2021 Spring Online Courses

"The Betrothed" by Alessandro Manzoni

Group Leader: FRANCESCA PIANA
Meets on: Wednesdays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 2/3/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: 18

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni has been at the top of the reading list of Italians for generations. Written in the middle of the XIX century, it explores the reality of Northern Italy in the first part of the XVII century. There have been over 500 editions of the book in Italian, and it has been translated into several languages. The frustrated union of a couple of young lovers allows the author to deal with many themes that are both local and universal: the abuse of power, the…

Can We Dig Ourselves Out of this Hole? Confronting Our Economic Choices and Challenges

Group Leader: CARROLL PERRY
Meets on: Tuesdays 1:00 to 3:00 pm
Starting: 2/2/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: 24

Nobody should envy the list of imperatives that a new U.S. administration will face in 2021: a shocking national debt (at the same relative level we faced fighting War II); increasing demands for action on climate change; exorbitantly expensive healthcare; a large and growing inequality in income; and a battered system of international trade, just to mention the most important. In all previous times, we have had a group of reigning economists to provide intellectual structure for proposed policies. Paul Samuelson and J.K. Galbraith guided us through the…

Classics of Soviet Cinema

Group Leader: CATHY MANNICK
Meets on: Tuesdays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 2/2/2021
Sessions: 5
Class Size: unlimited

This course will present an overview of four Soviet films from four key periods of Soviet history: 1) The post-revolutionary years – Battleship Potemkin (1925), directed by Sergei Eisenstein. 2) The Stalin era – Circus (1936), directed by Grigory Alexandrov.  3) The Krushchev Thaw – The Cranes are Flying (1957), directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. 4) The Brezhnev era – Andrei Rublev (1966), directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. The course will focus on the historical context in which the films were produced. All films are available for streaming* and should be…

Copenhagen and Quantum Reality

Group Leader: STEVE HOLT
Meets on: Wednesdays 1:00 to 3:00 pm
Starting: 2/3/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: unlimited

During the first half of the twentieth century, Niels Bohr was a central figure in the development of quantum physics and its applications, from the successful modeling of atoms to the anticipation of nuclear weapons.  Between the World Wars, Bohr’s institute in Copenhagen was the epicenter of quantum theory, and the “Copenhagen Interpretation” of quantum physics became its standard explanation. But is it a satisfactory description of physical reality? Einstein didn’t think so! With a minimum of mathematical context, this course will examine the important ideas in the development…

Exploring Visual Images of Fortuna: The Fickle Goddess of Chance

Group Leader: NINA MORIARTY
Meets on: Fridays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 4/23/2021
Sessions: 4
Class Size: 30

Spectacular images of the feminine embodiment of luck -- Fortuna -- illuminate manuscripts of philosophy, drama, and literature such as Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, the Roman de la Rose and Christine de Pizan’s Le livre de la Mutation de Fortune. For two millennia, this allegorical figure has prompted readers and viewers to consider their own relationships to hope, fate, and personal agency. This seminar will consider visual illustrations of the complex verbal concepts of luck in human lives. We will begin with representations of the goddess Fortuna in…

Fifty Years of Affirmative Action: Remedy for Oppression or Reverse Discrimination?

Group Leader: PAUL KELLEHER
Meets on: Wednesdays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 4/7/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: 24

Affirmative Action policies have tried to remedy past oppression and discrimination in our society for over 50 years. In this six-session course, we will consider Supreme Court decisions with a particular focus on their impact on higher education admissions and other educational contexts over this span of years. We will also study Affirmative Action cases in other contexts, like hiring, that clarify the Supreme Court’s evolving jurisprudence over time. We also will examine the essential conflict between those who believe that the Constitution requires that policies in these…

Fred Astaire, His Partners, and Others

Group Leader: BRADFORD CONNER & BENJAMIN SEARS
Meets on: Tuesdays 3:30 to 5:30 pm
Starting: 2/2/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: unlimited

Fred Astaire is considered one of the greatest dancers of the twentieth century. There seemed to be no style of dancing that he could not master. An area of his work that is scarcely considered is his amazing ability to adjust his dancing style to the styles and strengths of his partners. This seminar will present examples of his dancing, not only with Ginger Rogers, but with other partners, including Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, Vera Ellen, and even Gene Kelly. His inventive choreography for – and…

French Music between the Wars

Group Leader: LUCIENNE DAVIDSON
Meets on: Wednesdays 1:00 to 3:00 pm
Starting: 5/5/2021
Sessions: 4
Class Size: unlimited

A discussion, with live performance, of French piano music after Fauré, Debussy and Ravel. Works of Erik Satie and the group known as les Six (Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger, George Auric, Albert Roussel, Darius Milhaud, and the only women in the group, Germaine Taillefaire ) will be heard. We will also examine how cultural life in Paris in the 1920’s and 30’s influenced innovation in the other arts. Not a complete list, but Proust, Cocteau, Gide, Diaghilev, Nijinsky, Stravinsky, Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, and Coco Chanel all lived and…

Islamic Architecture and its Legacy to the West

Group Leader: MARIA LUISA MANSFIELD
Meets on: Fridays 1:00 to 3:00 pm
Starting: 2/5/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: 24

This course will explore Islamic architecture and the city. Because it is impossible to cover fourteen centuries of Islamic civilization in five sessions, we will focus on a select series of buildings from different dynasties, historic periods, and regions to grasp their meaning, form, function, and evolution. We will examine what Islamic art inherited from ancient civilizations and how Islamic art is still present in our lives today. Islam was born in the desert (Hijaz, Arabian Peninsula) from nomadic tribes, yet in less than a century it became…

Michelangelo: The Misconstrued Titan

Group Leader: FRANCO MORMANDO
Meets on: Wednesdays 3:30 to 5:30 pm
Starting: 4/7/2021
Sessions: 5
Class Size: unlimited

The course will begin with an overview of Michelangelo's career but will then shift focus to the lesser known - indeed, often ignored - aspects of his work including his love poetry and his private life. In the process, we will discover a far different man from the prevailing image of the artist as the titanic, awe-inspiring, more-than-human genius usually propagated in the popular press or that receives attention in museum exhibitions or art historical scholarship. Prepare to be surprised!

Orthodox Iconography from Apostle Luke to Alyona Knyazova

Group Leader: RAOUL SMITH
Meets on: Thursdays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 4/1/2021
Sessions: 4
Class Size: 30

The course will describe the making and spiritual underpinnings of icons, images as text ubiquitous in Orthodox Christian churches and homes. After that overview, we examine figurative icons starting with Ptolomeic Fayoum sarcophagus paintings in Egypt and transitioning quickly to early Greek and Russians icons. We will then examine the most common types of Russian icons. Because most icons have some text on them, we will also include a brief survey of the ninth century Old Church Slavonic language (also called Old Bulgarian or Old Macedonian) used on…

Return of the Woolf

Group Leader: LIZ CABOT
Meets on: Mondays 1:00 to 3:00 pm
Starting: 2/1/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: 24

In this course, we will explore collaboratively two works of Virginia Woolf’s later period. Orlando is a mixture of history and fantasy inspired by Woolf’s love interest Vita Sackville-West. It romps through three centuries of British history with characters who never seem to age and who become embroiled in many amazing escapades. Orlando begins as a young page to Queen Elizabeth I, falls in love with a Russian princess, and eventually is transformed into a woman who marries a pilot. Exciting stuff! Lots of Woolfian humor and erudite…

Science in the News

Group Leader: EMILY KERR
Meets on: Tuesdays 3:30 to 5:30 pm
Starting: 3/30/2021
Sessions: 5
Class Size: unlimited

We live in an exciting time for science. This course brings a series of guest lecturers who are graduate students or postdoctoral scholars from Harvard or MIT to introduce and discuss their research. All speakers have been trained in science communication by Harvard’s Science in the News graduate organization. Possible topics include machine learning in robotics, the fear response in the brain, and antibiotic development and resistance. Topics will often touch on the possible social or policy applications of a given field and participants will be encouraged to…

The Dogs of War

Group Leader: GEORGE MESZOLY
Meets on: Thursdays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 2/4/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: unlimited

While violence in human society predates (so-called?) civilization, and, in fact, even humanity, Civilization and War seem to have grown together, like unlikely twins born of the same mother. We will examine how these two phenomena coexisted and continue to do so, and in fact in many ways support each other. We will examine the means (manpower, social organization, political systems, technology/weaponry, strategy, etc.) of war, and how societies provide them. We will then proceed to analyze instances of warfare. For example, is it not curious that two…

The Three Alices: Alice James, Alice Roosevelt & Alice Paul

Group Leader: LINDA BERGER
Meets on: Mondays 1:00 to 3:00 pm
Starting: 3/29/2021
Sessions: 5
Class Size: 24

They grew up in different times and in very different social cultures: Alice James in Boston, Alice Roosevelt in New York and Washington, and Alice Paul in New Jersey. But they shared one thing in common: their lives as women were lived with daring and unconventional tactics. Alice James was the only daughter in a famous Boston family that included brothers Henry James the writer and William James the philosopher. Living in the second half of the Victorian era, she spent her life mostly in bed, diagnosed with…

Titian’s Allegorical and Mythological Paintings: Venetian Poesie

Group Leader: LIANA CHENEY
Meets on: Wednesdays 3:30 to 5:30 pm
Starting: 2/3/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: unlimited

Titian (1488/90-1576), a Venetian painter of the High Renaissance in Italy, loved colors and myths. The combination of artistic and literary quests provided Titian with a visual frame for the creation of painted allegories and mythological paintings. Under the tutelage of humanist patrons from the court of Ferrara, Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, and his wife Isabella d’Este, and the Spanish court of King Philip II, Titian invented and depicted the most imaginative mythological paintings during 1556-1575. These paintings included Worship of Venus, Diana and Callisto, Danaé and…

Unveiling the Cosmos

Group Leader: CHARLES LAW & JESSE HAN
Meets on: Thursdays 3:30 to 5:30 pm
Starting: 2/4/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: unlimited

For centuries, people have looked up at the night sky and marveled at everything it holds. Space is indeed full of fascinating objects and processes – from other planets (maybe some like Earth) to black holes. Unveiling the Cosmos will tour the astronomical universe from small to large scales. This seminar will introduce students to a wide variety of astrophysical phenomena ranging from planets orbiting other stars to distant galaxies and beyond. Each class will be devoted to a specific topic, led by a new person with specific…

Water and Energy: Competing Priorities or Good Partners

Group Leader: JOHN SALO
Meets on: Tuesdays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 3/30/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: 24

Water and energy systems are interdependent. Current trends including climate change, population growth, water scarcity, and changes in technology are increasing the urgency to address the water energy nexus in an integrated and proactive way. This class will examine water and energy from the perspective of past, present and future practices. America has over 250,000 rivers covering more than 3 million miles. We will examine how these waters served to be the foundation of the growth and development of America by providing navigation, power, drinking water, and wastewater…