OLLI Senior Seminars for January and February 2020

OLLI Senior Seminars for January and February 2020

OLLI is back for the new year, and they’re kicking 2020 off right with a whopping 16 courses set to start throughout January and February, featuring topics like art, film, art history, health, literature, history and politics.

OLLI’s Senior Seminars are led by some of OU’s top professors and meet for two hours at a time, with most courses running four to six weeks in length. Courses offer adult learners an open and welcoming environment in which to explore new topics and concepts in an educational, fun and inspiring way with other participants of a similar age.

Please note that many OLLI courses have been known to sell out. You can contact OLLI directly at (405) 325-3488 for information on course availability, and be sure to sign up and save your seat before classes are full!

January Senior Seminars

2020 ElectionsThe 2020 Elections in Our Painfully Divided U.S. of A.

Cal Hobson


Jan. 27 to Feb. 17

1 to 3:30 p.m.

It seems only yesterday that Cal Hobson had the opportunity to lead an OLLI class concerning the 2016 presidential elections. As many will remember, the smart money, not to mention pollsters, pundits, politicians and much of the public, seemed confident that America would elect its first female commander-in-chief, Hillary Clinton. It was expected she would handily dispatch real estate developer, game show host and multi-billionaire Donald Trump.

However, just like the unsinkable luxury liner Titanic, Secretary of State Clinton got sunk, and our world has certainly been a wild and wooly place ever since. Enemies have become friends, and friends enemies. A tweet by Trump on a Tuesday can be contradicted on Wednesday, or earlier, and no one blushes, least of all the President. Little Rocket Man is now in a love affair with the Trumpster, while master manipulator Vladimir Putin jokes, or not, that Russia will be manipulating our elections again in 2020.

Trade sanctions are imposed—willy nilly—and subpoenas are more plentiful in D.C. than lobbyists, but not as fun or helpful. This year, the Democrats have more than 15 candidates for president. The Republicans offer only one real one, just the opposite of four years ago, and of course records will be smashed for campaign money given, raised and spent. Some of it will be green; most of it dark. Oh, and then there is the issue of impeachment.

So, with all of that in mind, three upcoming seminars are offered for your consideration:

1) Spring OLLI course. The Iowa Democratic caucus Feb. 3 to Super Tuesday March 3.

2) Summer OLLI course. Later caucuses through the party conventions—Democrats in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, July 13-16 and Republicans in Charlotte, North Carolina, Aug. 13-16.

3) Fall OLLI course. A sprint to the finish on election night, Nov. 3, 2020.

Along with Cal Hobson’s frequently biased commentary, the class will have a plethora of speakers, videos and handouts that will reflect the diversity, opinions and priorities of the two major parties and, as time allows, also mix in a dash of third-party thoughts.

Ready or not, want to or not, here comes the most important presidential election in our nation’s history....or maybe not!


YugoslaviaThe Breakup of Yugoslavia and Shaping the New Europe

Andrew Horton, Ph.D., Film and Media Studies; Rozmeri Basic, Ph.D., Art History


Jan. 29 to March 4

1 to 3:30 p.m.

The country of Yugoslavia was known as the little “America” during the reign of Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980). After his death, the utopian existence of this non-aligned country became a battlefield of different economic interests and political influences. Unfortunately, it became obvious that the civil war and Tito’s parole of unity and brotherly love became obsolete. In order to shape this new and more balanced Europe, Yugoslavia embarked into civil war and initiated international military interventions to stop multi-ethnic genocides. The process is not over yet, and it seems that there is no end in near future. To shape new order, the European Union continues to be selective and biased, especially in its relationship with former countries of Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia (Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and the province of Kosovo).


History of ChinaHistory of China and Its Place in the World

Paul Bell, Jr.


Jan. 30 to March 12

9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

*Class will not meet Feb. 20.

The course will provide students with an introduction to China’s history and culture, China’s historic and contemporary place in the world, and U.S.-China relations.

The general division of topics is:
• Chinese culture and its effects on how Chinese think and communicate
• The lessons learned from 5,000 years of Chinese history
• China’s place in the world from the first century BCE to the present
• The history and current state of U.S.-China relations


February Senior Seminars

Arthur PennThe Screen Passion of Arthur Penn

Betty Robbins


Feb. 3 to March 9

1 to 4 p.m.

If you’re a serious film viewer, ya gotta love Arthur Penn. This course will screen six of Penn’s films, beginning with his debut film starring Paul Newman, The Left-Handed Gun in 1958, to his later films, ending with The Missouri Breaks in 1976, featuring Brando and Jack Nicholson. After Breaks, Penn seems to have lost his passion. At the peak of his filmmaking power, however, Penn was one of the most exciting and unpredictable directors in the United States. In addition to the films listed above, the course will screen Alice’s Restaurant, Bonnie and Clyde, Night Moves and Little Big Man, which he considered the only authentic film he could make on the holocaust.


Food for ThoughtFood for Thought: Writing Autobiographical Narratives You Can Taste

Ashley Beardsley


Feb. 3 to March 2

3 to 4:30 p.m.

Think about your favorite food. Does it transport you to a particular time and place? Food nourishes us, but it can also connect us with others through shared meals, stories and recipes. In this class, students will use food to tell stories and write autobiographical narratives, exploring how dishes from childhood influence tastes and develop sensory details that connect moments in life to food. We’ll read a variety of food writing and cookbook samples to inspire autobiographical food narratives. Each week, we’ll contribute a piece of food writing to the class collection and read about memory to unpack how food becomes part of our identities.


Marie AntoinetteMarie-Antoinette, Headstrong or Headless?

Dane McDowell


Feb. 3 to March 9

10 a.m. to Noon

Who was really the doomed queen of France? How did the once-beloved youngest daughter of the Empress of Austria, Maria-Theresa, who married the heir to the French throne when she was not quite 15, became the most hated woman in the kingdom? A symbol for the wanton extravagance of the 18th-century monarchy, she was stripped of her riches, imprisoned and beheaded by her own subjects during the French Revolution. Victim or treatress? That is what this class will explore during six weeks with the help of great films, books and documents. Reading highly recommended to enjoy the course: Marie-Antoinette by Stephan Zweig.

Films featured:
Marie-Antoinette directed by W.S. Van Dyke (1938)
Marie-Antoinette directed by Sofia Coppola (2006)
Marie-Antoinette directed by David Grubin (2006)
Farewell My Queen directed by Benoit Jacquot (2012)


SculptureSculpture in Modern and Contemporary Art

Susan Havens Caldwell, School of Visual Arts; David Ross Boyd, Art History


Feb. 4 to March 10

1 to 3 p.m.

In the late 19th century, in order to bring vitality to their forms, sculptors abandoned Classical traditions of figural sculpture, which they considered tired and over-done. Looking for new forms and techniques, they began to embrace non-Western sculptural traditions, as well as new materials and techniques, in order to bring new vitality to sculpture. We will sample the amazing variety of three-dimensional works—the carved monoliths of Moore and Arp, constructed works of Cubists like Picasso, Futurists like Boccioni, Constructivist works by Tatlin, kinetic works like those of Calder, welded steel works like those of David Smith, Minimal works like Donald Judd’s, earth works as by Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt, architectural works by Alice Aycock, Happenings by Pop artist Oldenburg to the mixed media performances of Laurie Anderson—and much more.


Forest and TreesOne Side Saw a Forest, but No Trees. The Other Side Saw Trees and No Forest

Dr. Gale Llewellyn Hobson


Feb. 4 to 25

1 to 2:30 p.m.

Why do most of us only want to talk to people with whom we already agree? Please think about the following. There are hundreds of news outlets, cable and otherwise, blogs, social media sites, texting, emails, iPhones in every pocket and many other methods of communication that do not require the active interaction of something we used to call a “conversation.” How often do you see a family having dinner in a local restaurant, spending the entire time either eating or gazing at their smartphones, exchanging thoughts with friends or acquaintances hundreds or even thousands of miles away while not sharing a single syllable with anyone else at their own table?

Even talking heads on TV often spend most of their precious time on air simply interrupting their guests, driving home their own already strongly held views, which means they learn nothing new, nor do their audiences. However, as Robert Putnam made clear in his landmark book titled Bowling Alone, we seem to only want to listen or talk to those with whom we already agree. CNN for me, Fox for you. Never shall the two meet.

Please join Dr. Gale Llewellyn Hobson, a fifth-generation Oklahoman with over 40 years of experience as a psychologist, listening to the fears, hopes, dreams and doubts of thousands of her fellow citizens for this class. Times are perilous for young folks, seniors and those in between, not to mention the issues with the leadership of our nation. President Donald J. Trump faces an impeachment inquiry for only the fourth time in our nation’s 270-year history.

This session will be about finding common ground and using common sense during very uncommon times in our country. By listening, learning and sharing, under the gentle and experienced leadership of our learned friend Dr. Hobson, we believe this course will turn out to be uncommonly good!


Broadway MusicalsBroadway Musicals from the Movies

Marvin Beck


Feb. 5 to March 11

9 a.m. to Noon

This seminar is adjunct to the series of seminars – Broadway: American Musical Theatre, which featured hundreds of video clips that supported the historical content. Here is the opportunity to watch and discuss the key complete film productions that were specifically originally written for movies before becoming (hit?) Broadway shows. This six-week seminar will discuss and feature:

State Fair (1945). Original music and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The film stars Jeanne Craine, Dana Andrews, Dick Haymes and Vivian Blaine.

The Harvey Girls (1946). MGM film stars Judy Garland and features John Hodiak, Ray Bolger and Angela Lansbury.

The Toast of New Orleans (1950). MGM musical film stars Mario Lanza, Kathryn Grayson, David Niven, J. Carrol Naish, James Mitchell and Rita Moreno. [Maybe not a great musical, but just hearing Lanza sing makes it worth seeing.]

Royal Wedding (1951). MGM musical starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell, with music by Burton Lane and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. The film was directed by Stanley Donen.

Cinderella (1957). Musical written for television; music and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein; starring a very young Julie Andrews.

Victor/Victoria (1982). British-American musical comedy film directed by Blake Edwards; starring Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston, Lesley Ann Warren, Alex Karras and John Rhys-Davies.

The seminars are scheduled to possibly be three hours to allow for time for in-depth discussion and interesting background material.


OLLI Discussion GroupOLLI Discussion Group


Feb. 5 to May 27*

10 to 11:30 a.m.

*Class will not meet March 18.

The discussion group will meet weekly on Wednesday mornings for OLLI members who would like to share their ideas, feelings and concerns about what’s going on in our world. The purpose is fellowship and learning together through sharing concerns and ideas while responding to others’ initiation of other ideas.

This is not your typical OLLI course led by a faculty member. YOU become the leaders and decide what to talk about. The course will be led by one of Norman’s greatest conversationalists. Come grab a cup of coffee and settle in for stimulating conversation. Other than OLLI membership, there is no cost to attend this course. The sessions are limited to 21 OLLI members and registration is required to attend.


Beginning DrawingBeginning Drawing

Kylie Anderson


Feb. 6 to March 26*

10 a.m. to Noon

*Class will not meet Feb. 20 or March 19.

This course will introduce students to traditional drawing media and the fundamentals of the drawing process. Our first project, a simple still life, will cover proportion measuring techniques and shading to create a sense of form. Students will experiment with the layering of vine and compressed charcoal. During the second project, an organic still life, students will work with ink washes and use ink to create a range of textures. We will finish off the class with a portrait assignment, in which students will study the structure of the human face and practice using a grid to accurately draw from a photograph. The skills taught in this course will provide students with the foundation to tackle any drawing project that interests them in the future.

The supplies list will be provided to those registered for the course.


Rivers and Canals of EuropeCruising the Rivers and Canals of Europe

J. Thomas Pento


Feb. 6 to 27

10 to 11:30 a.m.

My wife, Maureen, and I have taken a number of cruises over the years, and we have had numerous ocean-cruising experiences. However, we have often enjoyed inland European river and canal cruises more than the ocean cruises for several reasons. The first aspect of the river cruises that we really enjoy is that you are on a much smaller vessel, usually holding from 20 to 150 passengers so you can become acquainted with most, if not all, of your cruising companions. Further, you stop each day at a small picturesque town or mid-sized city along the river and, importantly, a bus follows the ship along the entire route! Thus, when you stop at your new port each morning and have breakfast, the bus is waiting outside to take you on a tour of all of the cathedrals, palaces and points of interest within a 20-30 mile radius of your port of call—and there is usually NO additional excursion fee for this service!

After you return to the vessel in the early afternoon, you can do some sightseeing and shopping around the town at which your ship has docked. After dinner, you have shipboard or local entertainment, and it’s off to the next port of call. River cruises are available on almost all of the significant European rivers and a number of the larger canals. The river cruises give you a much better feel of European life and culture than cruises that only stop at the large cities.


Abraham's HeirsAbraham’s Heirs: Medieval Jewish-Christian Relations

Jacob Lackner


Feb. 7 to March 6*

1 to 2:30 p.m.

*Class will not meet Feb. 21.

The purpose of this course is to introduce the major defining elements in Christian-Jewish relations in the Middle Ages. While anti-Jewish violence and persecution were part of this relationship and will be addressed, much of this course also addresses the more mutual and peaceful relationships that existed for much of the Middle Ages.


Mystery MakersMystery Makers

Almira Grammer


Feb. 14, March 13, April 10, May 8

10 a.m. to Noon

There’s nothing better than reading a good mystery, especially when the lightning is flashing, the thunder is rolling, and the wind is rattling the windowpanes. In Mystery Makers, we will read and discuss four British crime novels full of manor houses, quaint villages, quirky characters and charismatic inspectors. However, beneath this bucolic façade lurks danger and deception. We will also discuss the evolution of the crime novel—who writes it, who reads it and why. So, sharpen your sleuthing skills and your powers of deduction and join us in solving a murder so foul.


Hero's Underworld JourneyThe Hero’s Underworld Journey

Ralph Doty, Classics and Letters


Feb. 19, March 25, April 15, May 20

9 to 10:30 a.m.

What is the inside of your mind like? Ever since ancient times, people have told stories of a hero who descends into the Underworld—symbolizing the unconscious mind—to discover his identity and destiny. The first lecture will deal with this theme’s origins in classical antiquity. In the succeeding weeks, we will read and discuss some medieval and modern variations on the theme: Dante’s Inferno, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.


Modern Middle EastModern Middle East

Daniel Snell, History


Feb. 25 to April 7*

2 to 4 p.m.

*Class will not meet March 17.

The Modern Middle East includes the countries of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. Known today for its oil, it has long been a crossroads of cultures. We will look at its history from 1500 CE to the present.

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Myk Mahaffey

Michael Mahaffey holds degrees in journalism and psychology. He is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience writing for print and digital publications, including award-winning coverage of the rodeo industry. In his spare time, he writes fiction, in addition to tinkering with graphic design and photography.