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Common Ground Teachers Institute

The Common Ground Institute will be held online for 2020. 

2020 Common Ground Teachers Institute

Seminar Dates
June 26 – July 2, 2020

Daily Schedule 
Friday, June 26:       9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Monday, June 29:     9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Tuesday, June 30:    9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Wednesday, July 1:  9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Thursday, July 2:     9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Thanks to a generous grant from the McGovern Foundation, Common Ground Institute is free of charge to participants, and a nominal book stipend is offered to help defray the costs of the texts.

Register for Common Ground 2020 by clicking here.

For the best chance of being enrolled in your first choice seminar, register by 5 p.m. on May 18.

For more information, contact Stacey Michael.

Seminar Topics

Inflection Points: Uncertain Times and What We Learn from Them    
Seminar Leader:  Max Rayneard 

It seems inevitable that the Covid-19 pandemic will be a generational "inflection point". It will mark sudden and overwhelming change, divide a nostalgic “before” from a realistic “after,” a naïve “pre-“from a world-weary “post-.” This Common Ground course will look to novels and films that respond to historical inflection points. We will examine London in the wake of The Great War through Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. Roberto Rossellini's film Germany, Year Zero and Ishiro Honda's Gojira– the original Japanese Godzilla–- are profound reflections on life after World War II. J.M Coetzee's Disgrace offers an unflinching and problematic vision of South Africa in the years directly after Apartheid. Jonathan Saffron Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close takes us through New York City in the wake of 9/11. The last text is set in 2020, an alternative catastrophic present, imagined by Octavia Butler in her 1993 novel The Parable of the Sower. While these texts do not necessarily address inflection points directly, they attempt to gather up and make sense of the zeitgeists that follow. Given our uncertain times, what can we learn from them?

Coetzee, JM. Disgrace
Saffron Foer, Jonathan. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close 
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway
Butler, Octavia. The Parable of the Sowe 

Honda, Ishiro. Gojira
Rossellini, Roberto. Germany, Year One

Beyond Shades of Vulnerability: Iconic Women Characters in Modern Drama
Seminar Leader: Elizabeth Brown-Guillory 

Our seminar will explore various types of vulnerability that iconic women figures experience in Modern Drama (1850s to 1950s), specifically the various ways these characters handle physical, emotional, social, economic and attitudinal vulnerability. We will also study the disruptions and acts of resiliency that shape these characters. Some of them struggle with physical and emotional violence as they attempt to cope with weak family structures or poor conflict resolution skills. Often their vulnerability lies in their lack of financial resources tied to patriarchal rules governing women’s possession of property. Others are mired down by their inability to act independently or an overwhelming reliance on external support. We will examine the ways in which these archetypal characters successfully move beyond their vulnerability or remain trapped or shaded. 

These characters are representative of the scores of women who rose up to break the shackles foisted upon them by a society that held well-defined notions of women’s place in the world: subservient, thoughtless, playful, and vacuous.  Although these women can and often do exhibit some of the above traits at times, those characteristics do not define them.  What emerges are women who ultimately recognize their vulnerability, work their way through it, and come out of the fray better, wiser, stronger women. We will focus on the attributes that make them unforgettable, even heroic, and the life lessons they learn during their battle to get beyond their vulnerability and to move to personal freedom and growth. 

We will read plays as well as view films in preparation for our discussions of some of the most memorable female characters in theatre history. 

Nora in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House
Mother Courage in Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children
Maggie in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Tommy Marie in Alice Childress’ Wine in the Wilderness 

Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion
Regina Hubbard in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Lena Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun

On the Road: Travel, Adventure, and Discovery
Seminar Leader: Bill Monroe

Whether for work or for pleasure, whether forced or voluntary, travel is a universal human experience. While certain modes of luxury travel may allow a privileged few to stay safely inside their bubbles, for most of us travel involves risk and vulnerability—essential components, it would seem, of adventure and discovery. Travel is a “betwixt and between” experience, between a familiar place called home and another place, known or unknown, mundane or mysterious. Moving from one place to another can be a time of struggle and, like education itself, transformative for those who undertake the journey. During this time of confinement and quarantine, travel exerts a powerful appeal. 

We will explore travel, adventure, and discovery in different modes, including stories, memoirs, histories, and films, as well as several books of the Odyssey, the “granddaddy of ‘em all.” Following the Common Ground tradition, now its 30th year, we will be comparing and contrasting journey experiences in a variety of cultural, political, and historical milieus. The texts and films will be selected from the following list.  

Homer, The Odyssey (Books 8-13)
The Oxford Book of Travel Stories
Discovery (Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2017)
Gulliver’s Travels (Classic Comics edition)  

America America (1995)
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Thelma and Louise (1991)
Sullivan’s Travels (1941) 

For seminar topics from previous years, please see the links to the left.