Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Maps & Directions

Literature and Language

Fall 2013

  • Reading Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (offered at Hingham Public Library)

    Day: 6 Mondays
    Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
    Dates: 9/9-10/21 (No class on 10/14)
    Location: Hingham Public Library, Fearing Room
    Facilitator: Louise Z. Smith
    Description: Vanity Fair (1848) asks “Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? Or, having it, is satisfied?” If Becky Sharp is as “desperately wicked” as Thackeray says, why are we rooting for her—or aren’t we? What of sweet Amelia and faithful Dobbin? Why is the subtitle “A Novel without a Hero”? What does all this have to do with puppetry, capitalist individualism, Vauxhall, and the Battle of Waterloo (1815)? And if Thackeray is “howling to a congregation of fools,” then how could George Eliot find him “the most powerful living novelist”?

  • Intermediate French Conversation Through Cinema

    Day: 8 Mondays
    Time: 10-noon
    Dates: 9/16-11/18 (no class on 10/14 & 11/11)
    Location: UMass Boston, McCormack Bldg., 2nd FL., Room 421
    Facilitator: Judy Planchon
    Description: Did you once study French? Would you like to improve your ability to understand and speak it now? You will find that adults are better classmates than teenagers. Everyone is encouraging and wants to help others speak better. In this course we will have the opportunity to watch French films with English subtitles and to discuss the films and their cultural contexts. We will emphasize communication and have fun while learning. Small group activities will help encourage everyone to learn from each other. We will do some readings based on the films or other current events. We will also visit one of the French pastry shops or restaurants in the area. You will be encouraged to ask questions as well as share experiences. Among the films we may watch are the following: Mon Oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, l971), Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau, 2011), Le Papillon (Philipppe Muyl, 2002), The Barbarian Invasions (Denys Arcand, 2003), Cinema Paradiso (Guiseppe Tornatore, l988), and I've Loved You So Long (Philippe Claudel, 2008). We may also watch films suggested by the class.

  • Anton Chekhov: A Modest Genius

    Day: 6 Tuesdays
    Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
    Dates: 9/17-10/22
    Location: UMass Boston, McCormack Bldg., 3rd FL., Room 204A
    Facilitator: Sharon F. Carey
    Description: Anton Chekhov was a fascinating character and his gifts to the world were wondrous! He grew up in Russia – impoverished and abused – and became one of the world’s greatest dramatists. He was also a practicing doctor, a natural scientist, and a master short-story writer. All these accomplishments in only forty-four years! In this class we shall look at Chekhov, the man, and his time (1860-1904). We shall study two of his major plays (Probably Uncle Vanya and The Seagull) and a number of his short stories and short plays. Chekhov writes with great humor about ordinary people’s lives and can teach us more about life than any philosopher. Please join the fun!

  • Shakespeare’s Othello

    Day: 4 Wednesdays
    Time: 1:15-2:45 p.m.
    Dates: 9/18; 10/2, 10/16, & 10/30 (every other week)
    Location: UMass Boston, McCormack Bldg., 3rd FL., Room 204A
    Facilitator: Dr. Christopher Harding
    Description: OLLI's on-going series of explorations of the works of the world's greatest (and still most popular!) playwright comes around to Othello, one of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies. With no subplots, its memorable villain Iago, and relatively few characters, it’s one of the Bard’s easiest-to-follow dramas. The overwhelming popularity of Othello throughout the ages is due to its confrontation of racial prejudice, its continuingly relevant exploration of the perceived threat of Muslimism and its focus on two lovers who defied societal bigotry in order to follow their hearts. The every other week meeting format allows students plenty of time to read the play. By the time the first class meets, please buy or borrow from the library any copy of the play as long as the edition has plenty of notes to help clarify the text. The Folger Library edition is recommended for those fairly new to Shakespeare; the Oxford Classics edition, for those more familiar with the Swan of Avon. Whether you're a Shakespeare newbie or diehard "bardolater," join us as we do a close study of the text and compare various screen versions of “The Moor of Venice.”

  • Reading the New Yorker

    Day: 5 Thursdays
    Time: 1:15-2:45 p.m.
    Dates: 9/19-10/17
    Location: UMass Boston, Wheatley Bldg., 3rd FL., Room 125
    Facilitator: Prudence King
    Description: Have you ever wished you had more time to devote to reading the New Yorker? If so, you will enjoy this course which is designed to enhance your New Yorker experience. Each week the group will select sections to be read for the following week’s discussion. We may look at Political Science, A Reporter at Large, Letters from Various Countries, Profiles, Fiction, or Poems. Discussions for each reading will be prepared and led by the leader and volunteers. Participants will need easy access to the magazine, either through subscription or a local library. Note: There will be readings assigned for the first meeting of the class.

  • Postmodern Tragedy: A Look at Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and All My Sons

    Day: 6 Saturdays
    Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
    Dates: 9/21-10/26 (no class on 9/28)
    Location: UMass Boston, Wheatley Bldg., 3rd FL., Room 125
    Facilitator: Michele Harris
    Description: "A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man." -Linda, Death of a Salesman Aristotle’s Poetics argues that a successful tragedy must be one where the protagonist can fall from a lofty height—think Othello, Hamlet, Oedipus. Those who have farther to fall—often classically portrayed as royals—have, Aristotle speculated, further to lose. Postmodern Drama, however, challenges this concept of the high-profile protagonist, dwelling instead on the tragedy of the most ordinary man: a failing door-to-door salesman who dreams of being well-liked despite not being able to like himself. In this course, we’ll be reading Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and All My Sons. Prior to the first class, please obtain copies of these plays and read through Act I of Death of a Salesman.

  • History of Mystery 8: The Private Investigator

    Day: 4 Wednesdays
    Time: 1:15-2:45 p.m.
    Dates: 9/25; 10/9, 10/23, & 11/6 (every other week)
    Location: UMass Boston, McCormack Bldg., 3rd FL., Room 204A
    Facilitator: Dr. Christopher Harding
    Description: The previous eight editions of "The History of Mystery" have proven so popular that we're gearing up for an 8th semester of exploring books, reference sources, films and classic TV series that tantalize us with that eternal question "Whodunit?" “The History of Mystery" aims to refine and expand aficionados' "criminal" tastes. (It is not necessary to have taken previous classes to understand and enjoy the Fall 2013 sessions. Most of the material presented has NOT been discussed in previous classes.) Handouts and links to various mystery fan websites from previous semesters are accessible on our classwebsite: https://sites.google.com/site/thehistoryofmystery/. We continue to use the college paperback textbook, The Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction, edited by Deane Mansfield-Kelley and Lois A. Marchino, published by Pearson Longman, ISBN 0-321-19501-9. You can borrow or buy a copy. Before classes begin, the OLLI office will have copies of the text for sale for around $20. This semester we will cover the essays and stories in the second section, “The Private Investigator.” Authors to be studied include Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Sue Grafton, and Sara Paretsky. For the first class, please read pages 205-219.

  • French Conversation for Absolute Beginners

    Day: 8 Wednesdays
    Time: 1:15-2:45 p.m.
    Dates: 9/25-11/13
    Location: UMass Boston, Wheatley Bldg., 1st FL., Room 031
    Facilitator: Mona Gebrael El Hachem
    Description: In this course for beginners, students will learn to be able to introduce themselves and others, talk about their preferences, and carry a conversation in French using different structures (negative, affirmative and interrogative forms; infinitive construction). By the end of the course, students will be able to pronounce the French words and sentences correctly with the appropriate accent. Bring your enthusiasm and cooperation, and we can go far!

  • Basic Italian II

    Day: 7 Thursdays
    Time: 1:15-2:45 p.m.
    Dates: 10/3-11/14
    Location: UMass Boston, McCormack Bldg., 3rd FL., Room 201
    Facilitator: Irene L. Roman
    Description: A traditional language learning approach with emphasis on basic Italian grammar, vocabulary, and the essential construction and pattern of the language. Emphasis will be placed on listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Students will be required to very actively participate in class. Completion of limited defined assignments will be required between each class session. Prerequisite: OLLI course “Introduction to Italy and Italian Culture” and OLLI course “Basic Italian I” or the equivalent of one semester of Italian I.

  • Two American Authors: John Steinbeck and Willa Cather

    Day: 8 Saturdays
    Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
    Dates: 10/5-11/23
    Location: UMass Boston, McCormack Bldg., 3rd FL., Room 204A
    Facilitator: John Joseph Fahey
    Description: Examine Steinbeck’s Magnum Opus East of Eden and his popular Cannery Row as well as Willa Cather’s three widely read novels: O Pioneers!, My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop. Our class will discuss the novels in the context of how Steinbeck covers the Salinas Valley in California with his work and Cather’s treatment of the immigrant experience in the Midwest and American Southwest. Each author is discussed not only in regard to their literary contribution to American literature but how their stories fit in the realm of American history.

  • Dante, Milton and the Devil (Video Conference)

    Day: 6 Tuesdays
    Time: 1:15-2:45 p.m.
    Dates: 10/8-11/12
    Location: UMass Boston, Healey Library, Lower Level, Presentation Room 3; Cordage Park, Plymouth & Hingham Public Library, Whiton Room via video conference
    Facilitator: Francis J. Smith
    Description: This course examines the great adversary of Western literature, the Devil, as he appears in Dante’s Inferno and in the first four books (chapters) of Milton’s Paradise Lost. We will discuss the characterization of the Devil in each epic and determine why these varied depictions might be so. Art inspired by these epics will be an important part of the course. Please purchase a copy of Dante’s Inferno, translated by John Ciardi, and any edition of Paradise Lost. (The instructor suggests the Barnes and Noble Classic edition with introduction and notes by David Hawkes.)

  • Great Conversations

    Day: 5 Thursdays
    Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
    Dates: 10/17-11/14
    Location: UMass Boston, McCormack Bldg., 3rd FL., Room 204A
    Facilitator: Alicia Coletti
    Description: Participants will read and discuss selections from Great Conversations #6, which may be ordered from The Great Books Foundation at 800-222-5870. In the Fall, class members will read the selections in the first half of the anthology, which will include Seneca, Bacon, Locke and Twain, among others. The readings are designed to engender discussion and will please those who enjoy great books and the lively pleasure of conversing about the ideas included in the books.

  • Tragic Lovers, Initiations, and Quests: Modern Short Stories Viewed through an Archetypal Lens (offered at Hingham Public Library)

    Day: 6 Thursdays
    Time: 1:15-2:45 p.m.
    Dates: 10/17-11/21
    Location: Hingham Public Library, Whiton Room
    Facilitator: Maureen O'Brien
    Description: What does a polytheistic Greek poet who lived in 1000 B.C. have in common with a British playwright from the 16th century and a 20th century Irish-American author and Princeton drop-out? They tell the same stories. We all do. This recurrence of patterns, themes, characters, and images in stories both oral and written is the definition of “archetype,” a field of study which suggests that despite differences in geography, history, and culture all human beings share the same hopes, fears, and desires and that these shared emotions are reflected in the stories we collectively tell. In this course we will first examine models of story archetypes from Greek Mythology and then compare and contrast the ancient patterns to the modern ones as exemplified by the works of such authors as Ernest Hemingway, Alice Munro, Robert Olen Butler, Aryn Kyle, Tobias Wolff, and Richard Russo, among others. Hopefully, members of the class will enrich the discussion of the literature with tales of their own experiences of thwarted love, comings of age, and achievements hard-won.

  • Reading Aloud and Discussing Your Favorite Short Story

    Day: 6 Thursdays
    Time: 10-noon
    Dates: 10/31-12/12 (No class on 11/28)
    Location: UMass Boston, McCormack Bldg., 3rd FL., Room 201
    Facilitator: James J. Buckley
    Description: Have you ever wanted to share your favorite short story with others? This is your chance. Each participant will have an opportunity to read his/her favorite short story to the rest of the class, followed by a discussion period. The first short story will be read by the facilitator, Jim Buckley. It will be “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Those who wish to participate and sign up for this course are asked to name in advance the story that they will want to read aloud. Limited to 20 people.