoman farmer, was the author of the Declaration of Independence, and a proponent of an agrarian vision of America.
This course will introduce you to the art of writing creative nonfiction, a wonderfully flexible and diverse genre. Try your hand at writing literary journalism, memoir, and the personal essay.
In this course, you will learn the most basic tools of art viewing. At the beginning of the course, you will be provided with a basic toolkit list. Each tool will be discussed first in a classroom setting and then applied to art objects within the same session. This basic set of tools, once learned, will enable you to view new art on your own.
We will look at re-imaginings of the Iliad: Walcott's Omeros; Malouf's Ransom; and Barker's The Silence of the Girls.
A close reading of Wittgenstein's seminal—and enormously influential—work, Philosophical Investigations.
We will read and discuss the text sentence by sentence, section by section—and continue for as long as it takes to get through (at least) Part I (that portion which Wittgenstein himself prepared for publication).
Do you need structure, deadlines, insight, and a creative community to produce your best work? This eight-week, multi-genre (fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry) online writing group is designed to provide that and more.
German and Austrian filmmakers in exile from Hitler's Germany helped bring a cynical humor, a new visual vocabulary and the Film Noir to Hollywood. We view and discuss comedies and noirs of Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang and Robert Siodmak.
We will be exploring several eastern mystical traditions including Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. We will draw on sacred texts to understand essential teachings that run across these ancient systems by examining their inner core, and discussing their application to modern times.
This course introduces Islamic traditions, devotional practice, artistic expressions, and intellectual and social history. The course begins with the study of Islamic origins and how these inform differences in belief and practice.
Mysteries and thrillers written expressly for the theatre provide edge-of-the-seat entertainment while enriching our understanding of human nature. In this class we will examine eight plays of suspense that have delighted audiences around the world.
Nietzsche considered his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra to be his best and most important.
This three-part course examines art and architecture in Italy ca. 1300 to ca. 1600, a period noteworthy for celebrated artists including Giotto, Duccio, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello, Masaccio, Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian.
The genres of sonata and quartet were the vehicles for Beethoven's most sublime and comprehensive musical thought. The sonata was his laboratory or workshop, while the quartet decisively marks the culmination of each of his "three periods."
Our multi-year seminar on the Iliad continues. Highlights include Hera’s seduction of Zeus and Patroclus' aristeia (& death). About 100 lines of Greek per class are read aloud, translated & discussed with some recourse to the critical literature.
This class utilizes the basic toolkit acquired in previous classes in order to focus on 20th century art. We will follow three main themes in parallel fashion; by the end of the class, we will be able to see how these themes interact and inform each other.
We'll explore the lives of several WWI poets and their innovations in poetry: the twisting of tropes such as assonance, alliteration, onomotopoiea, and rhyme; revisions of Romantic metaphors; the rejection of Victorian floweriness for stark, even vulgar language--all to indelible effect.
This class will begin the study the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and the Greek comedies of Aristophanes. Autumn Quarter will be devoted to selections from Aeschylus, and selections from Aristophanes.
This discussion course will focus on the historical development of the relation between the U.S. Congress and the Presidency, focusing on the struggles between the branches to set a national policy agenda.
How "exceptional" is America? This two-quarter discussion course will examine ideas in and of America, using primary sources to understand the ideas of William James, W.E.B. Dubois, Jane Addams, John Dewey and others.
The New Kingdom of ancient Egypt dominated the eastern Mediterranean world for over six hundred years, characterized by monumental cultural achievements in military conquests, economic ties, artistic achievements, religious zealotry, and palace intrigues, and possibly the Exodus.
The Russian stories plumb the depths of what it is to be a human being, using the tools of a faith for their citizens who must endure in some cases, the vise of a totalitarian state, and in others inner demons they struggle to tame.
If you’re thinking about writing a children's book, either fiction or nonfiction, this one-session seminar will both ground you in today’s Children’s Book World and help you move forward in readying your book for readers.
A three-quarter online sequence presenting the basics of Homeric Greek. Via flashcards and exercises, students read real Greek early-on completing the first book of the Iliad.
Designed for beginning playwrights as well as writers of other media, this class emphasizes what makes a scene work, how to develop character through dialogue and action, and how to think in theatrical terms. Weekly writing assignments will focus on points of attack, conflict, resolution, text and subtext.
This course is designed for advanced fiction writers working to develop and hone their prose, whether that be novels, flash fiction, short stories, or hybrid work. Writers will have the opportunity to learn from a wide range of styles, techniques, and voices, as well as workshop their writing.
Develop your writing practice with daily flash fiction prompts as you hone your craft through reading and workshop discussion. Registered students will be sent a pre-assignment before the first day of class.
Sample Course Syllabus
Beethoven's 9th marked the zenith of classical style. With virtuoso orchestras capable to doing justice to these works, Mahler and, later, Shostakovich fashioned a symphonic repertoire that is as relevant to today's audiences as Beethoven's.
This course explores poetry, memoir and fiction of the Holocaust. We'll discover work of shattering effect whose place in literary history signifies an end to previous ideas of literary beauty and a new beginning for writers wishing to register the effects of twentieth century catastrophe.
For centuries after the 12th century BCE Egypt remained significant in Near Eastern struggles for military and cultural dominance.
This course shows that all human beings belong to the same family of man with Americans forming just one of the clans. These stories portray themes that range from mischievous fantasies to the crippling forces of self-hate, loneliness, and isolation.
This second course will look at ideas in and of America, using primary sources to understand such developments as New Deal liberalism, conservatism, the New Left, the New Right, and current political ideologies of populism and progressivism.
With a focus on his most timeless masterworks, this course will examine Mozart's impressive assimilation of Italianate and Germanic musical styles, suffused with his unique sublimity.
Anton Chekhov is universally recognized as one of the greatest short story writers. His clinical detachment serves to heighten the dramatic impact and psychological insights of his stories. Famous for the clarity of his prose, Chekhov was also a master of plot, comedy, pathos, and wistfulness.
In this class, we will study various creative nonfiction techniques through writing workshops and readings that focus on structure, revision, and adding depth to our work. Students must bring a work in progress (up to 5,000 words) to the first class.
How do we understand the art that has come out of the great art revolutions of the late 19th century and early 20th century in France? Even a viewer who is equipped with basic principles for viewing art may be at a loss in addressing modern visual work.
Alexander Hamilton, an author of the Federalist Papers, was the first secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His policies brought lasting financial stability for the new nation.
How do Muslims live in, shape, and think about the modern world? The course examines theology, science, and political thought as well as music, art, film, TV, comedy, and performance art. The course includes both famous and ordinary perspectives.
A new generation of filmmakers revolutionized Hollywood, rejecting its conservative ideology and embracing the counterculture. We view and discuss early films by Arthur Penn, Dennis Hopper, Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, George Lukas, Hal Ashby, and Peter Bogdanovich.
Hinduism is a philosophy, religion and way of life for nearly one-sixth of the world's population. We will explore essential Hindu texts, cultural traditions, social issues, common misconceptions, and the influence of Hinduism on American society as well as the "Americanization" of Hinduism.
An intellectual acrobat and spinner of words, Tom Stoppard is a playwright who focuses on everything from metaphysics and moral philosophy to true love. He is also funny, inventive and dramatic, as we will discover studying eight of his masterworks.
This course examines the nostalgic (yet forward-looking) symphonies, piano music, and chamber music in which Brahms, along with his contemporaries, Wolff and Bruckner, created an enduring testimonial to Europe at the zenith of its cultural power.
We will examine human biology and behavior from an evolutionary perspective, comparing humans to primates and other mammals and discussing the relative roles of genes ("nature") and environment ("nurture") in modern human populations.
Central to all storytelling is the need to build and sustain tension so readers feel drawn into your writing. Learn the key elements of telling a compelling story: how to pace unfolding events, heighten conflict, and deliver catharsis.
Designed for experienced playwrights or those who have completed Introduction to Playwriting, this class takes scene writing, character development, and dramatic dialogue to the next level.
Students who have already completed Memoir Beginnings or Introduction to Creative Nonfiction can take their memoir writing skills to the next level in this course. Be prepared to read, write, discuss, analyze, experiment, and revise.
Students will focus on developing a particular story-in-progress, submitting multiple drafts for peer and instructor comments. Students will need to bring a draft of the story they intend to work on, plus a published story they would like to use as a model, to the first class session.
Writers of all genres will benefit from lecture, discussion, brief readings, and in-class prompts as we focus on specific, effective tools to navigate flashbacks, flash forwards, as well as shifts of scene within a linear narrative.
Beethoven's creations during his final years represent most sublime achievement in classical music. The profundity, craft, and emotion of the last quartets, sonatas, symphony, and mass are unequaled in Western music.
In this four-week class led by author Dipika Mukherjee (Ode to Broken Things; Shambala Junction), you will read short fiction from around the world. Distinguishing Characters will focus on writing characters, including unreliable narrators.
Writers are driven to write for a reason: They believe they have something to say about the human experience, about how we all strive to live in a world that does not conform to our expectations and ideals.
Learn how to write literarily relevant sex scenes to develop character and plot in memoir, novel, or short story. This is not an erotica writing workshop, but rather a class dedicated to a unique and powerful craft tool.
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