Summer 2014 – Spring 2015


Monday Nights: Poetry and Fiction Workshop

In this session we read short fiction, memoirs, and poetry by writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Raymond Carver, and Jane Hirschfield. We also workshopped our own writing.


Friday Nights: Fiction Reading — Short Stories

We read works from writers who defined the form of short fiction writing (Hemingway, Orwell, and Welty) and texts that challenge the conception of what short stories look like, sound like, and accomplish (Sherman, Alexie, Cisneros, Marquez). We talked about the major differences, as well as similarities, between the stories and how they overlap with each other and our own lives.



Tuesday Nights: Writing Workshop — Poetry and Fiction

In this class we read poetry, short fiction, and memoir by Seamus Heaney, Richard Wright, W.H. Auden, and other masters of the art of writing. We also workshopped our own writing every week in the hopes of producing some publication-ready pieces.


Wednesday Nights: African-American Studies — The War on Poverty

This class focused on Storming Caesar’s Palace, historian Annelise Orleck’s account of how a group of mothers on welfare built one of the country’s most successful anti-poverty programs in their Las Vegas community. Together, we asked: What did the War on Poverty set out to do? What did it actually do? How did African-American women and mothers organize around anti-poverty issues? We can we learn from their organizing strategies? How can oral history—listening to the way these women tell their own stories—help us reconsider the War on Poverty and its legacies?


Friday Nights: Fiction Reading — Native American Fiction

During this session we tackled two texts by Native American authors: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water. We talked about main themes in the two works and how they overlap with each other and our own lives.



Tuesday Nights: Writing Workshop — Storytelling

In this session we talked about what makes a story entertaining to read and to tell. As always, we workshopped our own writing. We also read works by writers such as Flannery O’Connor, Zora Neale Hurston, Ernest Hemingway, and Stephen Crane.


Wednesday Nights: African-American Studies — Frederick Douglass

This class focused on Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, as Written by Himself, one of the most influential texts in the American abolitionist movement. We talked especially about (1) the strategies Douglass uses to decry slavery and illustrate his own humanity, (2) the conventions of the slave narrative genre, and (3) Douglass’s appeal for contemporary readers.


Friday Nights: Fiction Reading — Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

In this five-week session we read and discussed Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a novel about an autistic boy coming to terms with his father’s death during 9/11. We talked about major themes in the work and how they overlap with our own lives.



Monday Nights: History — Thinkers Who Changed History

What do Native American prophet Tecumseh, Mexican labor activist Cesar Chavez, and Cold War policymaker George Kennan all have in common? This is one topic we discussed in the first ever OPHP history class! We explored how the lives and thoughts of these and other individuals changed the world as we read what they had to say and what others had to say about them.


Tuesday Nights: Writing Workshop — Storytelling

In this session we talked about what makes a story a great read. We workshopped our own writing (stories, memoirs, poetry, etc.) and examined works by Raymond Carver, Henry James, Tim O’Brien, and others as models.


Wednesday Nights: African-American Studies — Henrietta Lacks

Reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this session explored the complex historical relationship between race, medicine, and science. This book by journalist Rebecca Skloot has become popular, and historians have begun working much more with Lacks’s story since Skloot helped bring it to light. We considered how Lacks’s personal experience connects to a history of experimentation on African-Americans as well as to debates about how our cells should be use, by whom, and for which purposes.


Thursday Nights: Drama and Theater — Existentialism and Absurdism

In this debut session of OPHP’s drama class, we read three highly influential plays: Sartre’s No Exit, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. Though different, all three plays address similar topics such as relationships and the experience of waiting for change. Along the way, we also worked on dramatic reading and performing techniques.


Friday Nights: Fiction Reading — Quinn and Senna

In this eight-week session we read and discussed Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael and Danzy Senna’s Caucasia. We talked about the major themes of community and environment and how they overlap to shape people’s lives.


 SPRING SESSION: April 13 – May 29, 2015

Monday Nights: History — Foundations of Nations

This course examined foundational moments in the history of the Americas. We looked at emerging nations as they struggled to define themselves against foreign occupation and political crisis. In this way, we explored how moments of upheaval transformed American history and still shape the world in which we live. We read about nations from Peru to Haiti to the United States and examined the words of historical actors as diverse as Abigail Adams and Fidel Castro. By approaching American nations at their founding moments, we thought about how we can uncover the historical processes of creating and refining a communal identity or identities.


Tuesday Nights: Writing Workshop — Storytelling

In this session we talked about what makes a story entertaining to read and to tell. We workshopped our own writing (stories, memoirs, poetry, etc.) and examined works by Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Jamaica Kinkaid, and others as models.


Wednesday Nights: African-American Studies — Ta-Nehisi Coates

This class focused on Ta-Nehisi Coates, the famous and award-winning journalist and black cultural critic. Growing up in West Baltimore and dropping out of college to become a journalist, Coates has become one of, if not the, top commentators addressing the history of race and racism in U.S. society. Over the course of seven weeks, we read Coates’s memoir, The Beautiful Struggle, alongside his journalistic essays on education, the Obama Presidency, and housing policy in the U.S.


Thursday Nights: Drama and Theater — Vice and Virtue

In this session we read a series of five plays to explore the theme of vice and virtue: Petrushevskaya’s Love, Pushkin’s The Miserly Knight and Mozart and Salieri, Havel’s Audience, and Miller’s The Crucible. We also developed strategies for reading and performing plays.


Friday Nights: Fiction Reading — García Márquez and Morrison

In this eight-week session we read and discussed Gabrial García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and Toni Morrison’s Sula. We talked about major themes such as love, friendship, community, and the struggle to conform to or transform these ideals.

*  *  *  *  *  *