New Discussion Group Courses

Discover the Lives of Four Fascinating Women in Australian History

Tutor: Joan Lawrence
Enjoy this exploration of the lives of fascinating women from Australia’s past.  Our heroines include Betsy Broughton, the little girl taken by the Maoris after the massacre on the Boyd in NZ, rescued and later married to Charles Throsby, the nephew of the explorer; Betsy Balcombe, who had an association with Napoleon when he was exiled on St Helena, and who subsequently came to Australia;  Lady Jane Franklin, the adventurous wife of the Tasmanian Governor and Arctic explorer, who lost his life seeking the North West Passage loss; and finally two English born taxidermists, Catherine Tost, who settled in Sydney and worked at the Australian Museum, and her daughter, Ada Rohu, who had a rather weird curio business in Sydney.

Course No. D208            Coursebook
4 meetings                       $58

Bismarck and the Second Reich

Tutor: Jurgen Lawrenz BA(Hons) MA (Hons) PhD

In the middle of the 19th century, the idea of the unification of Germany became a huge popular movement.  The declining nobility opposed it, but it gave Prussia the opportunity to enlarge its power base and for Bismarck to emerge as the architect of the Second Reich.  We will trace the remarkable career of this most powerful man of half a century, who was by universal consent the archetype of the manipulative politician, as we delve into the politics and personalities of 19th century Europe.

Course No. D209            Coursebook
6 meetings                       $78

Aristotle on the Happy Life

Tutor: Caterina Pangallo BA (Hons)

Aristotle’s Nikomachaen Ethics is a book on how to prosper in life.  Bearing in mind that all of us live in communities and states, we cannot prosper alone.  What I do affects others; and what others do affects me.  Accordingly ethics is an issue for everyone.  But although Artistotle’s work is a philosophical treatise, it is written in an easy style for every intelligent reader to understand; and it is designed to be of practical use.  On account of its success with these purposes, it has become one of the most influential books in history.  All liberal constitutions of the modern world take their initial guidance from Aristotle; and most of us act every day in some way that reflects what Aristotle taught us.  Selected readings guide us, with commentary and discussion points, as we examine major topics that relate to “the Happy Life”, including justice; personal and social development; striving for excellence; love, friendship, wisdom; and finding the way to a prosperous life.  

Course No. D210            Coursebook
6 meetings                       $78


Pride, Faith and Blood: the American Civil War and its Aftermath

Tutor: Douglas Golding MA PhD

Every Federation has struggles between States’ rights and national policies.  In the United States these led to a civil war which cost more lives than all other wars in which Americans have been involved put together.  The war left scars that are still raw, especially in the South, where the Confederate flag flies defiantly over some government buildings as well as private homes, and even outside some churches.  This course considers the dis-united states and territories before the Firing on Fort Sumter, then looks at some of the great battles of the war, with the help of historical photos and battlefield re-enactments on Ken Burns’ video, then considers the period of reconstruction and the continuing division between north and south, which continues to play a significant part in every American election.  At a time when secession is back on the political agenda in Western Australia, this program is a reminder that national unity can be fragile.

Course No. D211            Coursebook, plus copy of Ken Burns’ 150th anniversary DVD on the topic
6 meetings                       $78


How the British Empires Changed the World - For Better and/or for Worse?

At its peak, in the 1930s, the second British Empire included more than a quarter of the world's population in its dominions, colonies, protectorates and mandates on all six continents.  It was the largest empire in the history of the world.  It was contiguous, like the great empires before it, but was held together by the Royal Navy, by the English language and British institutions, and by commercial interests.  Some critics would say, by exploitation and oppression.  By the end of the century the imperial glory had faded and gone, but its legacy remains.  This course examines the story of the two British empires: the first, American, Empire; and the second, global, empire, and their legacies.

6 meetings                                           $78
Course No. D203   
This Working Life


Work is essential to our survival, it defines our place in the world and it is intrinsic to our well-being.  Each of these texts examines a type of work, what it may mean to the workers and those connected to them, and reflects on the work of writing itself.  The course consists of a mixture of poetry, novels, music, and films (on CD/DVD), with tutor commentary.  Material to be studied includes This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann; Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders by John Mortimer; Remains of the Day film based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro; Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope; material (film versions and CDs) on the life of Edith Piaf; and the poetry of Seamus Heaney and Judith Wright.

Coursebook, Book Box with texts, CDs and DVDs
6 meetings                                           $78
Course No. D204

Portraits of Italy:  Cicero, Alberti, Raphael, Titian, Vivaldi and Domenic Scarlatti


This course explores the glories of creativity in Italy from Ancient Rome through to the Renaissance, using a mixture of written commentary, original texts, and audio and visual material.  Cicero’s famous speeches examine the interconnection between writing and public speaking in Ancient Rome; the Alberti unit looks at his architecture and his satirical novel Momus; the Raphael, Titian, and Vivaldi units hardly need description, as these figures are so famous and celebrated, while the unit on Domenico Scarlatti (a contemporary of Vivaldi) looks at the beautiful vocal and harpsichord music he wrote in Italy before moving to Spain.  The balance of units are: 2 art, 2 music, 1 literature, 1 literature and architecture.

Coursebook, including CDs
6 meetings                                           $78
Course No. D205

Grandad’s Favourites – British Genre Fiction After World War I

JON JERMEY BSc(Hons) MCogSci Cert IV

This course looks at popular genre fiction published in Britain between 1919 and 1921.  All the books involved are available for free legal download from the Internet.  The books are:  Romance - The Sheik by EM Hull; Humour - My Man Jeeves by PG Wodehouse; Period - The First Sir Percy by Baroness Orczy; Occult - Sight Unseen by Mary Roberts Rinehart; and Intrigue - The Wicked Marquis by E Phillips Oppenheim.  The course examines the books in the context of the economic and social conditions at the time.  The emphasis will be on their entertainment value, and the way in which they reflect the standards and morals of British society in a period of rapid change.  The course includes instructions on where to find the books online, and provides general information on eBook reading options, but students will be assumed to have the basic knowledge required to download and read the books without direct assistance.

5 meetings                                           $68
Course No. D206

Best of the Best: Famous Literary Characters


Of all the characters we meet in our reading lives, there are few who become very real to us – so real that we feel we actually know them.  In this course we look at how writers can sometimes achieve this by the way in which they use description, conversation and interaction.  This is not a highly academic course, rather a collection of starting points for students to put forward their own ideas.  The texts are well known, so there’s Elizabeth Bennet and her Darcy, Sydney Carton and Captain Corelli, Mr Collins and Mrs Danvers and lots of others as well, grouped under the units Men With Attitude, Feisty Females, A Congregation of Clerics, Minor Characters with Clout, and American Marvels.

5 meetings                                           $68
Course No. D207


Rebellion! Behind the Eureka Stockade


Just before dawn on the morning of December 3 1854, 296 soldiers and police descended on the sleeping inhabitants of the stockade which had been roughly thrown together on the Eureka Lead in Ballarat.  Fifteen minutes later twenty-two miners lay dead and the rebellion against the authority of the Crown had been quashed.  The issues which had driven the Ballarat miners to erect the stockade were not unique to Ballarat.  The discovery of gold in Australia, and in particular the new colony of Victoria, had exposed government incompetence which sought to maintain control by employing power hungry officials to impose harsh and unjust policies on free men.  Tension brewed on Castlemaine, Bendigo and other goldfields before it finally came to a head at Ballarat.  This course places the events at Eureka Stockade in their full historical and social setting.

6 meetings                           $78
Course No. D198

 The Sacred Way: Women’s Mysteries in the Ancient World


This course explores the lives of women in ancient times through their religious beliefs and rituals, many of which have survived to the present day.  It examines the close association of religion with fertility and reveals that religion was often the means by which women could realize their talents and express their deepest needs, in addition to acquiring some measure of power and status in the ancient world.  In the Ancient Middle East, women were considered to be more sensitive to the spiritual world but at the same time more vulnerable to evil spirits; a belief which lingers subconsciously in the Christian debates over women priests.  Magic, mystery, and tragedy are interwoven in these stories of women from the Neolithic to the 1st century of the Common Era.

6 meetings                           $78
Course No. D199

The World of the Venerable Bede: Anglo-Saxon and Celtic Britain


The Venerable Bede (c.673-735) was one of the leading scholars in early medieval Europe and ‘father’ of English history.  He lived during one of the most vibrant periods of Anglo-Saxon civilization and played an important role in its evolving society.  This society witnessed the transformation of England both religiously and socially with the spread of learning and literacy, a greater sense of unity among its peoples, opportunities for increased travel abroad, and a great flowing of the arts – in manuscript illumination and copying, architecture, the decorative arts and music.  All of these aspects of Bede’s society will be covered in this course.

6 meetings                           $78
Course No. D200

Lost History: Four Demolished Houses of Victorian Sydney


Houses are living historical monuments – of the people who built and then lived in them; of the society in which they were found; of the ideas of social movement, trade, wealth and gender that influenced how they were used.  Demolishing a house therefore destroys part of history.  This illustrated course examines four Sydney houses that were demolished between 1905 and 1961.  First Annandale House, Annandale, home to first fleeter Major George Johnston and Ester Abrahams.   Then The Vineyard, Rydalmere, home to Hannibal Macarthur and his wife, daughter of Governor King.  St Malo, Hunters Hill was built  by the Joubert family, with vivid French connections, and was the first property acquired by the National Trust of Australia (NSW).  Lastly, the Rangers, Cremorne, set in its 40 acres of lush grounds, home of artists, one of whom was knighted by Queen Victoria.

4 meetings                           $58
Course No. D20

Reading Novels:  The Joys of Double-Dipping


Some novels only get better as you read them a second or even a third time.  This course aims to find out why this is by looking at a number of well-loved novels and following their paths.  Is it that the characters are so good?  Do we like the setting and its ability to take us elsewhere? Or is it simply the beautifully written story?  We’ll probably find that in all of these novels the sum of the parts is what counts and that how they are told makes all the difference.  Come, double-dip into some of the world’s great literature delivered to us by some of the world’s great writers and see why you must re-visit these favourites.  Authors featured include E M Forster, Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Dickens, Hardy, Conrad, Bronte and Isabelle Allende, among others.

5 meetings                           $68
Course No. D202

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