LIT215: “GREAT BOOKS OF THE 20th CENTURY”
Offered: 2022 Term 2
Day and time: Wednesdays from 11:00am-1:00pm (NZ time).
Other time: equivalents:
- US Pacific: Tuesdays beginning 10 May 4:00-6:00pm
- US Eastern: Tuesdays beginning 10 May 7:00-9:00pm
- Sydney, Australia: Mondays beginning 11 May 9:00-11:00am
Dates: First class meets Wednesday 11 May 2022 and continues for 8 consecutive weekly sessions. The last session is on Wednesday 29 June 2022.
Location: EarthDiverse, 401 Anglesea Street, Hamilton Central, Hamilton (see map below under Location tab), on-line via Zoom, or through video recordings of our live-streamed sessions posted 1-2 days after each class.
Week 1: Thus Spake Zarathustra: The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, along with his works from the mid nineteenth century, had a profound and enduring influence on writers in the twentieth century, poets and novelists among them. His book, Thus Spake Zarathustra, is regarded as one of his best, which has been described as “angry polemic, manifesto, poem, personal confession and historic prophecy,” all rolled into one. In it he provides an analysis of modern life and what he regards as the cure for its illnesses.
Week 2: The Waste Land: T S Eliot is regarded as the great poet of the first half of the twentieth century. He introduced the world to modern poetry, but more than that, his most enduring work, The Waste Land, written just after the end of World War One, graphically described the state of spiritual vacuity the Western world found itself in after it had managed to kill 10 million of its inhabitants. He saw the illness but was left scrambling to find a solution to the despair of lost value and lost love that he perceived was part of the collapse of modern civilization.
Week 3: The Great Gatsby: T S Eliot described The Great Gatsby as a work that “has interested me and excited me more than any new novel I have seen, either English or American for a number of years.” Written by F Scott Fitzgerald, it was published not long after The Waste Land, in 1925, and captured the essence of the Jazz Age in the world inhabited by its main protagonist, Jay Gatsby. Ironically the work didn’t create a real stir at the time but it has since become a classic, one of the great American novels to delineate not only a time but also an enduring vision of failed and corrupted dreams.
Week 4: As I Lay Dying: William Faulkner’s short novel, As I Lay Dying, written in the middle of the Great Depression, is one of his masterpieces that rivals the more celebrated, The Sound and Fury. It is a simple tale of the death of a mother and the transport of her body to her preferred resting place in her home town. Told through the eyes of all the rural characters in the narrative, we get different versions of the same story that range from the comic, the melodramatic to the tragic. Faulkner is the supreme stylist and his prose sings and lifts off the page in the telling. In 2013, director James Franco turned the novel into a memorable film.
Week 5: Wise Blood: Flannery O’Connor, like Faulkner, is a southern American novelist, and her vision of things possesses a similar gothic quality to that of her fellow compatriot. Her best work, the novel, Wise Blood, (1949), is the tragic story of Hazel Motes, who, just out the army, takes it upon himself, in reaction against his religious upbringing, to go about preaching a new gospel complete with a new kind of Jesus, “one that can’t waste his blood redeeming people with it, because he’s all man and ain’t got any God in him.” It all ends in a rather sad and tragic manner, relieved at times with black humour. John Huston’s film of the novel is a perfect translation.
Week 6: Sleepless Nights: Sleepless Nights is a novel/memoir written by Elizabeth Hardwick who was for a time married to the celebrated American poet, Robert Lowell. Her delineation of the characters in her book are sharply observed and insightful, while her prose is so polished it shines. This novel is a gem of a work that eschews the usual plot outline and is more a rambling memory of people and places and incidents that may have been part of her life. It is not too well known but deserves to be up there with the best, a new kind of experimental writing that was ahead of its time for 1979.
Week 7: White Noise: Don DeLillo is America’s top artiste. On every page of his best novels there are quotable lines that express the truths of the human condition in words that are fresh, potent and memorable. His White Noise sees him at the acme of his game. It is the story of an American academic, Jack Gladney, who thinks he might have been accidentally poisoned in a chemical spill and the rest of the novel is his intellectual attempt to come to terms with the fact that he might be dying. DeLillo’s wonderful eye for detail is augmented with the fact that he is a beautiful wordsmith, which make the reading of his work a delight.
Week 8: Gilead: Marilynne Robinson is a slight anomaly in the contemporary world of fiction. She is a lay preacher in the Congregationalist church and several of her novels deal directly with the world of religion, Gilead being a supreme example. It follows the lives of several preachers and their families from around the 1950s in Middle America, and is told in letter form by a dying minister of the church addressed to his young son who is too young to understand and appreciate what the father is and believes. He won’t be around to instruct him and so this is his way of making sure that happens. Barak Obama is a fan of her work as is the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, describing her as “a voice we urgently need to attend to.”
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course.
Distance Learning: This course has distance-learning options for those unable to attend the live class sessions in Hamilton. Students have three options for attending our courses once they have registered:
- attend in-person classes in our Hamilton classrooms at the regularly scheduled day and time,
- attend our live on-line classroom sessions via Zoom at the regular scheduled day and time,
- watch the live-recorded class sessions at your leisure, at a time, day and place more suited to your schedule.
These options can be mixed and matched throughout the course to suit your own availability and location.
Peter Dornauf (MA, Dip Tchg) has taught in secondary schools, Wintec and Waikato University collectively for over 25 years. He is a well know Waikato artist, art critic and a writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. His book “Days of Our Deaths” serves as the basis for one of Peter’s other popular EarthDiverse courses, “A Cultural History of Death.” Peter also teaches our “The Spiritual in Modern Art” course and continues to develop additional EarthDiverse courses for future Terms.
In addition to our in-person classes in Hamilton, our courses offer distance learning options for those unable to attend classes in-person. Live-streamed Hamilton classes are available via free Zoom software for those living outside the Waikato. Live-streaming allows you to participate fully in your own learning, ask questions of the instructor and participate fully in the same way as if you were in the physical classroom.
Those unable to attend the scheduled date and time of the actual class sessions, or those who need to miss a class or two due to previous engagements or unexpected illness, can watch any or all of the live-recorded video sessions on their computers, laptops, tablets or mobile devices and study at their own pace and in their own time.
Detailed instructions on how to access our distance learning components will be sent after completing your registration. There are no additional fees for this service. However, distance learners will need access to a desktop or laptop computer with a good quality web-camera (tablet devices and mobile phones can also access our live-streamed classes), a built-in microphone (most modern laptops have built-in microphones) or a headset with a microphone. You will also need to download and install the free Zoom software on your computer or device. Those accessing the video recordings will be able to do so with a simple web browser on any device.
- Any Term can be taken independently of the others, and there are no prerequisites for any of the Term courses.
- This class has no assignments, required readings, quizzes, tests or exams.
- All classes encourage questions and group discussion.
- PDF copies of each class presentation are emailed to all participants the next day so that you are free to focus on class content rather than taking notes. You are most welcome to come, sit back, relax, take part in and enjoy the discussions!
- Course fees include a short tea/coffee/snack break during each session.
- There are no refunds for missed classes. Missed classes can be made up by watching the on-line recording of the class session, which is usually posted within 24 hours.
- Guests of registered participants are welcome to attend a single class at no charge.
- Certificates of Completion for any particular Term Course or Series are available for Professional Development purposes upon request at the end of each Term or Series.
Cost per person per Term (8 classes):
- Waged: NZ$150 (includes GST + online registration fee)
- Unwaged (unemployed, students, seniors): NZ$125 (includes GST + online registration fee)
Prices for Waged and Unwaged registrants remain the same regardless of your chosen method for accessing our courses. This means that you have the option to mix and match access between attending our regularly-scheduled live class sessions in our Hamilton classrooms, accessing our live class sessions on-line via Zoom at the regularly scheduled class meeting time (no matter where you are located), or watching the video-recorded sessions anywhere at a time and date of your choosing. This allows you to study at your own pace and in your own time.
Once registered, you have three choices for attending your course:
- attend our in-person class sessions in our Hamilton classrooms,
- Zoom in to our live classroom sessions and participate in discussions,
- access the live-recorded class sessions each week. This allows you to register for an entire course, even though the scheduled class session day/time may not be suitable to your schedule. You may also use this option to watch any recorded session for review, or in case you may miss a class session due to prior engagement, being away, or due to illness. This allows you to catch up with any “missed” sessions at a more suitable time.
Once registered, you will receive detailed instructions on how to access our courses via either of the distance-learning options, i.e. live access via Zoom, or watching the video-recorded sessions.
LOCATION: All in-person classes are held at the EarthDiverse offices and classrooms located at 401 Anglesea Street, Hamilton Central, Hamilton (located just north of the Hamilton Central Bus Station) (entrance is located on the side of the building, see map below). Those looking for parking for our evening classes can park just in front of the building in any of the available car parks. Daytime parking can be found in our dedicated car parks, or free 2-hour on-street daytime parking can be found just in front on Anglesea Street.
DISTANCE LEARNING: You get to choose your location when you Zoom in to our live classroom sessions, or access our classes at your leisure and at a time and day of your choosing by watching the video recorded sessions from each class. This allows you to study at your own pace.