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Common Ground Teachers Institute

2021 Common Ground Teachers Institute

Important Update to Seminar Dates

Due to scheduling issues, the 2021 summer seminar dates have changed to June 16, 21-24, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

25 CPE hours will be awarded upon completion of the institute.

Register for this summer’s CGI by clicking here.

For more information, contact Stacey Michael.


2021 Seminar Topics

Being Curious (Wait List Only)
Max Rayneard 

Curiosity is a nebulous concept. We hail it as the basis of our species’ advancement; we adore it in the openness of children; we long for its spark in everyday drudgery; we disdain its absence in those who refuse to see our perspective. It’s also notoriously bad for cats. What, then, does it mean to be curious? Is it a state of intellectual ascendancy? Of innocence? Freedom? Is being curious a moral imperative? A political act? Is it dangerous to be curious? How? For whom?   

In this seminar, we will ask these questions and more as we read texts that grapple with, evince, and evoke curiosity. “Song of Myself” (1855) by Walt Whitman seeks to accommodate America’s roiling diversity and invites readers to share in his acquisitive, tireless, curious sensibility. The heroine of Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) is driven by a great puzzle: “Who in the world am I?” In Life of Galileo (1943), a play by Bertolt Brecht, the spirit of Enlightenment inquiry is pitted against economic and political forces that seek to appropriate or silence it. Tsitsi Dangarembga’s novel Nervous Conditions (1988) is narrated by a rural Shona girl, Tambudzai, who confronts the allure and danger of curiosity as she negotiates a chance at formal education in pre-independence Zimbabwe. Finally, Ta-Nehisi Coates models curiosity in answer to the question he asks in his letter to his son, Between the World and Me (2015): “How do I live free in this black body?”    

Whitman, Walt. Song of Myself (1855).  
Carrol, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865).  
Brecht, Bertolt. Life of Galileo (1943).  
Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions (1988).  
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me (2015). 


Women's Defiance and the Path to Liberation 
Romanus Muoneke 

Women's struggle for freedom, as viewed through the eyes of artists, has always involved some form of defiance. From the ancient Greece to our modern time, women have faced oppression in a variety of ways: fear and anxiety, suffering and smiling, and biting the bullet heroically. Our seminar will explore the plight of oppressed women in their attempts to liberate themselves in the following works: 

Sophocles, Antigone 
Henry James, Daisy Miller  
Chinua Achebe, No Longer at Ease  
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God  


Home: Leaving It, Finding It, Making It (Wait List Only)
William Monroe  

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every human being, regardless of culture, geography or historical moment, needs a home. Yet homes, whether real or imagined, are contested places with overt, implicit and complicated plots of their own. Homes and houses are stories in themselves. In this seminar, we will discuss novels, plays, movies and other texts that explore the leaving, finding and making of what we call home. 

Possible Works to Explore and Discuss
Henrik Ibsen, A Doll House
Willa Cather, The Professor’s House
Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street 
Chioma Nnani, Because Home is ...: a collection of short stories about finding home, going home and being home 
Lewis H. Lapham, Home 

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Homecoming (1971) 


Front Lines: Visible and Invisible Wounds of War 
Elizabeth Brown-Guillory 

Synopsis: The seminar offers an opportunity to explore the visible and invisible wounds that shape the lives of veterans in plays by Tennessee Williams, Charles Fuller and Quiara Alegria Hudes. A study of iconic American veterans opens us up to becoming more understanding and empathetic not only toward the veterans in the plays but toward the ones we encounter in our families and communities. 

Our seminar will explore the impact of war on those serving in the military and on their families and communities. Sometimes in American literature, veterans are portrayed as unredeemable psychotics, like Vietnam war veteran Beau Willie Brown who drops his two children purposely from a fifth-story window because his girlfriend, Crystal, won’t marry him in Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf. In August Wilson’s Fences, Gabriel Maxon, a brain-injured World War II veteran, is trapped in the belief that he is St. Gabriel waiting to announce Judgement Day. In Toni Morrison’s Sula, Shadrack, a World War I veteran establishes National Suicide Day, which allows the community one day a year to openly ponder death and dying. There are numerous such stories of war heroes in American literature. African American authors, including  playwrights Suzan-Lori Parks (Father Comes Home from the Wars) and Alice Childress (Wedding Band: A Love Hate Story in Black and White) have sought to reinscribe history with Black veterans who fought courageously abroad for the very freedoms denied them in our country. Regardless of the race and/or ethnicity of the soldiers, the physical and emotional wounds of war mark them, and recovery is difficult, if not impossible in some cases. 

This seminar offers an opportunity to reflect upon the cost of freedom. We will explore the trauma that transforms select veterans in American drama. What were the veterans like before the war? How are they reintegrated into society when they return? If reintegration is not possible, what are some challenges facing our soldiers? Does the literature suggest that healing is possible and, if so, what are some steps taken by the veterans to achieve that end? If healing is not possible, what does the author offer to help us understand war veterans and the burdens that many of them carry around the rest of their lives?  

The seminar offers an opportunity to think critically about the visible and invisible wounds that shape the lives of veterans in plays by Tennessee Williams, Charles Fuller and Quiara Alegria Hudes. A study of iconic American veterans opens us up to becoming more understanding and empathetic not only toward the veterans in the plays but toward the ones we encounter in our families and communities. 

Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire 
Charles Fuller, A Soldier’s Play 
Quiara Alegria Hudes, Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue 
Elizabeth Brown-Guillory, Kissing It Goodbye 

Stage Production/Film 
A Streetcar Named Desire (a stage production) 

 A Soldier’s Story (a film version of A Soldier’s Play

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.