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Course Schedules

2020 LIRA Fall Schedule


The Story of Human Language
Facilitator: Alan Friedman*
Seven Mondays, 10 a.m. – Noon: Sept. 14, 21, Oct. 5, 19, 26, Nov. 2, 9

Human language is an amazing phenomenon. Its words have so many meanings and its grammar has so many complex rules that most of us never completely master them all. Yet a child of two years old is already able to use language to make themself understood, and a child of six can form intricate sentences without ever having had any formal instruction. How can this be?

It is thought that there are currently at least six thousand languages spoken around the globe. Once there were many more. Why are there so many, and how did they develop? What do they have in common, and how do they differ? Is our thinking shaped and constrained by our language, or does our language reflect our thinking?

Let's investigate!

Laughing on the Outside and Crying on the Inside
Presenter: Arnie Kerzner
Three Mondays, 1-3 p.m.: Sept. 14, 21, Oct. 5

As we review our favorite, ole' time Comedians--and laugh together--we shall become poignantly aware of their off stage sad and torn lives.

Hidden for years from the stage was their shame and helplessness in overcoming personal heartaches. Over their lifetime, they struggled to find ways to overcome their addiction not only to drugs, but to their desperate need for constant adulation and unconditional love.Much like "Rouault’s Clowns", they endured an inner awareness of the sadness of their existence--all the while making others laugh.

In this talk, we will laugh with them--and shed some tears, as well. Perhaps, that's what comedy is all about.

Coordinator: Peter Sebelius*

The Legislation of Edith Nourse Rogers
Presenter: Professor Patricia Fontaine
Three Mondays, 1-3 p.m.: Oct. 19, 26, Nov. 2

The life and political tenure of Edith Nourse Rogers are tightly entwined in America’s domestic and international politics in the first half of the 20th century. The first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives from New England and the Massachusetts fifth district, she was the longest-serving woman in the House until her tenure was surpassed in 2018 by Representative Marcy Kaptur of Ohio.

The three Zoom presentations about Edith Nourse Rogers will deal with the following topics:

  • General Introduction: A manufacturing birthright and a widow’s mandate
  • Edith the angel of veterans: World War l, Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Veteran legislation
  • Edith and World War ll: antisemitism, nativism; US preparedness; Lowell and war industry
  • Edith's Impact and Legacy

Coordinator: Nancy Pitkin*


The History Matters: An Overview of Tumultuous Civil Rights History, 1920 to 2020
Presenter: Professor Bob Forrant
Four Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – Noon: Sept. 15, 22, 29, Oct. 6

This four-week program will cover U.S. Civil Rights history in the 20th and 21st centuries. We will start with the Summer of 1919 and the bloody aftermath of the First World War, the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 and the 1920s rise of the KKK. We will look at organizations formed to resist segregation and violence including the N.A.A.C.P, and the Urban League and such important figures as Ida B. Wells, William Monroe Trotter, and W.E.B. DuBois. From there we will consider African Americans and the Great Depression and New Deal. How did Southern Democrats shape New Deal social legislation to deny African Americans the benefits of New Deal policy, and how did the Black community organize and push back? A. Philip Randolph is important here. Justice delayed and denied boiled over in the 1950s and 1960s and with much fanfare, Brown v. the Board of Education, and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts got passed. How did organizations form? What did all of this accomplish, and what has happened in the recent past to call what progress there was into question? The last session will have as its theme: Obama, Trump, and Beyond...?

There will be recommended reading for each session. A presentation of approximately. 35 – 40 minutes and then ample time for comment and discussion.

Coordinator: Susan Lemire*

Presenters: Peter Sebelius* and Richard Grove*
Four Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – Noon: Oct. 13, 20, 27, Nov. 3

It seems like every day you read about hackers stealing our personal data and money, conducting ransomware attacks and the like. If you’ve ever received a Nigerian General letter or a phishing email you know that internet crime is widespread and persistent. Today the Internet is a world-girding, borderless domain where more than 2.5 billion people who buy goods, consult doctors, foment rebellion, send photographs, and do countless other things, both big and small. The goal of this course is to teach you about the structure of the Internet and the unique threats it breeds. We will center on a single overarching theme: that Internet openness brings risks and dangers that cannot be eliminated, but they are risks that can be understood, managed, and reduced. By the end of the course, you’ll have a greater appreciation for what governments and individuals can do and are doing to reduce those threats.

How to Read and Understand Shakespeare
Facilitators: Beverly and Kimball Rudeen*
Eight Tuesdays, 1-3 p.m.: Sept. 15, 22, 29, Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27, Nov. 3

This video course by “The Great Courses” company will give us the “tools” by which the reader will have a greater understanding and enjoyment of the Bard’s work. You will not have to read each play but reading a short synopsis of the play discussed will make the Professor’s lecture come to life. Our Professor, Marc C. Connor, is not only a Chair of the English Department at Washington and Lee University, but an actor as well. Eleven of Shakespeare’s most noted plays will be discussed.


Art & Music
Six Wednesdays, Sept. 16, 23, 30, Oct. 7, 14, 21
More dates may be added later. Please see separate Art&Music schedule.


Great Decisions
Eight Thursdays, 10.a.m. – Noon: Sept. 17, 24, Oct. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, Nov. 5

Great Decisions is America's largest discussion program on world affairs. The program involves reading the Great Decisions Briefing Book, watching the DVD, and meeting in a discussion group to discuss the most critical global issues facing America today. Two weekly two-hour sessions explore each topic in depth. Great Decisions topics for the fall are: China’s Road into Latin America, The Philippines and the U.S., Red Sea Security, and India and Pakistan. Briefing books are available for $22.00.

Facilitator: Richard Grove*

Liberty on Trial in America
Four Thursdays, 1-3 p.m.: Sept. 17, 24, Oct. 1, 8
Facilitator: Bob Hanlon*

In Liberty on Trial in America: Cases That Defined Freedom, you will learn how liberty increased in our country when individuals sued for those freedoms, when cases were brought specifically to test the limits of the Constitution with its Amendments, and even when a jury in a local case returned an unexpected verdict that helped change the thinking of the times.

In 8 fascinating lectures of this Great Courses course, Professor Douglas O. Linder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law takes you behind the scenes of the trials that brought us many of the freedoms we enjoy today, as well as trials whose decisions are still being fought over. You’ll learn what happened when Susan B. Anthony decided to vote in a national election; when Japanese Americans were arrested and confined after Pearl Harbor; when Black Americans fought for civil rights; when a White man first married a Black woman in Virginia; when Amish parents fought to educate their children the way they wanted; when the death penalty was opposed; when citizens opposed the right of taking property by Eminent Domain; and when Citizens United opposed campaign finance reform.

2020 Elections
Four Thursdays, 1–3 p.m.: Oct. 15, 22, 29, Nov. 5
Presenter: Professor Frank Talty

This class will focus on the stretch run leading up to the Nov. 3rd national election, with three Thursdays of class before, and a final class two days after, when we (hopefully) will know the outcome. In this class, we will look at the Presidential race, latest poll numbers, state by state analysis and Electoral Vote projections. We will also look at the 35 US Senate seats being decided on Nov. 3rd, and at some important US House seats. We will spend some time analyzing the Electoral College and voting by mail, and the issues raised by each. While we can't predict the impact of the coronavirus on the election, the pandemic and its disruption of all aspects of life will certainly be woven into our analysis of this important US election.

Coordinator: Sally Coulter*