In search of lost time

Through sheer good luck, I came across the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute affiliated with Dartmouth College this past fall. It has been my goal to do the assigned reading I didn’t get to in my favorite college literature courses. Reviewing the Dartmouth Osher course offerings, I found two that met my needs. The first — the one I happened onto — was Professor James Heffernan’s course on chapters 7-12 of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Professor Heffernan was a member of the English Department when I was an undergraduate and is now retired from college teaching. He is an expert on the Victorian novel and on Joyce, among many other things. I regretted not having taken a course from him when I could. He gave the 24-part Great Courses lecture series on Ulysses and taught the book for something like 50 years. He must be one of the foremost living scholars of Ulysses. I couldn’t believe my luck in finding the course with its availability via Zoom.

The second was a course in Classics of the Renaissance offered by Leon D. Black Professor in Shakespearean Studies emeritus Jonathan Crewe. This was one of my favorite Dartmouth courses. Although it omitted several of the longer works that we studied in the 1971 version of the course taught by Professor Dain Trafton, Professor Crewe covered shorter works including The Prince, Utopia, Praise of Folly, The Book of the Courtier, and The Life of Lazrillo De Tormes, all but the last of which were among the assigned reading for Comp. Lit. 22 with Professor Trafton.

Digression: Leon Black, who endowed the chair in Shakespearean Studies that Professor Crewe held, was one of my best friends at Dartmouth. I lived with him and three other Dartmouth seniors during our last quarter before graduation. We all knew Leon was going to be successful.

Leon spent his senior year working on a dissertation exploring the theme of the mask in European art and literature. In the spring of 1973 I attended Leon’s presentation on the dissertation in Sanborn House. It featured a slide illustration and accompanying discussion of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Although the image has become a cliché since then, I was unfamiliar with it at the time.

Munch created four versions of “The Scream” between 1893 and 1910. Only one of them was not in an Oslo museum. When it came come up for sale at a Sotheby’s auction in 2012, Leon paid nearly $120 million for Munch’s 1895 version of “The Scream.” End of Digression.

I found the Dartmouth Osher courses with Professors Heffernan and Crewe utterly exhilarating experiences. They are both great teachers. In November I submitted evaluations expressing my appreciation for the courses and was invited to talk about them by the Dartmouth Osher marketing crew (video below). The video has been posted on the Dartmouth Osher YouTube channel along with many other videos here.

With the current availability of the courses via Zoom, I wanted to bring the program to the attention of readers who might find something of interest. The annual membership fee is $70. The cost of individual courses ranges from $45 to $85. The Dartmouth Osher home page is here.

Professor Heffernan gave the Lannan Foundation lecture on chapter 9 of Ulysses this past June 16, i.e., Bloomsday (video below). In chapter 9 Joyce alter ego Stephen Dedalus delivers a lecture on Shakespeare. Stephen argues that the key to Shakespeare’s life is the ghost scene in Hamlet. Professor Heffernan’s son Andrew is an actor who makes a cameo appearance to place the relevant passage from Hamlet before us. The lecture was followed by a separate question and answer session. The Lannan Foundation has posted video and podcast versions here.

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