DELVE READERS SEMINARS cultivate readers and a community for the shared experience of reading.
The Wisdom of Sun Ra: Music, Myth, and the Altered Destiny
Sundays, January 6 – 27, 2019 Sundays (4 meetings)
Guide: Jesse Carsten, Tuition: $150
Sun Ra was many things: master jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, as well as an activist, philosopher, and poet. He was also one of the world’s great, if unacknowledged, Mythologists. His work, an expansive space music built on a poetics of the ancient, was intended to transform the consciousness of the people of planet Earth. “My job,” he said “is to change five billion people to something else”. The Human Race needed an alternate destiny – a better world initiated by way of Music, Poetry, and Myth. This was Sun Ra’s offering. In this Delve we explore the life, work, and poetics of Sun Ra in search of the altered destiny he professed. A curated selection of Sun Ra’s music will be provided and a portion of each class meeting will be given to listening and discussing a piece of music in relation to the written material.
E.M. Forster: The Italian Novels
Mondays, January 7-February 4, 2019 (five sessions)
Guide: Christopher Lord (Carl Wilson), Tuition: $195
We’ll examine Forster’s first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, and third novel, A Room With A View. Forster is interested in the subtle gradations of class and culture among Europeans in the late Victorian/Edwardian era when he composed most of his fiction, and both of these novels revolve around clashes between British reserve and the perceived laxity of 19th century Italian morals.
Reading List: E.M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread and A Room With A View
British Perspectives: Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes
Tuesdays, January 8-February 12, 2019 (six sessions)
Guide: Ivonne Saed, Tuition: $220
English authors Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, and Julian Barnes present us with contemporary perspectives of the world through writing styles that originate in the classic literary tradition, only to explode into unsettling resolutions that mirror the contemporary human experience. With elegant prose, they weave history and personal relations into thought-provoking narratives.
Reading List: Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis; Atonement by Ian McEwan; The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Plato’s Phaedrus: Love, Truth And The Power Of Speech
Sundays, January 13-27, 2019 (three sessions)
Guide: Monica Vilhauer, Tuition: $125
Speech has the power to transform the soul. It can reveal, enlighten, and heal. Or it can deceive, manipulate, and defile. In Plato’s Phaedrus dialogue, Socrates is in a battle for Phaedrus’ soul as he attempts to show Phaedrus the difference between the true love of a friend and the false love of a manipulator. This seminar explores the intimate connection of speech and love, and their relevance in our personal and political lives. This seminar accompanies Plato’s Symposium (see Fall 2018), but may also be taken as a stand-alone.
Reading List: The Symposium and the Phaedrus: Plato’s Erotic Dialogues (trans. William S. Cobb, SUNY Press)
Octavia Butler’s Fledgling, “Bloodchild,” and Other Stories
Wednesdays, January 16-February 6, 2019 (four sessions)
Guide: Christopher Rose, Tuition: $150
With the growing interesting in science fiction, several writers have worked to deconstruct popular tropes to examine contemporary social issues. Octavia Butler’s final work, Fledgling, is a science fiction novel that repositions the idea of the vampire to discuss issues of race, gender, agency, and empowerment by exploring the journey of Shori, an amnesiac vampire child attempting to unravel the mystery of her creation and memory loss.
Reading List: Fledgling by Octavia Butler; plus stories including “Bloodchild”
Jennifer Egan: Manhattan Beach
Tuesdays, February 5-26, 2019 (four sessions)*
Guide: Danielle Frandina, Tuition: $175
*Tuition includes admission to Jennifer Egan’s Portland Arts & Lectures event on February 21 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
In Jennifer Egan’s latest novel Manhattan Beach, she explores the underexplored in a well-mined setting—WWII-era New York. Through multiple narrators, Egan focuses on richly imagined characters: a young woman who works in the Naval Yards and becomes a pioneer diver, an Italian gangster and nightclub owner, a bagman who leaves his family and becomes a merchant marine. We will approach this reading from the central technique of Egan’s storytelling: her masterful and nuanced rendering of human relationships—familial, romantic, adversarial, and unconditional.
Reading List: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Elena Ferrante: The Neapolitan Novels / Part Two
Mondays, Feb 11-Mar 11, 2019 (five sessions)
Guide: Sara Guest, Tuition: $200
The New York Times says, “Elena Ferrante is this rare bird: so deliberate in building up her story that you almost give up on it, so gifted that by the end she has you in tears.” As the second of two seminars, this class considers the last two novels in Ferrante’s four-book Neapolitan Novels series, in all their depth and power. The two Ferrante seminars can be taken as stand-alones or together. (See Fall 2018 for “Part One”)
Reading List: Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (2014); The Story of a Lost Child (2015)
Talking to Grief: Literary Explorations Of Loss
Wednesdays, February 13-March 20, 2019 (six sessions)
Guide: Lois Leveen, Tuition: $220
Loss is an inevitable part of life, yet the course of grief often surprises and overwhelms us. How can works of literature help us understand grief, whether our own or someone else’s? In this seminar, we’ll delve into poetry, prose memoir, and graphic narrative, as we explore what authors gain from writing about grief, and what we gain from reading about it.
Reading List: “Talking to Grief” (poem) by Denise Levertov; Book of Hours by Kevin Young; Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart; Nocturne by Helen Humphreys; plus supplementals
The Tenth Muse: Women Poets From Cuneiform To Spoken Word
Tuesdays, February 26-April 2, 2019 (six sessions)
Guide: Cindy Williams-Gutierrez, Tuition: $220
In this course, you’ll gain a world-encompassing view of women poets from antiquity to the present day. We’ll cover Enheduanna, the first known author in the world; Sappho, named Greece’s “Tenth Muse” by Plato; Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the first feminist poet of the Americas; Ntozake Shange, a contemporary feminist icon who brought the struggles of black women to Broadway through poetry; and many more.
Reading List: Women Poets from Antiquity to Now: Selections from the World Over, edited by Aliki Barnstone and Willis Barnstone
Enter Sandman: Neil Gaiman
Wednesdays, February 27-April 3, 2019 (six sessions)*
Guide: Trevor Dodge, Tuition: $220
*This seminar meets at Another Read Through Bookstore (3932 N Mississippi Ave, Portland OR)
With works spanning all forms of contemporary popular media, one might consider Neil Gaiman a sort of literary Leonardo Da Vinci. In this Delve seminar, we’ll sample from Gaiman’s impressive portfolio of prose, comics, film, and new media, with particular emphasis on his work’s literary, social, and political impacts upon the culture.
Reading List: Neil Gaiman, The Sandman (graphic novel series); Coraline (novel); and more
Hooked: Addiction in Literature
Tuesdays, March 5-April 16, 2019 (six sessions; no meeting March 26)*
Guide: Melissa Joan Walker, Tuition: $250
*Tuition includes admission to Jacqueline Woodson’s Portland Arts & Lectures event on April 4 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
A look at addiction and recovery narratives in literature, with a tie-in to the Portland Arts & Lectures author event with Jacqueline Woodson. In addiction, a body turns against itself and sets its sights on self-destruction. This course will look at writing that explores the descent into addiction, late stage alcoholism, a partner’s relationship with an addicted person, and two recovery chronicles.
Reading List: Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson; Lit by Mary Karr; The Recovering by Leslie Jamison; and more
Roberto Bolaño, 2666
Mondays, March 18-April 22, 2019 (six sessions)
Guide: Benjamin Ficklin, Tuition: $220
“Only in chaos are we conceivable.” Roberto Bolaño’s posthumous novel 2666 attempts to explore the totality of evil in the 20th century. Ranging from World War II to Detroit to the deserts of Mexico, the nearly 1000-page book presents a huge cast of characters, each individual offering their pain and hope as exemplifications of the current human condition. This novel has been celebrated in many languages and heralded as the beginning of 21st century literature.
Reading List: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
Wednesdays, April 3-May 8, 2019 (six sessions)
Guide: Christopher Zinn, Tuition: $220
Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) brought Thomas Pynchon the National Book Award and coronation as the crafty artificer of a postmodern epic set principally in Europe in the waning days of WWII. The novel’s sprawling and eccentric narrative, by turns antic and somber, offers readers a mostly delightful challenge and rewards them with a unique, some would say essential, picture of instances and forces that shaped the fate of humanity in the last century.
Reading List: Gravity’s Rainbow, Penguin Classics Deluxe edition
Embolden Your Reading
Tuesdays, April 9-30, 2019 (four sessions)
Guide: Sara Guest, Tuition: $180*
*Includes reader’s packet materials fee. Early-bird registrations (before October 10, 2018) will receive admission to Jill Lepore’s Portland Arts & Lectures event on October 11 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall)
This seminar will give us a chance to think more broadly and boldly about how to enter and engage in our national conversation about gender and human rights, related to movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, and LGBTQIA+ rights. We’ll explore diversity in genre, race, perspective and point-of-view through a reader’s packet of multiple authors.
Reading List (packet included with tuition): Works of nonfiction and fiction by Jill Lepore, Siri Hustvedt, Carmen Maria Machado, Margaret Atwood, Leni Zumas, Michelle Tea, Phoebe Robinson, and Rebecca Solnit; poetry by Patricia Lockwood, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Morgan Parker, Aracelis Girmay, Jenny Xie, Jenny Zhang, and Analicia Sotelo
Unchecked Momentum: Abstract Expressionism & The New York School
Thursdays, April 11-May 16, 2019 (six sessions)*
Guide: Coleman Stevenson, Tuition: $235
*This seminar meets at the Portland Art Museum (1219 SW Park Ave, Portland OR)
In 2000, the Portland Art Museum acquired the Clement Greenberg Collection of 159 paintings, prints, drawings, and sculptures by some of the most important American artists of the mid-20th century. Greenburg, the prominent and influential writer and art critic, is most known for his promotion of the Abstract Expressionist painters including Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, and many others. This Delve will explore pieces in the Greenberg Collection alongside Greenberg’s essays on art, as well as the words of another leading writer of that era, poet, art critic, and MOMA curator Frank O’Hara. O’Hara was a leading figure in the New York School, an informal group of artists, writers and musicians who drew inspiration from abstract expressionism, action painting, and collaboration across genres. We will read his collection of essays, Art Chronicles: 1954-1966, accompanied by some of his poems that demonstrate the feel of art and life in the NYC of that era.
Reading List: Frank O-Hara, Art Chronicles: 1954-1966, plus supplemental readings
Immigrant Women’s Literature: Crossing the Borders of Nations and Selves
Sundays, April 28, May 5, and May 12, 2019 (three 3-hour sessions)
11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Guide: Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt, Tuition: $195
*Tuition includes admission to Chimamanda Adichie’s Everybody Reads author event on March 14 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (available for those who register before March 14)
This seminar will focus on the experiences of migrant, immigrant, and refugee women of color and their diverse relationships to their past nations, history, memory, and migrations. By reading works by Reyna Grande, Diana Abu Jaber, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, we will explore how each of these writers represent the consequences of border crossings, and the interconnections between language, culture, self and displacements that such border crossings invariably provoke.
Reading List: The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande; Crescent by Diana Abu Jaber; Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
PAST 2018/2019 SEMINARS
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick *SOLD OUT*
Tuesdays, September 4-October 9, 2018 (six sessions)
Guide: Christopher Zinn, Tuition: $220
Published in 1851, Moby-Dick is a book like no other. It’s part adventure story, part Elizabethan tragedy, part alt-history, part lyrical meditation on American democracy, part exploration of literary form. In a time of global change, Melville’s account of the far-flung endeavors of Ahab and his crew seems freshly relevant. This Delve will explore the literary and cultural dimensions of this many-sided masterpiece.
Reading List: Moby-Dick, Library of America paperback edition
Shakespeare On Screen: Richard III, Coriolanus, Titus, The Tempest
Wednesdays, September 12-October 10, 2018 (four sessions; no meeting September 19)
Guide: Lois Leveen, Tuition: $150
From the earliest days of cinema, directors have adapted Shakespeare’s work for the screen. In this seminar we’ll explore how these adaptations alter or enrich our experience of Shakespeare’s oeuvre and how they serve as a collaboration between the Renaissance playwright and modern-day directors.
Viewing/Reading List: Richard III (1995, directed by Richard Loncraine, starring Ian McKellen and Annette Bening); Coriolanus (2011, directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes); Titus (1999, directed by Julie Taymor, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange); and The Tempest (2010, directed by Julie Taymor, starring Helen Mirren)
Love And Failure: The Fiction And Moral Philosophy Of Iris Murdoch
Mondays, September 17-October 22, 2018 (six sessions)
Guide: Bennett Gilbert, Tuition: $220
Few, if any, thinkers have had combined artistry in storytelling with strength in philosophical thought as powerfully as Iris Murdoch (1919–1999). We will read both Murdoch’s fiction and her philosophical papers in order to explore her responses to issues of gender, society, language, imagination, and moral responsibility. We will also put Murdoch in conversation with the ideas of other thinkers and novelists of her time, including Simone de Beauvoir, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Simone Weil, Flannery O’Connor, and more.
Reading List: Iris Murdoch’s novel The Bell and short philosophical work The Sovereignty of the Good; excerpts from Existentialism for Mystics and Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals; and supplementals
“Incredibly thought-provoking.” –2017 Delve Participant
“I really enjoyed the experience of discussing literature in a non-academic setting, but in an academic way.” –2017 Delve Participant
“I enjoyed reading texts – and being introduced to authors – I would not have found on my own.” –2017 Delve Participant
“Discussing with intelligent people and an intelligent leader provided new insights into the reading. The book became expansive, and every week I’d sit there and say, ‘I want more of this.’” –2015 Delve Participant
Tuition discounts are available for Delve seminars. Apply to participate in the Delve Access Rate Program here.
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Read past seminar summaries on the Literary Arts blog.