Study Groups

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Tuesday Morning Study Groups

The Poetry and Music of Love
9 - 11 a.m.
Tuesdays, March 18, 25, April 1 ,8, 15, 22, 29, May 6

A poetic and musical view of the many aspects of love – whether it be puppy love, passionate love, love gone wrong, or the recollections of love lost. From the sonnets of Shakespeare to the sounds of Sinatra, our LLI conveners promise a lively, and sometimes reflective, examination of this thing called love. Study group members will be encouraged to share their thoughts, joys, sorrows and remembrances. Whatever…this combination of the spoken work and that being sung should make for a very memorable Lifelong Learning study group!

Conveners: Joe Gastiger is a former NIU educator and presently is pastor of DeKalb’s First Congregational Church. He has convened numerous LLI study groups on poetry and other thoughtprovoking themes. Jerry Smith is a long-time area resident, having served a 40-year career with Castle PrinTech and the DeKalb County Community Foundation. With LLI, he has convened study groups on wide-ranging topics including philanthropy, Elvis, and Chicago music.

 

How Do We Know That? Thinking About the Earth Differently
9 - 11 a.m.
Tuesdays, March 18, 25, April 1 ,8

Modern scientists have developed some unique ideas that challenge traditional thinking about the history of the earth. Is it all a fantasy? Should we be skeptical? This study group explores the remarkable historical events that culminated in geologists’ new understanding of why the earth is the way it is and how it got that way. Learn how military investments made by the U.S. during WWII and the U.S. and Russia during the cold war provided keys that unlocked Earth’s secrets and revolutionized our understanding. We will also explore some of the geologic principles that are being taught in high schools and colleges, including plate tectonics, how sea level has changed over time, and the record left by Earth’s changing magnetic field.

Convener: Wilson Wiedenheft is a graduate student in geology at NIU, where his research is focusing on paleo-climate studies.

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Tuesday Afternoon Study Groups

Baseball Through the Ages
1:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Tuesdays, March 18, 25, April 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, May 6

Meet the innovators, clowns, and heroes of baseball’s rich and varied past. Topics covered include a) Blackburn’s rubdown, b) how teams got their names, c) Joe DiMaggio, Satchel Paige, and Ted Williams, d) why there is a batter’s box and a pitching rubber, e) the lost art of bench jockeying, f) Curt Flood and the Reserve Clause, g) retro ballparks: old recast as new, and h) the world according to Ricky Henderson.

Convener: Dan Dillman was a batboy for the Detroit Tigers before becoming an NIU geography professor emeritus.

 

Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin: Architects of Victory
1:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Tuesdays, March 18, 25, April 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, May 6

Napoleon claimed that his favorite enemy was a coalition of powers – it was so easy for him to pit allies against each other. His vast empire survived six enemy coalitions. The seventh cohered long enough to bring Napoleon down at Waterloo. Churchill saw coalitions differently. There was only one thing worse than fighting alongside allies, he liked to say, and that was fighting without them. Hitler contended that the “Strange Alliance,” headed by Roosevelt, the New Deal Squire of Hyde Park; Churchill, the ultimate Tory Imperialist; and Stalin, the communist dictator, could not possibly persevere in unity against the Third Reich. Breakup of the Grand Alliance remained his best hope until the end.

In fact, the only war aim the Big Three agreed on single-mindedly was the total destruction of the Axis coalition: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, their European lesser allies, and Imperial Japan. But Der Führer, Il Duce, and Premier Tojo, too, headed a coalition, the Axis, which was riven by disagreements ending in unconditional surrender.

In the course of the war, the Big Three powerful personalities often clashed sharply: first over grand strategy – how was victory to be most expeditiously achieved; second, how to organize the postwar world to ensure lasting peace. Often at odds, the Grand Alliance more than once veered toward breakup; nevertheless it emerged from the war united in triumph only to break up in the Cold War.

This eight-week study group identifies allied disagreements over these issues and how the three partners resolved them in a way that finally brought total victory. The principal material used will be documentaries on DVD that feature reenactment and original footage of the Big Three’s key wartime conferences and meetings. Based on authentic records once held in utmost secrecy, they take us back to 1941-1945. Ample time will be devoted in this program for study group discussion.

Convener: Al Resis has convened many previous LLI study groups on topics ranging from music to the politics of China today.

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Wednesday Morning Study Groups

The British East India Company to Google: Theory and Practice of the Corporation
9:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Wednesdays, March 19, 26, April 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, May 7

Corporations have a long history and vary in size from extremely small, closely held businesses to large and seemingly ever expanding entities. We will discuss how this organizational form can do everything from administering the sub-continent of India to running a small family-held grocery store. We will discuss how corporations come to exist, why they exist, and how they can take on personalities of their own. We will consider legal and economic context, as well as the writings of critics such as Berle and Means and advocates such as Peter Drucker.

Convener: Dick Dowen is professor emeritus in the NIU Department of Finance as well as past chair of that department. He has convened many LLI study groups including The Meaning of Gettysburg, Finance for Poets, and Aluminum Overcast.

 

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Wednesday Afternoon Study Groups

Three Operas by Three Composers from Middle Europe
1 - 3 p.m.
Wednesdays, March 19, 26, April 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, May 7

Three operas by Czech composers, produced internationally but perhaps not well known in the U.S., will be presented.

  1. The Bartered Bride by Smetana (1828-1884), a comic folk opera about arranged marriage
  2. Rusalka by Dvorak (1841-1904), a fairytale of a tragic quest for love
  3. The Cunning Little Vixen by Janacek (1854-1928), a philosophical reflection on the cycle of life.

There has been a great musical tradition in what is now the Czech Republic (often called Bohemia), which was once a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Middle Europe, that produced several great composers. Although some of their compositions are familiar to the American audiences, for example, the New World Symphony and the American Quartet by Dvorak and The Moldau by Smetana, their operas may still be virtually unknown. The “Song to the Moon” aria has been probably heard numerous times, sung by many famous sopranos, such as Leontyne Price, Frederica von Stade, Renee Fleming and Anna Netrebko, but it has not always been recognized as an aria from a Czech opera.

Since the two largest American opera houses, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, are presenting Rusalka this year, what a good opportunity to talk about significant Czech operas in class.

Convener: Jitka Hurych has fallen in love with opera ever since she was seven years old and friends of her parents took her to see her first one.

 

The 1940s: Part Two
1 - 3 p.m.
Wednesdays, March 19, 26, April 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, May 7

Because the Spencers covered World War II in a previous eight-week study group, this sequence focuses more on selected events of the postwar world. Topics in Part Two include baseball (the Ken Burns version), the wartime WASPs, postwar Germany, the Berlin airlift, the welfare state, Evita and the cult of celebrity politics in Argentina, and the communist victory in China; plus two full-length motion pictures, from directors Michael Powell (A Matter of Life and Death) and Otto Preminger (Laura).

Conveners: Elaine and George Spencer, retired professors and former chairs of the NIU Department of History, have convened many study groups, including a two-part series on The 1930s.

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Thursday Morning Study Groups

Art in Rome Through the Ages
10 - 11:30 a.m.
Thursdays, March 20, 27, April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1, 8

*Please note delayed start time.

This study group will cover the vast sweep of art in Rome from the time of the first emperor, Augustus, all the way to the Mussolini era. Rather than a quick look at many different works, we’ll concentrate on a relatively limited number of significant examples of architecture, sculpture and painting, along with some attention to the patrons who commissioned them. Among the works we’ll examine are the Ara Pacis Augustae, the Colosseum, the Column of Trajan and the Pantheon; several of Rome’s major churches, plus the Sistine Chapel and its frescoes by Michelangelo; painting by Caravaggio; masterpieces of sculpture by Bernini; and the impact of Mussolini’s urban planning on the Eternal City.

Convener: Judith Testa is professor emerita in the NIU School of Art and convened a very popular study group on Renaissance Art of Tuscany.

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Thursday Afternoon Study Groups

Old Wine in New Bottles
1 - 3 p.m.
Thursdays, March 20, 27, April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1, 8

In these sessions, classic operas and plays will be compared and contrasted to their modern adaptations. For instance, the newest version of Rigoletto performed as a Mafia story set in Las Vegas will be contrasted with the Verdi original set in 16th Century Italy. Mme. Butterfly and Miss Saigon will be similarly studied as well as La Boheme and Rent. The study group will also discuss how The Marriage of Figaro came to be framed as a story about wealthy condo life in New York City. Similarly, the changes made to Shakespearean language by modern theater companies will be studied.

Convener: Clark Neher is the retired director of the NIU Center for Southeast Asian Studies and has convened many Lifelong Learning Institute study groups, including International Crises, Violence, and Opera.

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