Birds on the Brain: Comprehending the Great Odes

What does it mean to be human? We could turn to science or philosophy for an answer, but there is another, more adventurous path open to us: poetry that reveals the human condition, in all of its vexing complexity. Nowhere is this exploration of humanity more apparent than in the great odes, which began in classical times as celebrations of important events – as in Pindar’s odes on the Olympic Games. Soon the Pindaric ode gave way to another form, which became the vehicle for revealing the deepest human thoughts and emotions. The Carmina (literally “songs,” but known as odes) of the Roman poet Horace show us this second way. These two strains -- the Pindaric and the Horatian -- move through the history of poetry and help to shape it, as well as to shape us. Poems such as Keats’s “Ode to A Nightingale” or Shelley’s “To a Skylark” are only superficially about birds. Far from just celebrating external nature, they present us with mirrors of the human soul. Studying the great odes helps us to uncover our deepest selves. I hope you will join me on this exciting voyage of discovery.

Venue: King's Chapel Parish House
Meets on: Fridays 10 AM to noon
Starting: 4/5/2024
Sessions: 6
Class Size: 15
Teaching Style: Seminar
Weekly Preparation: 1 - 2 hours
Group Leader Biography:

Jim Falzarano studied the Romantic Odes at Georgetown University more than 50 years ago. He then went on to Brown University, where he received a Ph.D. before embarking on a career in teaching. After an extended detour into the world of journalism (including a 20-year stint at the Guardian in London), he has returned to teaching in his hometown: as a volunteer literacy tutor in the Boston Public Schools; a chess instructor in Boston’s libraries for students aged five to 75; a tutor to immigrants who seek US citizenship; and a docent at the Boston Athenaeum.