Main Line School Night Series Examines World Literature With Expert Guidance from Bryn Mawr Scholars

Posted February 9th, 2010 at 11:36 pm.

Bryn Mawr will continue its popular partnership with local adult-education program Main Line School Night (MLSN) this spring with a series titled “Good Books: Reading With the Experts.” Top literary scholars—five Bryn Mawr professors and one Bryn Mawr Ph.D. who now teaches at Swarthmore College—will explore six important books in translation.

Online registration for the “Good Books” series is available at the MLSN Web site. Students may register for individual class meetings or for the whole series. Tuition for each class is $25; the 12-course package costs $125. Tuition is free for students, faculty, and staff of Bryn Mawr College.

Two classes will be devoted to each book: in the first, the professor will discuss the context in which the author wrote and aspects of the text to consider while reading; in the second session, the professor will lead a discussion of the book. The series begins Tuesday, Feb. 16. All meetings will be held in Room 300 of Dalton Hall at 7 p.m. Participants may sign up for individual class sessions or for the whole series. On the calendar:

  • Feb. 16 and 23. BMC Professor of German David Kenosian: The Trial, by Franz Kafka (1925, Breon Mitchell, translator, Schocken Books). The Trial forces us to ask, is it possible to define the ethics and purpose of human existence? How can one find meaning in one’s life when cultural traditions no longer reliably offer intellectual guidance?
  • March 2 and 9, BMC Professor of German and Comparative Literature Azade Seyhan: Mehmet, My Hawk,by Yashar Kemal (1955, Edward Roditi, translator, NYRB Classics). Kemal, a Turkish writer who is a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize, wrote this novel of a noble bandit early in his career. It raises questions about the relevance of its genre (noble banditry) in contemporary society; the concern for the human destruction of nature; how nature contains human history or history is inscribed in nature; and the consolation of myths and legends in the dark hours of human existence.
  • March 16 and 23, BMC Professor of French Emerita Catherine Lafarge: The First Man, by Albert Camus (1995, David Hapgood, translator, Random House). Is this a novel or autobiography? What is the political context of the year it was written—1959—and the year it was published—1994?
  • March 30 and April 6, Swarthmore College Professor of Russian Sibellan Forrester: The Cyberiad, Fables For The Cybernetic Age, by Stanislaw Lem (1967, Michael Kandel, translator, Harvest Books). Polish author Lem set his fables in the distant future, but the book is solidly rooted in the 20th century and presents his concerns about the socialist period. Themes for discussion include folklore, technology, humor, parodies or subversions of Marxism, and the multiple readings that are allowed by “Aesopian” language.
  • April 13 and 20, BMC Professor of Italian Emeritus Nicholas Patruno: The Periodic Table, by Primo Levi (1975, Benjamin Rosenthal, translator, Shocken Books). Every reader asks: “Chemical treatise, autobiography, micro-history, what is this book?”  What are the connections to be drawn between the element in the title of each chapter and the content within that chapter?  What does it all amount to?
  • April 27 and May 4, BMC Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature Maria Cristina Quintero: Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by  Gabriel García Márquez (1981, Gregory Rabassa, translator, Vintage Books.
    What is the genre of this book: is it a novel, a chronicle, a detective novel? What roles do the themes of gender, memory, and culpability play?
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