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Fall 2021 Course Schedule | Thursday

In light of the uptick in COVID cases within Massachusetts and the rise of the Delta variant, we have made the difficult decision to move all Fall 2021 BOLLI courses to Zoom.

Click here to view a PDF version of the Fall 2021 Course Catalog. 

Click here to sort the course list by day of the week, class period, topic or duration.

Fall 2021 courses will begin the week of September 20 and run through the week of November 29, with no class October 11 or November 23-25. 5a courses will begin the week of September 20 and end the week of October 19 for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday classes, and end October 25 for Monday courses. 5b courses will begin the week of October 25 for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday courses, and will begin November 1 for Monday classes. All 5b courses will end the week of November 29. Click here for the fall 2021 schedule.

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

All times refer to the Eastern Time Zone.






Time Class

Period 1
9:30 am to 10:55 am

The Digital Revolution: The Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Who Created It
Jerry Baum
5 week course - October 28 - December 2
(No Class November 25)

Understanding the Russian Mind Through Short Stories and Poetry
Marina Cunningham

Value Based Health Care: Can We Get What We Pay For?
David Rattner 
5 week course - September 23- October 21

The String Quartets of Haydn, Beethoven and Bartók: Evolution, Mastery, Influence
Jared Redmond
5 week course - October 28 - December 2
(No Class November 25)

Photography: Capturing, Improving and Creating Better Photos
Arthur Sharenow

Period 2
11:10 am to 12:35 pm

Family Ties: The Drama of Eugene O’Neill – Long Day’s Journey Into Night and A Moon for the Misbegotten
Steven F. Bloom
5 week course - September 23- October 21

The Jewish Roots of Christianity
Ollie Curme

A Study in Musical Contrasts: Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel
Cecilia Dunoyer

Ten Operas from Poppea to Porgy
Matthew Heck

Memoir Writing
Linda Wolfson

12:35 pm to 2:00 pm


Period 3
2:10 pm to 3:35 pm

Amy Golahny
5 week course - September 23- October 21

Nature in the Literary Imagination: From the Bible to the 20th Century
Barbara Apstein


Broadening Our Historical Perspectives- Black Artists in the 20th Century (1920 to 1980)
Margaret Mukherjee
5 week course - September 23- October 21

Crossing the Line: American Comedy, Censorship, and Free Speech
Sascha Cohen
5 week course - October 28- December 2
(No Class November 25)

Songwriters Playground: Innovative Exercises in Creative Songwriting
Barbara Jordan

Foundations of Civilization: Walls Throughout History
Mark Seliber
5 week course - October 28- December 2
(No Class November 25)

Current Events Section 2
Louis Sockol

SCI1-5b-Thu1 The Digital Revolution: The Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Who Created It

Study Group Leader (SGL) – Jerry Baum

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

5 week course - October 28 - December 2

(No Class November 25)

Description   Computers.  Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.  Literally life-saving when predicting the path of a hurricane, frighteningly frustrating when they misbehave, capable of endless entertainment, these digital devices are intimately intertwined in our lives.  How did this come to be?  Where did these ubiquitous devices come from?  How do they do what they do?  Who invented them, if indeed we can point to a single inventor, and what motivated those inventors?  The eminent biographer and historian Walter Isaacson will guide us in understanding the birth and evolution of computer hardware, software, and networking.  Along the way, we’ll meet some of the people who propelled the digital revolution: men, women, academics, military officers, basement and garage tinkerers, corporate engineers, farmers’ daughters.  Isaacson compares and contrasts the contributions of collaborators and of lone wolves, some likely familiar (Jobs and Wozniak, Turing) and some likely not (Mauchly and Eckert, Atanasoff).  We’ll learn about the functions of some fundamental computer hardware components, about some basic concepts of computer software, and the interplay between hardware and software, a chicken-and-egg interaction.  Isaacson starts the story of the digital revolution in the early 1800s with Ada Lovelace, a British countess who reveled in the intersection of poetry and science.  She laid down the fundamental concepts of today’s modern general-purpose computers and is credited with writing the first computer program.  It took nearly 100 years for technology to catch up with her ideas.  This mixed presentation and discussion course is intended for a non-technical audience.

Readings   The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, by Walter Isaacson.   Published by Simon and Schuster. 2014.   500 pages.  Optional online readings and videos will be suggested.

Preparation Time   Approximately 100 pages/week, so 90-120 minutes.    

Biography   Jerry Baum is a science communicator, who can speak "science" to both technical and non-technical audiences. Those audiences have included high school students, research colleagues at conferences, and museum visitors. Jerry has BS and MS degrees in physics, with an undergraduate minor in education.  He taught high school physics for ten years, where he emphasized lecture-demonstrations and hands-on laboratory experiences.   Jerry spent twenty-seven years on the research staff at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. While there, he volunteered on two collaborations with the Museum of Science.  For both, he played a key role ‘translating’ between Lincoln engineers and Museum staff members.

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 H&G19-10-Thu1   Understanding the Russian Mind Through Short Stories and Poetry

Study Group Leader (SGL) - Marina Cunningham

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

10 week course - September 23 - December 2

 (No class November 25)

Description   Russia views its literature as central to understanding its culture and the Russian mind.  It is a country where writers are venerated, read, memorized and quoted.  Its prose and poetry encompass some of the most important works of world literature, and have inspired writers and philosophers around the world since the 19th century.  Despite, and perhaps because of, Russia’s turbulent history and authoritarian rule, Russia’s writing is characterized by its reverence for ideas, self-examination and social justice.  Russian literature was traditionally the only forum for individual self-expression in a country where the lack of freedom has been a constant reality.

     Each of the stories and poems in this course provides us with material to focus on this viewpoint and the time period in which they are set. The stylistically and thematically diverse works, written in Russian from the 20th to the 21st centuries, include recognizable authors like Chekhov, Nabokov, Akhmatova, Mayakovsky and Yevtushenko, who wrote in Tsarist Russia and the USSR.  Others, especially the émigré and current writers, Berberova, Dovlatov, Ulitskaya and Alexievich are less familiar.  The selection includes several women writers who are frequently omitted from works published in the United States.

Readings   An anthology to be determined.  Stories and poems not included in the anthology will be provided either on a Google site or in printed form.  Additional readings and articles will be included in the course syllabus.

Preparation Time   Readings may range for up to 40 pages a week.  All assigned works must be read before each class session. Additional biographical or analytical articles may be required for some classes.

Marina Cunningham was born in Shanghai and lived in Ecuador.  She holds a BA in Spanish language and literature from University of Illinois and a PhD in Slavic languages and literature from Northwestern University.  She taught at Northwestern, William Paterson and Montclair State universities.  For 20 years, before retiring, she was the chief international officer at Montclair State.  She was the recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Year Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship to Germany, International Institute of Education-SRF Beacon Award, Hungarian Order of Merit for educational collaboration as well as numerous grants from prestigious foundations and Federal agencies.

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 SOC9-5a-Thu1   Value Based Health Care: Can We Get What We Pay For?

Study Group Leaders (SGLs) - David Rattner 

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

     5 week course - September 23 - October 21

Description    The USA spends more per capita on healthcare than any other nation, but our healthcare outcomes are about average. No matter which political party is in power, controlling health care spending will be high on their agenda - impacting the services you receive, the taxes you pay, and the financial viability of small and large businesses.   Together we will explore the concept of Value Based Healthcare - i.e. purchasing services based on the quality and cost - as described by Michael Porter of Harvard Business School. In this course we will briefly look at the factors contributing to the high cost of healthcare in the USA, focusing on the future rather than the past. How do we define and measure both quality and cost? What are the differences between theory and practice? Is the extraordinary cost of implementing the electronic medical record a good value?  Whose perspective matters the most in determining the value of different treatments - patients, doctors or insurers? If budgets shrink, how do we decide what is supported and what is deemed non-essential?  Would you make different decisions about necessary, but elective procedures (joint replacement) if you were responsible for 50% of the cost?   We will examine the impact of several well intentioned public and private initiatives that implemented value-based payment schemes to see how this played out in practice. Finally, we will apply the principles we have studied to several real-life examples of common chronic medical conditions such as joint replacement, heart disease, and cancer treatment.

Readings   Links to articles from Pub Med, Heath Care Affairs and other publications and video lectures from Michael Porter and others will be available on the course website. 

Preparation Time   1-2 hours a week.

Biography   David Rattner is a retired Professor of Surgery from Harvard Medical School. While his primary focus and first love was clinical surgery, he held a variety of leadership and board positions in the physicians organization, and the hospital and healthcare system, providing him with a broad perspective on healthcare delivery.  He has been a BOLLI member for the past several years where he has enjoyed a healthy discussion of controversial topics.

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MUS9-5b-Thu1   The String Quartets of Haydn, Beethoven and Bartók: Evolution, Mastery, Influence

Study Group Leader (SGL) -  Jared Redmond

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

5 week course - October 28 - December 2

(No Class November 25)

Description   This course will explore one of classical music’s most beloved and enduring genres through the lens of three major figures: Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Béla Bartók.  Their works for string quartet span nearly 200 years and are among the most memorable and paradigmatic in the literature. In contrast to a typical survey course, we will closely examine a few masterpiece compositions in depth. We will discover why these wonderful pieces are so special and influential, and trace what they reveal about broader developments in musical patronage, ideology, and style. Our detailed examination of these masters’ works, as well as a passing discussion of some peripheral composers, will thus allow us to delve into each major watershed moment in the history of the quartet medium, and further, to understand how these pieces illuminate or represent European artistic culture.  (Ability to read musical scores is not required; just bring open ears!)

Readings   All readings and listening assignments will be provided by email, usually in the form of PDF attachments and YouTube links.

Preparation Time   2~3 hours / week maximum. This will be mostly listening time, with one or two short readings per week.

Biography   Jared Redmond is a composer and pianist. Holding a PhD in Music Composition and Theory from Brandeis University, he has taught music at MIT, Hanyang University, and Seoul National University in South Korea, where he currently lives. His appetites for classical music are omnivorous, but he is especially devoted to contemporary music, the music of the late 19th - early 20th century, and to discussion of stylistic and technical influence among music of the canonical masters. He has led many courses for BOLLI, on topics including Russian Music, post-WWII music, music and architecture, classical music and politics, and musical Romanticism.

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ART9-10-Thu1   Photography: Capturing, Improving and Creating Better Photos

Study Group Leader (SGL) -  Arthur Sharenow

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

10 week course - September 23 - December 2

 (No class November 25)

Description   Do you wish to go beyond just snapping pictures?  In this course we become serious about both capturing interesting images and creating new images from them.  It will be very much an interactive course, where participants will be asked to submit several new photos each week for analysis and class discussion, all of which will be in a friendly supportive environment.  An important part of the course will be three weeks where the principal focus will be on the use of Photoshop Elements. We will not only examine how to make cosmetic improvements in photos, but also how to create new images using your imagination plus the tools provided in the software.

     Students should have a camera which allows them to adjust settings in response to lighting conditions and subject matter rather than having the camera make all such decisions for them, as is typical of smartphones and “point and shoot” cameras.

Readings   There are no reading assignments.  The SGL will send out notes on a variety of subjects through the term.  But, to take advantage of this course students should get a copy of Photoshop Elements or any version of Photoshop CS. 

Preparation Time  The length of time it takes for a student to capture three or four photos he or she would like to send in for discussion in class.  Additionally, students may spend time “playing with Photoshop” enhancing their skills in the new area.

Biography   Arthur Sharenow graduated from Brandeis University in 1955 and Harvard Law School in 1958. After practicing law briefly in Boston, he spent most of his working life as owner/director of Camps Kenwood and Evergreen. He has been enthusiastically immersed in photography since 1966, has participated in several photo tours, had a number of individual exhibits, and has led twelve previous photo courses at BOLLI.

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LIT4-5a-Thu2    Family Ties: The Drama of Eugene O’Neill – Long Day’s Journey Into Night and A Moon for the Misbegotten

Study Group Leader (SGL) -  Steven F. Bloom

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

   5 week course - September 23 - October 21

Description   What do you know about Eugene O’Neill? Perhaps you know that he was an alcoholic, that he wrote very long, gloomy plays like Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Iceman Cometh, or that his daughter Oona was Charlie Chaplin’s wife. Maybe you suspect that he has some connection to New London, Connecticut, because you’ve driven past the “Eugene O’Neill Homestead” sign on 95 South. What you may not know is that, to this day, he is the only American dramatist to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1936), and that, remarkably, he wrote the plays that are considered his greatest works after receiving the Nobel Prize. This course will introduce you to the life and works of O’Neill, primarily through the lens of two of his greatest and most explicitly autobiographical plays, Long Day’s Journey Into Night and A Moon for the Misbegotten, the latter a kind of “sequel” to the better-known former play. In making the family a primary setting for serious American drama, O’Neill wrote the book (i.e., the drama) on dysfunctional families, drawing on his own tortured family relationships as source material and inspiration. O’Neill depicts the human struggle with the bonds of family, as his characters seek belonging while coping with factors that contribute to family function or dysfunction, including alcoholism and addiction, codependency, denial (an inability to accept and embrace the truth), guilt, blame, self-awareness, and haunting “ghosts” from the past. We will address these issues and more, considering the written texts and recorded productions.

Readings   The texts for both plays are available free online:



If you want a book of your own, any edition will do, and there are several editions available on Amazon and elsewhere. The best ones to use are:

Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Yale University Press, 2nd edition, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0300093056

ISBN-10: 0300093055

Eugene O’Neill, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Yale University Press, 1st edition, 2006

ISBN-10: 0300118155

ISBN-13: 978-0300118155

Filmed productions of both plays and a documentary about O’Neill will be available online or on DVD.

Preparation Time   Reading 50 – 120 pages per week, plus 1 – 3 hours of viewing in weeks with less reading.

Biography   Steven F. Bloom is Professor Emeritus, English, at Lasell University in Newton, where he was Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs when he retired in June 2020. Steve earned his Ph.D. (and M.A.) in English and American Literature from Brandeis and his B.A. in English from the University of Rochester. Steve has published two books and many articles and reviews on O’Neill, spoken frequently at Boston-area theatres and other forums, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Eugene O’Neill Society (having served as Vice President, President, and Board Chairman), and was awarded the Society’s Eugene O’Neill Medallion in 2017. Throughout his academic career, Steve has taught senior adult learners as well as traditional college-age students.

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H&G5-10-Thu2 The Jewish Roots of Christianity

Study Group Leaders (SGL) - Ollie Curme

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

10 week course - September 23 - December 2

 (No class November 25)

Description   How and why did Christianity arise within Judaism? The facile answer is that Jesus was Jewish, but that doesn’t explain why his ideas resonated so strongly across the Jewish diaspora.  In this course we’ll closely examine the evolution of religious thought through the second temple period of  Judaism.  We’ll use the techniques of source criticism to trace these religious ideas from the later books of the Bible, through the Jewish Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls and through the emergence of Christianity, starting with the Epistles of Paul, the Apostolic Fathers and then the Synoptic Gospels.  While the information from that period is constrained to only those few texts that have managed to survive, three hundred years of scholarship offer us extraordinary insights into the cherished beliefs of these varied Jewish religious communities.  Yet at the same time there is much we don’t know.  How did the earliest Jewish Christian communities form?  What was the reaction of the diaspora to the destruction of the Temple?  What can we surmise of the historicity of Jesus?  When, why and how did Christianity and Judaism part ways? In each class we will read one or several ancient texts in translation, together with analyses that place the texts in their religious and historical contexts.  We will also discuss the debates, conjectures and mysteries surrounding each of the texts and the communities that wrote them.  Come and journey together back in time and explore a crucial juncture in the history of our shared cultures.

Readings   Most readings will be from an expansive web site which can be previewed here: https://sites.google.com/view/jewish-roots/home

One reference book is recommended but not required: Helmut Koester, Introduction to the New Testament Volume 2: History and Literature of Early Christianity, ISBN: 978-0800621018

Preparation Time   3 hours; 50 pages of dense material

Biography   Ollie Curme has been retired since 2005 and since then has explored the puzzle of early Christianity off and on.  This will be his fourth year of teaching at BOLLI.  Ollie is a member of BOLLI’s Study Group Support Committee.

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MUS1-10-Thu2   A Study in Musical Contrasts: Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel

Study Group Leader (SGL) - Cecilia Dunoyer

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

10 week course - September 23 - December 2

 (No class November 25)

Description   At the turn of the 20th century the French were fascinated by the Far East, bowled over by the Russians, seduced by the Spaniards, and wooed by American jazz.  From this feast of exoticism emerged two quintessential French composers: Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. We will appreciate how remarkably different the music and personalities of the two iconic French musical geniuses are through extensive guided listening of piano, orchestral and chamber-music masterpieces.

     According to Pierre Boulez, Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun marks the “beginning of modern music.”  From his troubled childhood and turbulent Paris Conservatoire student years to the enchantment of the 1889 and 1900 World Exhibitions, from the important women in his life to the dark war years, we will discover the man, his influences, and steep ourselves in his music, described in turn as bewildering, enchanting, enigmatic, and forever startlingly new.

     Ravel was a man of La Belle Epoque, elegant and raffiné, yet with a childlike nature who preferred the company of cats and children to adults.  Ravel’s music reflects traditions from Renaissance to jazz, from Baroque dances to waltzes, from childhood playfulness to extreme sophistication.  It seduces the listener just as much with striking simplicity - as in Mother Goose Suite - as with transcendental virtuosity.  While the piano was at the center of his output, Ravel was a genius orchestrator, who marveled at American orchestras during his 1928 U.S. concert tour. Familiarity with following a musical score is helpful, yet not essential.

Readings   There will be a great deal of guided listening to gain in-depth appreciation of piano, orchestral and chamber-music masterpieces.  A Google site for the course will give access to YouTube videos and historical recordings as well as postings of relevant sources, visuals and quotes. 

Preparation Time   2-3 hours a week of listening to assigned pieces of music and an occasional article provided by the SGL

Biography   Cecilia Dunoyer, French pianist and teacher, has concertized in Europe and the Americas, including a 1997 Carnegie Hall debut. Her expertise in French music has led to international master-classes, and appearances at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC presenting lecture-recitals and courses.  She authored Marguerite Long, A Life in French Music (IndianaUnivPress), simultaneously translated in French, and Debussy in Performance (YaleUnivPress).  She holds a BM, MM and DMA in piano performance. A dedicated teacher, Cecilia has shared her love of music, beauty, life, and a joyful pursuit of excellence with young and older adults for 40 years.

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MUS3-10-Thu2   Ten Operas from Poppea to Porgy

Study Group Leader (SGL) -Matthew Heck

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

10 week course - September 23 - December 2

 (No class November 25)

Description   Some of the most rewarding discussions, effective learning, and enjoyable listening from this instructor’s previous two BOLLI courses (a study of Tchaikovsky and a survey of Twentieth Century Music) came from collective analyses of operas and their cultural contexts. This course takes that template and expands it to a full ten sessions charting a broad and subjective (as well as necessarily incomplete) history of opera through ten works. The class will prioritize deep engagement with the operas themselves, but since they range over roughly 250 years, they will inevitably provide the group with an opportunity to address issues of style, genre, era, aesthetics, and cultural context through the centuries. Members will be expected to watch the operas, but there will be no required reading. The ten are as follows: Monteverdi, L'incoronazione di Poppea (1643); Mozart, Don Giovanni (1787); Verdi, La Traviata (1853); Wagner, Tristan und Isolde (1865); Tchaikovsky, Queen of Spades (1890); Debussy, Pelléas et Mélisande (1902); Rimsky-Korsakov, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh… (1909); Gershwin, Porgy and Bess (1935); Britten, Peter Grimes (1945); and Saariaho, L’Amour de loin (2000).  While rudimentary understanding of musical materials may be helpful, it is not required for this course.

Readings   Optional readings will be provided. Operas will be made available on YouTube or other video formats.

Preparation Time   2-4 hours (the length of one opera)

Biography   Matthew Heck is a PhD candidate in musicology at Brandeis University writing a dissertation that situates Dmitri Shostakovich’s harmonic-contrapuntal language within Russian theoretical writings of the twentieth century and the history of Russian ideas.  His interests extend beyond Russian music, however, and his class Love is the Message: Dance Musics and Their Cultures from Disco to Dubstep won a University Prize Instructorship Award at Brandeis.  Matthew is also a violinist and member of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.

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WRI2-10-Thu2 Memoir Writing 

Study Group Leader (SGL) - Linda Wolfson

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

10 week course - September 23 - December 2

 (No class November 25)

Description   This course has been offered at BOLLI over 20 times and has proven to be a welcoming place for anyone interested in writing and telling their stories.  The design of this course is simple.  Participants commit to writing  each week and to bringing about 500 words to share aloud 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.  Our work together is to encourage and support the efforts of each member of the group.  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. You don’t have to be a skilled writer to participate. You just have to be willing to explore and be supportive of others’ explorations. Participants’ comments about the course have always praised the power of the group, the value of hearing one another’s work, and the warm responses offered by class members.

Readings   A set of prompts will be provided to participants prior to the first class.   

Preparation Time   Each class member will be asked to write a 500 word piece each week using prompts provided by the SGL.   

Biography   Linda Wolfson holds a B.A. from University of Massachusetts, Boston and an M.S.W. from Boston University School of Social Work. As a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker she worked in Hospice care and in a mixed-income Assisted Living Facility. Her interest in writing dates back to childhood and has always been a consistent part of her life. She has studied with Marjorie Roemer at BOLLI. Linda will use her group leadership skills to continue to facilitate the model for this course created and refined by Marjorie Roemer.

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ART4-5a-Thu3   Rembrandt

Study Group Leader (SGL) -  Amy Golahny

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

      5 week course - September 23 - October 21

Description   The goal of this course is a deeper understanding of the art of Rembrandt, and the historical and artistic context of his works. The emphasis is on both familiar and unfamiliar paintings, and how they are distinct from comparable contemporary imagery. This involves close looking at individual works and comparing them to precedent. Recent research has contributed to fresh analyses of the meanings and making of the paintings by Rembrandt, and this material will be brought into the course. Students will gain appreciation for Rembrandt’s uniqueness in applying paint, invention of novel ways to portray narrative subjects, and technical examination.   

Readings   Readings will be provided as PDFs. 

Preparation Time   45 minutes to an hour per week. 

Biography   Amy Golahny, Logan A. Richmond Professor of Art History Emerita at Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is immediate past president of the Historians of Netherlandish Art, an international organization that promotes the art of northern Europe. Her articles on Rembrandt and other topics have appeared in the foremost journals of art history. Her examination of how Rembrandt’s library informed his art appeared as Rembrandt’s Reading (Amsterdam University Press, 2003). Her study of Rembrandt and Italian art has just been published (Brill, 2020). Her degrees are from Brandeis (BA), Williams and Columbia.

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LIT2-10-Thu3   Nature in the Literary Imagination: From the Bible to the 20th Century

Study Group Leader (SGL) - Barbara Apstein

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

10 week course - September 23 - December 2

 (No class November 25)

Description   Many of us have found ourselves more attentive to the natural world during this pandemic year than ever before. We’ve explored nearby parks and woods; observed and documented the activities of local wildlife--the birds, rabbits, turkeys, foxes and deer that appear in our backyards. Meanwhile, on a global scale, we’re alarmed to see the natural world becoming increasingly fragile and endangered due to climate change.  Through the ages, writers have been sensitive and responsive to their natural surroundings.  Using a historical perspective, this course will explore the diverse ways they have understood and described nature in a variety of literary genres. We will begin with the Biblical description of the Garden of Eden and Milton’s elaboration in Paradise Lost. Next will be a consideration of the pastoral tradition with its nymphs and shepherds, examining Greek, Roman and Renaissance texts and culminating in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Moving closer to our own era, we’ll explore the work of writers who were deeply affected by the Industrial Revolution and the resulting mass migration from the countryside into cities.  Wordsworth’s poetry, Thoreau’s essays and D. H. Lawrence’s stories will reveal how these writers imagined escaping from an alienated, urban, “civilized” life into a profound relationship with the natural world.  For them, nature is a source of wonder, instruction and renewal. Finally, Wallace Stegner’s novel, All the Little Live Things, set in 1960’s California, will bring us full circle to another version of paradise lost. 

Readings   Books to purchase: Shakespeare, As You Like It; Thoreau, Walden; Stegner, All the Little Live Things.  Any edition is acceptable and all are available in paperback.  The other readings are poems and short stories, which will be posted on a course website.

Preparation Time Maximum 2 hours/week.

Barbara Apstein received a doctorate in English from the City University of New York. At Bridgewater State University, where she was a professor of English for thirty-five years, she taught a variety of courses, ranging from Chaucer to Modern British Fiction. She has published articles about Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, among other topics. This is the third course she has offered at BOLLI.

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ART6-5a-Thu3   Broadening Our Historical Perspectives- Black Artists in the 20th Century (1920 to 1980)

Study Group Leader (SGL) -  Margaret Mukherjee

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

5 week course - September 23 - October 21

Description   How have Black artists responded to their unique American experiences? Can we discern trends over time? How have Black artists responded to cultural pressures such as the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights Movement? We will seek to answer these questions through studying the visual arts (fine arts and photography) created by Black artists during the 20th century: the Harlem Renaissance beginning in the 20s, the Great Depression in the 1930s, and the Civil Rights Movement from 1960-1980.  We will first look at early folk artists, Wm. Traylor, Gertrude Morgan, and Sam Doyle, all widely known today. Next, we will study Aaron Douglas, a mural painter and a leader in the Harlem Renaissance. We will also study artists (fine arts) in New Deal sponsored programs during the Great Depression: Charles Alston, Jacob Lawrence and Charles White.  Of the many artists of fine arts during the Civil Rights era, we will study Faith Ringgold, Elizabeth Catlett, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Donaldson and their roles in forging a Black aesthetic during this critical time; we will also view the work of photographers Gordon Parks, James Van Der Zee and Roy DeCarava. Throughout, we will endeavor to recognize several strong cultural and societal influences on Black artists: the African diaspora, jazz and the power of religion. It is anticipated that our study of Black artists will provide us with a more complete understanding of American art.  

Readings   Source materials for background reading/viewing and also for group discussions will be provided on the website for our course.

Preparation Time   About an hour of preparation each week in viewing and reading resource material.

Biography   Margaret Mukherjee has enjoyed a wide range of experiences in her academic studies and in her professional life. She has an undergraduate degree in human ecology, a Masters in textiles, clothing and related arts and a PhD in urban planning and policy development. As a Professor Emerita, she has taught in the US, and in Eastern Europe and Asia. This will be her third BOLLI study group which she has led; her first one focused on folk art and the second was on art and the Great Depression.

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SOC1-5b-Thu3   Crossing the Line: American Comedy, Censorship, and Free Speech

Study Group Leader (SGL) - Sascha Cohen

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

5 week course - October 28 - December 2

(No Class November 25)

Description   “It’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately,” argued George Carlin, one of American comedy’s most iconic performers, who was arrested for public indecency in 1972. Carlin was not the only humorist whose language landed him in legal trouble during the 20th century. Counter-cultural legend Lenny Bruce also made headlines for his extended obscenity trials. Writers of boundary-pushing satire that appeared in publications such as Hustler and MAD magazine found themselves in frequent conflict with censors. This was also true of TV shows including the Smothers Brother, Maude, and All in the Family. This class explores the intersection of American comedy and censorship to open a dialogue over broader questions about contested speech, power, political dissent, and public opinion that resonate in the present day. It will include a combination of lecture, presentation, and discussion of primary sources. Clips from various documentaries, sitcoms, and films will be shown in class.

Readings   Ronald K. L. Collins and David M. Skover, The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Rise and Fall of an American Icon, Top Five Books, 2012 (digital edition or 2002 hardcover edition).  Additional readings will be provided electronically by the SGL.

Preparation Time   Class members will read 1-2 articles or 3 book chapters (about 20-45 pages total) per week.

Biography   Sascha Cohen is a long-time fan of stand-up comedy, and recently defended her doctoral dissertation, “The Comedy of the Culture Wars: American Humor, Feminism, and Gay Liberation, 1969-1989” in the History department at Brandeis. She has taught classes on comedy in the American Studies department, written satire for McSweeneys and Reductress, and published articles about humor for outlets like Playboy, Smithsonian, The Forward, and TIME. She grew up in Los Angeles.

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MUS5-10-Thu3 Songwriters Playground: Innovative Exercises in Creative Songwriting

Study Group Leader (SGL) - Barbara Jordan

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

10 week course - September 23 - December 2

 (No class November 25)

Description   Can you write a couple of words, hum a melody or clap your hands? Then you’re on your way to creating a song in the company of other creative folks.  No special talent, prior experience or musical instruments necessary.   We will generate “hooks” that grab one’s attention and melodic fragments using the time-tested “Songwriters Playground” method the SGL developed at the National Academy of Songwriters in Los Angeles 30 years ago, a method that became one of their most popular workshops and a best-selling songwriting book. Each week we will sit with our notebooks and old-fashioned pencils and write freehand to prompts. At the conclusion of 20 minutes of guided writing to icebreaker, wordplay and music exercises, we will use Zoom breakout rooms to separate into groups of 3 to “collaborate” on a quickly composed ditty (those who don’t wish to collaborate may write solo); in the last half hour of the class each song will be presented.  You will laugh frequently and most importantly, have a great deal of fun in a community of fellow writers.  You might sweat a little too as you experience the excitement of exploring your creative side.  An experience that Keyboard Magazine called “one of the best tools for unblocking your musical and lyrical creativity”.

Readings   Songwriters Playground: Innovative Exercises in Creative Songwriting by Barbara L. Jordan

Selected readings on creativity provided by the SGL via web sites or email attachments.

Preparation Time   1-2 hours/week.

Biography   Barbara L. Jordan holds a BA from Clark University and an MBA in Arts Management from UCLA. She is the founder of Heavy Hitters Music, an Emmy Award-winning publishing company which provides independent songwriting talent to the film, television and advertising industries. Barbara is the author of a popular songwriting book “Songwriters Playground: Innovative Exercises in Creative Songwriting”, and has taught Songwriting and Lyric Writing at the Berklee College of Music. Her songs have graced the soundtracks of hundreds of television shows and feature films, including such productions as The Sopranos, N.C.I.S., Analyze This and Being John Malkovich.

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H&G17-5b-Thu3   Foundations of Civilization: Walls Throughout History

Study Group Leader (SGL) - Mark Seliber

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

5 week course - October 28 - December 2

(No Class November 25)

Description   Throughout history, walls have been built to keep people out, or to keep people in.  In this study group, we will learn about many well-known and not-so-well known walls throughout history and determine how successful they were in serving their purposes.  The question of the purposes of walls goes back to ancient Greece.  Athenians thought walls were necessary to build up and preserve civilization, while Spartans thought dependence on walls – and the people tasked with defending them – threatened civilization.

     We will learn about the origins, purposes and results of important walls during different periods of history.  We will cover two to three walls per session.  Among the walls we will discuss are: Walls in Mesopotamia; The Walls of Jericho; Athens and Sparta; Hadrian’s Wall; Constantinople; The Great Wall of China and its predecessors; The Korea Demilitarized Zone; Walls of Central Asia/Persia; The Maginot Line; The Nazi Ghettos and Death Camps of World War II; The Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall; Peace Lines in Northern Ireland: The Israel Barrier Wall.

Readings   The textbook is Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick (2018) by David Frye.  We will read about two-thirds of this book.  In addition, articles, pictures and other materials will be distributed in advance of each session.  Study group participants will be encouraged to do reports on walls, both on and off the syllabus.

Preparation Time   1-1.5 hours/week.

Biography   Mark Seliber received a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics at Harvard College. He worked for 35 years as an actuary, the last half of that time at MetLife. Although math was his best subject in school, his favorite subject was always history. Immediately after retiring 4 years ago, he and his wife Rachel joined BOLLI. He has enjoyed many study groups here and has appeared in the CAST and Scene-ior theatre productions. He led a study group on the Causes of World War II in Europe twice in 2020 and this study group on Walls this spring.

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 CE2-10-Thu3   Current Events Section 2

Study Group Leader (SGL) - Lois Sockol

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

10 week course - September 23 - December 2

 (No class November 25)

Description   We live in a complex time when what happens in one part of our world affects us all. This dynamism requires us to stay informed as the world rapidly changes. This course is designed to inform, to discuss current news stories, and provide thoughtful analysis. In most sessions, our attention will be divided between world events and national news. Class members are encouraged to present reports, lead a class discussion on a current topic, and take part in group discussions. Interest and keeping up to date with the news are the only prerequisites.

Readings   Access to newspapers, news magazines, and web sources will be required.

Preparation Time   1-2 hours/week

Biography   Lois Sockol taught children and adults for 25 years. Her undergraduate degree is from Boston University with a masters from Lesley College. The bulk of Lois’ professional years were spent in the Newton Public Schools where she taught children and was a consultant to teachers. She was an educational consultant to schools throughout New England. After retirement, Lois again became a student, and a writer of short stories. Four of her short stories have been published. Retirement allows Lois to feed her current events habit. BOLLI affords the opportunity to share with others who habitually follow the news.

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