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Belfast Senior College

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in Time of Day

Bob Dylan and the Path to a Nobel Prize for Literature


with Peter Reilly

Calendar Sep 15, 2022 at 9:30 am

In 2016 Mr. Robert (Bob) Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but it did not happen without some controversy.Some cheered the selection as long overdue, while others felt that Dylan might be a good singer-songwriter, but without music, his words could not stand on their own, and thus were not poetry or literature. In the end, the Nobel Selection Committee felt the award was well deserved and the pageantry of a Nobel Prize went about as usual (well, sort of…).

This course will explore the music and poetry of Bob Dylan.   Did a gifted and talented pop star really deserve a Nobel Prize? What did he give us that so moved the Nobel establishment? We will look at Bob Dylan, the person, but more importantly, we will focus on his music and poetry.   In the 60s was he really the spokesperson for the generation that faced Viet Nam, Civil Rights Protests, and a Nuclear Arms Race? Many thought so, but one person that didn’t was Bob Dylan himself, which certainly makes things interesting if nothing else! We will only have time to concentrate on what is referred to as Dylan’s “signature songs” - those of the 60s and 70s. There will be lots of music,  not only from Dylan, but others who covered his songs. In the end, we will try to decide if Mr. Dylan is in the same league as  Sinclair Lewis,  Eugene O'Neill,  Pearl S. Buck,  William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison, and other US winners in years past. If you’re a Dylanologist, please come and help shed some light on our subject; if you just love or admire Dylan, we need to know why; and if you just want to have fun, then help us enjoy the music!

Peter Reilly lives in Belfast and has been a member and instructor at Belfast Senior College for over 10 years.   After retiring from a career in banking he worked as an instructor with Outward Bound on Hurricane Island. He holds a BS and MBA from Monmouth University.

Note: This course will simultaneously be conducted in-person and online remotely via Zoom. Also, no class Oct 6th.

Toni Morrison and Mark Twain: Should these writers' books be banned? Can Huckleberry Finn and Beloved be taught without using "C.R.T?"


with Juliet Baker

Calendar Sep 15, 2022 at 9:30 am

The history of book banning is as old as human literacy. So too is the need among many readers to seek and consider universal truths through their reading. To better understand the many reasons for banning books and to explore a current practice of compelling teachers to discuss books in circumscribed ways, we shall reread and review two great American novels, Toni Morrison's Beloved and Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Too often, the latter has been singularly viewed as little more than a fun children's book, one involving two mischievous boys and their adventures with an easily hoodwinked runaway slave. In the novel, Beloved, seen by some as pernicious and amoral, we meet another runaway slave, a woman too often misunderstood and shunned, accused of infanticide, one who lives a mystifying life among ghosts, spirits, and fear. These two characterizations are certainly too narrow; in fact, both are wrong.As we discuss Beloved and Huckleberry Finn, we will consider the history of literary censorship, paying particular attention to our own times. Can we really remove books from public libraries and from classrooms?  If so, how can we justify such removals? As for how we teach and discuss books, shouldn't we dig deeply? Shouldn't we be aware of the historical and philosophical foundations of what we read and teach?This is where we will dissect the various meanings and functions of Critical Race Theory (CRT), controversial because it challenges our twin creation myths of white supremacy and Manifest Destiny. Isn't that an author's prerogative? I don't think we can teach either of these novels without this version of CRT. As we explore these topics, let's see what you think.

Texts:For the course, I'll be relying on iBook/Kindle texts: "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Mark Twain. fully annotated and illustrated PENGUIN First Class fully annotated edition of original 1884 text; "Beloved", Toni Morrison. First Vintage International Edition, 1987, 2004. Ebook ISBN 9780307388629. The other texts are ones I have previously studied and while I will use them, I will refer to the Kindle editions. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching literature courses for 13 or 14 years at Senior College, everything from Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and The Iliad, to a year of Dickens, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and American Black Poetry. This particular course will be a reach for all of us!

Note: No class Oct 6th

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