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Spring 2018 Course Schedule

Click here to view a PDF version of the Spring 2018 Course Catalog. 

Click here to view a sortable schedule of Spring 2018 courses. Sort by day, class period, duration (5 or 10 week), or category.

*Please note Who’s Afraid Of Edward Albee? Reading Selected Plays with Jyl Lynn Felman will NOT run this Spring.

To view the course schedule, click on each day of the week.

Spring 2018 courses will begin the week of March 5 and run through the week of May 14, with a break the week of April 2. There will be no courses on Patriot's Day, Monday, April 16. For the Spring 2018 schedule, click here.

If needed, make up classes will be held May 21-24

Please be sure to click on the name of the course to read the description before signing up.





Time Class

Period 1
9:30 a.m. to 10:55 a.m.

Whodunit? Murder in Ethnic Communities
Marilyn Brooks

Existentialism at the Café  
Jennifer Eastman
5 Week Course - April 23 - May 21

Manipulation: How Hidden Influences Affect Our Choice of Products, Politicians and Priorities
Sandy Sherizen

Period 2
11:10 a.m. to 12:35 p.m.

Historical Fiction: Traveling in Space and Time with Geraldine Brooks
Sophie Freud

Why Sing Plays? An Exploration into the Craft of American Musical Theater
Art Finstein

Childhood In the Middle Ages
Enid Gamer
5 Week Course - March 5 - April 9

Writing to Discover: A Memoir Writing Course
Marjorie Roemer

12:35 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Lunch, Learning, and Social Life

Period 3
2:10 p.m. to 3:35 p.m.

The Lachrymose History of Health Care Reform in the United States
Jeff Kichen

The Forgotten War: Korea in History and Memory
Matt Linton
5 Week Course - April 23 - May 21

From Somerset to Shelby: Five Legal Cases That Framed Race Relations in the United States for the Last 350 Years 
Saul Schapiro
5 Week Course - March 5 - April 9 

Mothers, Madeleines, Music, and Memory: Reading Swann’s Way in Search of Marcel Proust
Hollie Harder 
5 Week Course - April 23 - May 21

Wilderness Gas Station: An Environmental History of Alaska
Phil Wight 


LIT4-10-Mon1 Whodunit? Murder in Ethnic Communities

Leader  –  Marilyn Brooks

Monday – Course Period 1 – 9:30 am to 10:55 am

Description    Why do we read murder mysteries?  What about them satisfies us?  Is it the plot, the characters, the setting?  Do we want to be frightened by one that’s hard-boiled or do we want a cozy that we hope will end well for all concerned (well, except for the victim and the murderer, naturally)? I am defining ethnic communities as groups sharing a common language, religion, and/or culture.  We will read novels about such communities and the detectives in them who are African-American, Amish, Chinese-American, Hispanic, Mormon, Native American, and Orthodox Jews.  Is being an ethnic detective a help or a hindrance?  Does the community itself work to solve the crime or hide it?  Does being outside “mainstream America” make a group more or less vulnerable to attack—more because they’re seen as different, less because they’re somewhat hidden from view?  YouTube videos or online interviews will help give us a sense of the authors whose novels we’re reading.  We will share our viewpoints and hopefully introduce others to new authors and ideas.  We will act, in a way, as sleuths, examining the clues as to what makes a mystery worth reading and, as we all gather together in the “library,” perhaps come to a solution that satisfies us all.

Readings   The Ritual Bath (Orthodox Judaism) by Faye Kellerman
Invisible City (Orthodox Judaism) by Julia Dahl
The Bishop’s Wife (Mormon) by Mette Ivie Harrison
No Witness but the Moon (Hispanic) by Susan Chazin
A Killing Gift (Chinese-American) by Leslie Glass
Among the Wicked (Amish) by Linda Castillo
Blanche Among the Talented Tenth (African-American) by Barbara Neely
Dance Hall of the Dead (Native American) by Tony Hillerman

Preparation Time   We will be reading eight novels during the ten-week course.  Each book is about 300 pages, and I’m estimating each will take approximately 3-4 hours to read.

Biography  Marilyn Brooks has been a devoted mystery fan since her formative years, when she discovered Nancy Drew and read the entire series through The Ringmaster’s Secret.  She reads three or four mysteries a week and is equally devoted to private eyes, police investigators, and amateur detectives. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America.  She has been writing a weekly mystery review blog since 2010, www.marilynsmysteryreads.com, which has been featured in the BOLLI Banner under the nom-de-plume Mystery Maven Marilyn.  She taught Whodunit? Murder in New England during the Fall 2017 semester.

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LIT5-5b-Mon1 Existentialism at the Café    

Leader  –  Jennifer Eastman

Monday – Course Period 1 – 9:30 am to 10:55 am
5 Week Course - April 23 - May 21

Description    Anyone who is curious about the meaning of existentialism will find an excellent and lively guide in Sarah Bakewell's book At The Existentialist Café. At the café, we will meet three French scholars, Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus, three of the most noted French existentialists. Through their biographies and small excerpts from their writings, we will gain an understanding of such existential concepts as the absurd and freedom. How did they meet in the early 1940s, why did they part in the 1950s? Overall, we will follow them from the movement's inception before World War II, through the occupation and liberation of France and the Cold War that followed. Historically, the movement ended in the 1960s, but the concept of existentialism still survives in popular culture. This is not a philosophy course but rather an attempt to understand the lives that were lived bearing the name of existentialist. The course will be a mixture of lecture and discussion. Previous experience with the subject and its characters is not necessary.

Readings    At the Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell, 2016; Other Press, NY. Available at Amazon. The SGL will distribute a packet of readings at a reasonable cost.

Preparation Time   One and a half to two hours a week, approximately 75 pages

Biography   Jennifer Eastman has a BA in History from Brandeis University, CAS in psychology from Harvard Extension and a JD from Suffolk University. She taught law for 25 years at Framingham State University and also at Clark University. In 2001, she wrote and published the book Albert Camus: The Mythic and the Real.

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SOC5-10-Mon1 Manipulation: How Hidden Influences Affect Our Choice of Products, Politicians and Priorities

Leader  –  Sandy Sherizen

Monday – Course Period 1 – 9:30 am to 10:55 am

Description    We are all being manipulated daily in ways that are often invisible and unrecognized.  Elements of manipulation are essential factors in our important decisions, yet it is often difficult to know who is, in fact, manipulating us or how they may be doing it. This course will explore the notion that manipulation is now so much a part of our lives that it is vitally important to gain an understanding of its impact in order to make appropriate and well-informed personal and societal decisions. We will explore a number of forms of manipulation to gain an understanding of how they influence our choices, among them: psychological, physical, interpersonal, economic, ideological, and technological. We will discuss fascinating examples of manipulation, such as placebo elevator buttons, consumer advertising, manipulative personalities, magic tricks, con artists, the lines at Disney World, lying, and neurological cognitive biases. Topics will also include how politicians create their brands, how the media select what they will cover, as well as negotiating strategies and self-manipulation. Personal examples will also be solicited from class members. 

Readings    SGL will prepare a packet of course readings composed of articles from the mass media, academic journals and policy papers. This will be distributed at the first class and reproduction costs will be collected.

Preparation Time   1-3 hours a week

Biography  Sanford (Sandy) Sherizen was trained as a sociologist, went bad and became a criminologist, and then went really bad by becoming a computer security and privacy professional. He has taught at various universities, had various media engagements, led seminars and given speeches in many domestic and international settings. As ex-president, he is active at Congregation Beth El in Sudbury. Flunking retirement, he taught ESL to adult immigrants and serves on a patient research ethics and safety board at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. At BOLLI, he has taught courses on Your Privacy is at Risk, Crime Topics, and The Sociology of “Deviant” Behaviors.  

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LIT8-10-Mon2 Historical Fiction: Traveling in Space and Time with Geraldine Brooks

Leader  –  Sophie Freud

Monday – Course Period 2 – 11:10 am to 12:35 pm

Description   An essential element of historical fiction is that it is set in the past and pays attention to the manners, social conditions and other details of the period depicted. We shall be reading four compelling books by Geraldine Brooks, and discuss for each book what we can learn about the culture in that country, at that time in history while enjoying the invented story and discussing its characters. The course is shaped around class discussions guided by the SGL, partly leaning on questions which are spelled out on the syllabus, but also allowing for the spontaneous responses and interests of class members. The chosen books start with an incident of plague epidemic in an English village in the 17th followed by the survival story of a 500 year old illustrated Haggadah, followed by the biography of King David as told in the bible and ends with the civil war activities of Bronson Alcott.

Readings   Geraldine Brooks. (2001) Year of Wonders
Geraldine Brooks. (2008) People of the Book
Geraldine Brooks (2015) The Secret Chord
Geraldine Brooks. (2005) March
These books can be found in all Minuteman Libraries or bought inexpensively, second hand at Amazon or ABEbooks.

Preparation Time   125 – 150 pages a week

Biography   Sophie Freud spent her youth in Vienna. She received a BA from Radcliffe/Harvard, an MSW from Simmons and 20 years later, a Ph.D. from the Heller School at Brandeis. After about 10 years of clinical social work practice she became a professor of social work at the Simmons College School of Social Work and stayed there for 30 years while also giving courses and workshops all over the United States and Europe. Sophie has given at least 15 different courses at BOLLI. Indeed, inventing new courses has become her old age pastime. Books have been Sophie’s cherished companions as reader, book reviewer and author.

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MUS3-10-Mon2 Why Sing Plays? An Exploration into the Craft of American Musical Theater

Leader  –  Art Finstein

Monday – Course Period 2 – 11:10 am to 12:35 pm

Description     We will study 3 major American musicals from the last 60 years: My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, and Into the Woods. Each piece takes a different approach to setting its story to music, but all 3 make use of basic compositional principles established long ago in the world of opera and operetta.  We will define these basic tenets of musical storytelling and will examine each show -- focusing on the purposes, placement, structures and styles of songs -- in an effort to discover how the creators' musical choices sharpen character and plot and deepen the play's impact. The class will consist of presentations by the SGL, group listening/viewing and discussion, and reading.  No specific musical or theatrical skills are required. 

Readings    My Fair Lady, Pygmalion, Fiddler on the Roof and Into the Woods scripts (and videos) are widely available in the public library system (http://www.mln.lib.ma.us/) as well as through Amazon and other booksellers, and any editions are acceptable.     

Preparation Time     Reading and listening: 2-3 hours per week

Biography   Arthur Finstein holds BA and MFA degrees in music from Brandeis.  He is a retired Massachusetts music educator and has directed the music for more than 190 productions in the greater Boston scholastic, community and professional theater circuits over 40+ years.  He has presented at statewide, regional and national conferences on music and theater education and continues to advocate for increased support for the creative arts, especially for music and musical theater.  

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SOC2-5a-Mon2 Childhood In the Middle Ages

Leader  –  Enid Gamer

Monday – Course Period 2 – 11:10 am to 12:35 pm
5 Week Course – March 5 – April 9
(No Class April 2 for Spring Break)

Description     There has always been childhood. But what was it like 700-1,000 years ago? Questions we might ask could include: Was childhood back then anything like the one we understand today? Was there any comprehension of age-related development or were children thought to be miniature adults? Did they play or was life impossibly grim? Were they educated? If so, what were the differences between boys and girls, upper and lower classes? During our time together we will read about and discuss the caretakers responsible for children, the system of education and the training of skills needed for adulthood and independence as well as related topics and ideas. We will start at the end of the Roman Empire and travel to the 16th century. Our emphasis will be on England because there is good and accessible scholarship about this time. However, we will talk about countries on the Continent as well. An effort will be made to frame this period and to then focus our attention on childhood through young adulthood. The format will consist of assigned readings, presentations by the SGL and discussion. Insights and comments by the group, relevant to this rather recent area of study will be welcome.

Readings  There will be a packet of assigned readings available for purchase.

Preparation Time     There will be about 2 hours of reading for each class

Biography   Enid Gamer has been a practicing psychologist her entire adult life. She has been and continues to be a therapist with children and families. Her prior work included child development research in New York and Boston as well as program development and administration for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. How children grow and thrive has always been of major interest.  The roles of parents, schools and social opportunities have been of major consideration. Thinking about the attention spent on children today quite naturally led to the question, “What was it like 1,000 years ago?”  Finding some answers has absorbed her for the past several years.

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WRI1-10-Mon2 Writing to Discover: A Memoir Writing Course

Leader  –  Marjorie Roemer

Monday – Course Period 2 – 11:10 am to 12:35 pm

Description     Consciousness in and of itself is a kind of fiction, a cleaned-up version of reality. –  Brian Kiteley  
This will be the thirteenth iteration of this course.  The design is simple.  We all commit to writing each week and to bringing about 500 words to share at each meeting.  Each class offers a prompt, which can be used, ignored, or reshaped.  The prompts are only suggestions, sometimes a new way to shape the materials you are working with.  They try to focus us on the concrete, the dramatized, the immediate.  Most of this semester’s prompts will come from Brian Kiteley’s The 3 A.M. Epiphany.  Our work together is to encourage and to support the efforts of each member of the group.  To that end, our response to writing is always based on listening generously, trying to understand what is being said, or what is almost said in the writing.  Because our work rests on coherence and trust, regular attendance is necessary.  Sometimes missing a class is unavoidable, but please don’t sign up for this class if you plan in advance to miss several sessions.  You don’t have to be a skilled writer to participate.  You just have to be willing to explore and to be supportive of others’ explorations.  Participants’ comments about the course always praise the power of the group, the value of hearing one another’s work, and the warm responses offered by the class members.

Readings     A small booklet is produced for the course.  It usually costs $5.

Preparation Time      We write 500 words a week.  The time varies from person to person and assignment to assignment.  I spend about an hour a week writing, a little more time re-thinking what I’ve written.

Biography   Marjorie Roemer holds a BA from Bennington College, an MA from New York University, and a PhD from Brandeis, all in English and American literature. Her teaching career began in New York City in 1961 at a public Junior High School. It has since taken her to Brookline HS, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Cincinnati, and Rhode Island College. She has worked as an English professor, Director of Writing Programs, and the Director of the Rhode Island Writing Project. In all, it’s been over fifty-five years in classrooms of many kinds. This will be her thirteenth writing course at BOLLI.

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H&G4-10-Mon3 The Lachrymose History of Health Care Reform in the United States

Leader  –  Jeff Kichen

Monday – Course Period 3 – 2:10 pm to 3:35 pm

Description     This course will trace the history and debate over health care reform in the United States from the late 19th century through the present day.  Along the way we will examine reform efforts during the Progressive era, attempts in the 1930s at both the federal and state level, the Truman plan of the late 1940s, the battle over the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in the early 1960s, the Clinton Plan, Obamacare, and the efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.  We will take an interdisciplinary approach that includes exploring the history of events and the sociological and economic conditions that drove attempts at change. We will direct our attention to how the enduring debate over health care reform has been framed in ideological terms and consider how some stakeholders actually reversed their ideological positions over time. This will enable us to better understand why more universal health care arrangements have not been adopted in the United States as has been the case in other industrialized nations.  We will take time to examine health care reform “breaking news” should it occur during our time together. The class will conclude with a look into the crystal ball regarding the future of health care reform, with particular focus on Medicare. Our text, Remedy and Reaction, will be supplemented by our reading of primary documents, and by viewing historical videos that document the debate over health care reform.  Class format will be approximately 65% presentation and 35% discussion.

Readings    1.   Paul Starr, Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care           Reform, Yale University Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0300189155.  This is the revised edition, paperback. 
                   2.    In addition a packet of readings will be distributed at no cost.

Preparation Time     I anticipate each week’s required reading will be approximately forty to fifty pages.  In addition, I will provide study questions for class discussion.  Thus, preparation time will range from 21/2 to 3 hours per week.

Biography   Jeff Kichen has been a BOLLI SGL for the past five years.  He led a previous version of this course in 2013 and a course on the history of medicine in 19th century.  He has also led BOLLI literature courses on Toni Morrison, George Eliot, and Lafcadio Hearn, and a course on the year 1954.  He is currently an instructor in Public Health at the University of Massachusetts, and Director of Health Policy for The Roche Associates of Wilbraham, Massachusetts.  He has a master’s degree in public health and a bachelor’s degree in history.  

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H&G7-5b-Mon3 The Forgotten War: Korea in History and Memory  

Leader  –  Matt Linton

Monday – Course Period 3 – 2:10 pm to 3:35 pm
5 Week Course – April 23 – May 21

Description     The Korean War is often called “the forgotten war” by historians. Nestled between the thrill of victory in World War II and the agony of retreat in Vietnam, the Korean War was different. It tells no familiar story— neither a tale of triumph over Hitler nor the story of the limits of American power in a Cold War context. This course will examine the causes of the Korean War, analyze the conflict itself, and investigate how the war has been remembered in the United States, China, and the Koreas. It will conclude with a discussion of how the Korean War has shaped current international relations. The course will be discussion-based with a few short lectures.

Readings   Bruce Cumings, The Korean War: A History (New York City: Modern Library, 2011). 

Preparation Time    2-3 hours per week

Biography     Matthew D. Linton is the Graduate Foundations Lead at Brandeis University and a Research Assistant at Harvard Business School. He specializes in 20th century American intellectual and political history. His dissertation explores the creation of Chinese area studies and its relationship to the national security state during World War II and the Cold War. His work has appeared in the Journal of American-East Asian Relations, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History blog, and the Encyclopedia of War: Social Science Perspectives.

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H&G10-5a-Mon3 From Somerset to Shelby: Five Legal Cases That Framed Race Relations in the United States for the Last 350 Years     

Leader  –  Saul Schapiro

Monday – Course Period 3 – 2:10 pm to 3:35 pm
5 Week Course – March 5 – April 9
(No Class April 2 for Spring Break)

Description     This course will explore in detail five major court decisions that directly address the institution of slavery and relations between black and white Americans. The first case, Somerset v. Stewart, was decided in England under English common law in 1772, just four years before the American Declaration of Independence proclaimed that “all men are created equal.” The next decision, the infamous Dred Scott case, was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857 and was an important factor leading to the Civil War. Both Somerset and Dred Scott defined legal rights for slaves. The third and fourth decisions, Plessey v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, were decided after slavery was abolished in the U.S. They addressed the same legal issue – whether “separate but equal” services for blacks and whites was unconstitutional -- and reached opposite conclusions. The fifth and most recent decision, Shelby County v. Holder, decided in 2013, imposed limitations on Federal legislation intended to remedy racial discrimination in voting. The course will begin by exploring the nature of “common law,” i.e., judge-made law in the English and American judicial systems. The course then will examine the historical and political context of the five decisions, review the legal issues presented, analyze the bases for the courts’ decisions, and discuss the decisions’ effects on blacks and whites in America. The course will be interactive, and class discussion will be encouraged.

Readings    There are no required books to be read for this course. The SGL will hand out copied materials consisting primarily of the opinions of the courts in each case. Some additional material will be provided to help participants better understand the decisions. Class members are encouraged to read as much about the cases as they like online in advance of each session to facilitate informed discussion.

Preparation Time   Participants should spend between 1 and 1/2 and 2 hours per week to prepare.

Biography   Saul Schapiro graduated from City College of New York and Harvard Law School. He practiced law in the Boston area for more than 40 years as a litigator and transactional lawyer. He has briefed and argued cases at every level of the Massachusetts State court system, including at the Supreme Judicial Court, and at the Federal courts in Massachusetts. His experience includes civil and criminal cases. Mr. Schapiro represented the Boston Redevelopment Authority in major civil litigation matters for over 25 years, among other governmental and non-governmental entities. He also served as the supervising attorney for the Harvard Voluntary Defender program for eight years.

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LIT10-5b-Mon3 Mothers, Madeleines, Music, and Memory: Reading Swann’s Way in Search of Marcel Proust

Leader  –  Hollie Harder

Monday – Course Period 3 – 2:10 pm to 3:35 pm
5 Week Course – April 23 - May 21

Description     Why is Proust called the greatest French novelist, comparable to England’s Shakespeare or Spain’s Cervantes? How can Proust’s seven-tome novel, In Search of Lost Time, have the reputation of being at once a literary leviathan and a witty, enchanting, and profound book that gives readers a Proustian lens through which to see life in fundamentally new and innovative ways? As Swann’s Way, the first volume of this opus, unfolds for us, we will identify principles that structure Proust’s literary, social, cultural, historical, and artistic world of turn-of-the-century France and the avant-garde perspectives that fundamentally call into question and reshape that world. This course is designed to accommodate first-time as well as experienced readers of Proust. In our discussions that will draw from art, literature, history, culture, sociology, and psychology, participants will discover, for example, how this novel distinguishes itself from traditional nineteenth-century works, as well as the ways in which Proust's writing signals a fundamental shift in modern sensibilities; they will uncover the secret of the famous "madeleine" scene and develop a working definition of the adjective "Proustian"; and they will come away with a deep appreciation for Proust's range of humor and for his delight in the everyday world that is woven throughout this deeply intellectual, esthetic and philosophical work. In keeping with Proust's notion that all readers, when they read a book, are readers of themselves, members' contributions to our discussions will play a central role in our analysis of this deeply engaging novel.

Readings    Swann's Way (volume 1 of In Search of Lost Time) by Marcel Proust
Edited by William C. Carter, Yale University Press, 2013.
ISBN:  030018543X (it is important that students get this version)

Preparation Time   Members will read about 100 pages per week during the five-week discussion. Reading questions will be distributed beforehand so that members can use them to guide their reflections about the text before we meet.

Biography  Hollie Harder is Professor of French and Francophone Studies outside the tenure structure and Director of Language Programs in Romance Studies at Brandeis University. She has published on Proust, Zola, and Houellebecq, and she directs two Proust discussion groups at the Boston Athenaeum. She is currently at work on a project about the Proustian character Albertine as a modern-day Amazon figure.

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SCI5-10-Mon3 Wilderness Gas Station: An Environmental History of Alaska

Leader  –  Phil Wight 

Monday – Course Period 3 – 2:10 pm to 3:35 pm

Description     For over 150 years, Alaska has been “the last frontier” of natural resources, wilderness, and adventure—a place where men and women believed they could become rich, be free, and experience primeval nature. In the late 19th century, these forces converged to create an alluring and paradoxical place. As Alaska’s former Governor Jay Hammond quipped, Americans want Alaska to be both their wilderness refuge and their gas station. More than any other state, Alaska is a microcosm of American settlement and the conflict between natural resource development and preservation. The history of Alaska is the story of the American West—not just as a place, but as a process of indigenous dispossession, settler-colonialism, capitalist commodification, and American modernization. As the state’s motto “North to the Future” portends, Alaska has also been in the vanguard of establishing a guaranteed minimum income (the Alaska Permanent Fund) and experiencing the effects of climate change. This course pays particular attention to energy and the environment while tracing Alaska’s fascinating history from Russian colonization to the Gold Rush, World War II, native rights, and contemporary petro-politics. We explore how various interests have coveted Alaska and how this contestation produced a paradoxical place that reflects the needs and desires of modern America. The course will be a mixture of presentation and discussion. The instructor has just returned from six months of dissertation fieldwork in Alaska and will be presenting a variety of his primary sources and photographs.

Readings    All readings will be provided digitally. Students are not required to purchase any books. 

Preparation Time    1.5 hours, ~60 pages per week. 

Biography  Philip Wight is a Rose and Irving Crown Fellow and Ph.D. Candidate in history at Brandeis University. He studies global histories of energy and the environment. He has taught two BOLLI courses in the past: “Heating Up: A History of the Climate Change Debate” and “The Burning Question: A Global History of Energy Poverty and Climate Justice.” He is currently at work on his dissertation: “Arctic Artery: An Environmental History of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.” When not cloistered in the archives, he enjoys backpacking, cycling, kayaking, and traveling.  

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