Print Friendly, PDF & Email

If you have QUESTIONS about any course, please contact the moderator(s) directly.

Go to Course Schedule

**New students are welcome to ALL courses.   Be aware that some courses are marked as PART II or ‘continuing’ and assume that the enrollee has some knowledge of the topic.

1 ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA: LIFE IN THE CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION  Moderator: Bisharah Libbus (919-771-6567, ).   In this course, viewing two lectures per class from a Great Courses series, we’ll explore the Mesopotamian world – from the era of the first settlements more than 12,000 years ago to the earliest cities in the 4th millennium BCE.   We’ll end up in the 6th century BCE, when Mesopotamia was conquered by the Persian Empire during the reign of Cyrus the Great.   Thus, people throughout the Empire were no longer ruled by their own governments.   Also, we’ll look at religions, which pervaded everyone’s understanding of the universe and will encounter some extraordinary leaders, like:   King Saardon, who created the world’s first true empire; Ur-Namma, who developed the first written laws; and Tushratta, who corresponded regularly with Egyptian pharaohs.  Thursday, 9:30 – 11:00.

2 APPRECIATING VOLUMES III AND IV OF IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME BY MARCEL PROUST   Moderator: Nancy Goudreaau ( , 703-329-2933).   Our SL Proust Appreciation Society invites you to join us, as we continue reading all seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time.  To join this fall course, you must be familiar with the plot and characters in Volumes I, II and III, plus relish an immersion into Proust’s challenging, but sumptuous prose.   In this term, we will review Part II, Volume III, of The Guermantes Way and the 730 pages (in 70 page weekly segments) of Volume IV, Sodom and Gomorrah (the Modern Library edition, C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terrance Kilmartin translation, revised by D. J. Enright).   Everyone should have read Part I and II of Volume III, before the first meeting. NEW knowledgeable students are welcome.     Thursday, 11:15 – 12:45.

3 BEGINNING SPANISH CONVERSATION Co-Moderators: Edwin and Mary Ann Nirdlinger ( , 419-490-3110).   This course continues from previous SL Beginning Spanish courses and is appropriate for those who took those classes or for anyone interested in doing a little catch up work or those who have some Spanish knowledge. We will use The Ultimate Spanish Review & Practice text, the second/third edition, by Ronni L. Gordon and David M. Stillman. Bring the book to the first class meeting, when we’ll review the first four chapters, including previous topics. If you are new, we suggest you study those chapters, prior to our first meeting.   During part of each class, we’ll spend time reviewing the previous week’s assignment.   But in the majority of time we’ll practice reading aloud and talking in Spanish. NOTE: Class size is limited to 15, to enable all to practice speaking.    Wednesday, 11:15 – 12:45.

4 BOOK CLUB   Co-moderators:   Abbie Tom (919-933-8972, ) and Suzanne Haff (919-933-9329, ).  Class members from the spring 2019 course have selected the following three books and volunteered to be moderators for the fall 2019 term: Schedule of books: Oct 4: The Round House by Louise Erdrich; Nov. 1: Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild; Dec. 6: Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. NOTE: NEW students are welcome.     First Fridays of the Month (Oct. – Dec.), 9:30 – 11:00.

5 CONTROVERSIES: IMMIGRATION   Moderator: Hank Becker (919-932-7356, ). This is a seminar-type course, based on careful reading of selected articles and chapters to be downloaded from the course website. Participants are responsible for presenting an overview of one week’s reading selection. The topic for Fall 2019 is Immigration. We will cover both US immigration and worldwide migration and consider political, sociological, economic, and ethical aspects.   NOTES: To promote discussion, enrollment is limited to 20.   Also, through August 15th, 2019, participants from the prior semester of Controversies have priority for registration.     Monday, 11:15 – 12:45.

6 DEMYSTIFYING THE OTHER EUROPE: A HISTORY OF EASTERN EUROPE   Moderator: Rosalinde Milazzo (919-942-6716).   Eastern Europe has long been considered a marginalized region, rife with political upheaval, shifting national borders, an astonishing and confusing variety of ethnic diversity and relative isolation from the centers of power in the West.   Join our Great Courses professor, as we: **trace the historic waves of migration and invasion; **watch empires rise and fall; and **witness wars and their deadly consequences.   We will watch one or two lectures per meeting, no doubt, with insightful class contributions of information/experiences. Tuesday, 9:30-11:00.

7 DEUTSCHE KONVERSATIONS GRUPPE   Moderator:   Kenneth Kustin (858-450-2979,   For those German speakers who wish to maintain their fluency, this course will provide you with informal and cordial opportunities to converse in German.   We’ll refer to articles in German newspapers/magazines and select interesting topics about current German and American events.   Each class meeting will be conducted entirely in German and not include German grammar instruction.    Thursday, 9:30 – 11:00.

8 EVOLUTION IN BIOLOGICALLY RELEVANT TIMES  Moderator: Barry Lentz (, 919-824-807). This newly published 24-lecture series from The Great Courses explores our current understanding of Evolution.  Only a tiny part of DNA (exons) is expressed as proteins. The rest has been viewed as left-over junk (introns).   We now know that the machines that prepare DNA for processing into proteins are chemically regulated to produce proteins specific to a particular task (Epigenetics), which may also allow ‘junk’ DNA to contribute to making new proteins…explaining why species can evolve much faster than expected. We will usually watch two lectures per meeting, but have flexibility to interject other materials.    Tuesday, 9:30 – 11:00.

9 HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE   Moderator: Stu Solomon (919-932-3819,   Sixteen centuries ago, around 400 AD, a wave of settlers from northern Europe invaded the British Isles, speaking a mix of Germanic dialects.   We call one dialect ‘Old English’ – the ancestor of the language now spoken by nearly one in five persons on the planet.   How did this Germanic tongue evolve into the elegant writing of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Twain, Melville?   What features of modern English vocabulary and spelling relate to their Old English roots?   How did English grammar become so streamline?   Why did its pronunciation change so drastically?   And how does English continue to develop even now?   Based on reviewing two lectures per meeting from The Great Courses and Stu’s own materials, we’ll answer these and many more questions. Monday, 9:30 – 11:00.

10 HOW MYTHS HAVE SHAPED WORLD HISTORY, CULTURES AND RELIGIONS, PART I   Moderator:   Nancy Goudreau (703-329-2933, ).   What secures your place in the existing world?   What powers can shift our personal destinies?   Even ancient peoples struggled to understand such questions about existence and so, created myths to justify their belief systems, attitudes and behaviors.   In Part I of this course (Part II continues in the SL Spring 2020 term), we will review one lecture per class meeting (from a Great Courses series) to discover and understand myths about creation stories, heroes and tricksters, as they emerged from Neolithic cultures and Ancient Babylon, Egypt and Mesopotamia. Nancy will enhance lectures with materials / information on ancient history, cultures, languages, interpretations from modern psychology and kinship among myths.  Tuesday, 11:15 – 12:45.

11 HOW THE BLACK DEATH TRANSFORMED EUROPE   Moderator: Greg Hesterberg, (, 513-304-5901). The Black Death of 1347-1351 was the greatest GLOBAL calamity ever experienced by mankind because it resulted in the highest mortality numbers – over 75 million people in Europe alone – i.e., one third of the population from all strata of society.  And sudden death for each person was surprising, painful and physically hideous.   Its impact on civilization is still felt today.  Based on a Great Course series of lectures, this course will cover entire events of the catastrophe, with a focus on Europe and will include impacts on:   society, the church, government, art, literature, thought, economics, medicine, science and politics. We will review two lectures per meeting, followed by lively discussion. Monday, 9:30 – 11:00.

12 HOW TO LOOK AT GREAT ART , PART I   Moderator: Bonnie Sullivan (, 919-437-6904).   What aspect of a piece of art can contribute to its power of appeal and communication to the viewer? And how can we viewers learn to recognize the specific features that convey such power? A Great Course professor will display 600+ images of painting, prints and sculpture and teach us to identify elements: line, shape, color, composition, perspective, point of view, symbols, historical context – that contribute to the strength of an art piece. In Part I, we’ll survey the development of styles from the Early Renaissance to Baroque. Bonnie will show two lectures per meeting, with time for brief discussions. A docent-led tour of the Ackland Museum will conclude Part I.   NOTE: Part II will be offered in Spring.       Monday, 11:15 – 12:45.

13 LEARNING ABOUT LIFE THROUGH DOCUMENTARY FILMS   Moderator: Hank Becker (, 919-932-7356. Each week, we will view one documentary film, from the collection of the Media Education Foundation and other sources as available. Topics include:  *Gender and Culture; *Race, Class and Society;  *the Culture of Consumerism;  *Politics and Current Events;  *the Environment; and others.  Viewing sections of films will be interspersed with conversation among the course participants about the issues raised in each film.      Thursday, 11:15 – 12:45.

14 MUSIC AND THE BRAIN Moderator: Sharon Epstein (, 919-903-8564).   Does hearing certain music make us feel calmer, excited, annoyed, freer, angry?   What power in our brains affects our emotions or rather, initiates no emotional response? The lectures in this course from The Great Courses (two lectures per meeting) will address such question by exploring fundamental ideas about music theory, neuroanatomy and cognitive science. They’ll also highlight recent debates, experiments and discoveries. To demonstrate concepts and discoveries, the professor provides many musical examples, composed for the course.   A few lecture titles include:   “Music: Culture, Biology or Both?”; and “Nature, Nurture and Musical Brains.”     NOTE: No prior background in music and cognition is required.    Wednesday, 11:15 – 12:45.

15 THE OTHER SIDE OF HISTORY: DAILY LIFE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD, PART I   Moderator Maria Salgado (, 919-240-7439).   This term, we will cover the first 24 lectures from a Great Courses series which highlight the lives of common ancient peoples, i.e., the poor, sick, disabled, and elderly, as well as refugees, slaves, serfs, women, children and common soldiers and farmers.   Our time period for study dates from the emergence of hunter-gathers in prehistoric ages to the low roles of Roman women and slaves.   We will explore the social, cultural, economic, religious, and medical realities that dominated those human lives.   Maria will pause for questions and additional information during the showing of each lecture.   She plans to moderate Part II in Spring, 2020. Tuesday, 11:15 – 12:45.

16 PERSONAL HISTORY Moderator: Bobbie Lubker (919-967-2996,   Only we can document our personal experiences, reactions and perceptions during our dynamic times.   We will support each other’s individual efforts to record in writing what we have lived through and to encourage and aid our developing a sense of accomplishment – to make our writing more engaging to readers or listeners.   Thus, we will all write, read aloud our writing, listen to all and appreciate. NOTE: New students are welcome.    Wednesday, 9:30 – 11:00. 

17 PLAY READING AND DISCUSSION Co-Moderators: Raleigh Mann ( and Marsha Back (919-381-7694, (   We will read aloud and discuss plays and view movie renditions of works by celebrated 20th Century American playwright Arthur Miller.   We will be invited to contribute research into Miller, the context of his work, and analysis of his plays and movies.   Participants are expected to purchase a single book, containing a collection of Miller’s plays, to be selected no later than four wee ks before classes start.   NOTES: **Class size is limited to 15 with priority given to former participants who register by Aug. 15. **Contact Marsha with any question about the class, and to reserve your copy of the book.   **With sufficient interest, the class will continue into the Spring 2020 term.    Tuesday, 11:15 – 12:45.

18 POLITICAL ORDER AND POLITICAL DECAY Moderator: Hank Becker ( Participants in this course will read Fukuyama’s 2014 magisterial book about the rise of democratic states and the challenges they face to maintain sufficient central authority while protecting the rule of law and democratic accountability.  Decay is not inevitable but certainly plausible. Rated 4.7/5 on Amazon. See Amazon for details and reviews. Participants will be expected to purchase the book, read the selection assigned each week, and be prepared to discuss it.    Monday, 9:30 – 11:00.

19 RELIGIONS IN THE AXIAL AGE: AN APPROACH TO THE WORLD’S RELIGIONS  Moderator: Bisharah Libbus (919-771-6567, ).   The Axial Age is considered to be the most influential era in world history.   During this period, Confucius provided religious and philosophical foundations for the Chinese culture, and ascetics and mystics gave nascent Hinduism its characteristic features.   In addition, the prophets of Judah shaped Judaism, and Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and their predecessors helped to establish the Western philosophical tradition.   Bisharah will present two lectures per meeting from a lecture series, The Great Courses, to review the foundational teachings from these influential sages and the resulting social, political and psychological developments that influenced world history.    Thursday, 11:15 – 12:45.

20 SCIENCE CAFE  Moderator: Alan Ziegler (919-433-7343, Each week, a volunteer will select a topic of interest, as reported in the news (e.g., Science Times or on Google news/science) and on accessible scientific-oriented websites (e.g., Science, Scientific American, Nature, NEJM, MIT Tech, etc.). Files or links will be provided for reading.  We’ll discuss the potential social, economic and/or philosophic implications of the selected articles. Sample topics: *potential effects and trade-offs of different climate change approaches; *implications of finding microscopic life on Mars; *ethical implications for manipulating & engineering DNA. NOTE: At least a high school level general familiarity with science is encouraged.    Thursday, 9:30 – 11:00.

21 SHORT STORIES Moderators: Marcy Sacarakis (610-428-9916, Students will discuss one story per week from the most current edition of either The Best American Short Stories or The O. Henry Prize Stories, both available in paperback at Flyleaf Books and Amazon.   We will have lively discussions about the writing, themes, plots, characters and relevance to us.   If time permits, classes will end with poetry readings, chosen by a member. Wednesday, 9:30 – 11:00.

22 SPANISH DISCUSSION GROUP Moderators: Edwin & Mary Ann Nirdlinger (419-490-3110, ). This informal discussion group is intended for those with some competency in Spanish who would like to get together and chat on various topics. There will be no instruction. The meetings are designed for us to enjoy sharing information in Spanish and to socialize with other Spanish speakers.   Second & Fourth Fridays of the month, 9:30 – 11:00.

23 STRATEGIES FOR HEALTHY AGING   Moderator: Mary Ann Nirdlinger (, 419-490-3113).   This course will explore choices we can make to help maintain and improve our overall health status and specific steps for dealing with health issues, related to aging.   Dr. Nirdlinger (with an MPH in Nutrition) will begin each session with a 30 minute presentation, that covers such topics as: healthy eating patterns, dietary supplements, types of exercises for the older population, stress reduction techniques and meditation and yoga benefits.   Then, she wil: *respond to questions and answers; *explore success stories; and *note challenges, about the day’s topic.   NOTE: this class is limited to the first 15 people to register, to help facilitate group discussions.  Monday, 11:15 – 12:45.

24 SYMPHONIES VII, VIII & IX OF BEETHOVEN  continuation.   Moderator: Pat DeTitta ((, 919-929-2129). This class continues from Fall 2018 and Spring 2019, when we covered Symphonies I, II, III, IV, V, and VI.   Come learn more about Beethoven and his wonderful symphonies. Our lecturer (from The Great Courses), a perennial favorite of Shared Learning members, Joseph Greenberg, will present one 45 minute lecture per class on Beethoven’s life, plus deep analysis and musical samples from each symphony.   We will cover three symphonies this term – his Seventh, Eighth and Ninth. Ttime for a formal break and discussion.      Wednesday, 11:15 – 12:45.

25 TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY AND SHARED PHOTOS   Moderator: Glenn Wrighton, (919-929-3406,   The intent of this course is enhance travel photographic skills by coupling Joel Sartore’s “The Art of Travel Photography” DVD series and other instruction materials with viewing, critiquing  & enjoying travel photos from course participants.  Participants will be expected to assemble and present their photos to the class. Tuesday, 9:30 – 11:00.

26 VIEWS ON THE NEWS  Moderators:   Gordon Taylor (919-545-0686, and Alice Parsons (919-642-0606,,).   Our informal round table discussions focus on local, state, national and world events.   In each meeting, a volunteer pre-sents current subjects, about which participants exchange views.   The conversations are managed with respect by the moderators and are open to all points of view.   NOTES: NEW students are welcome.   Also, the class meets every Monday all year round, with new topics per meeting.  Monday, 9:30 – 11:00.

Go to Course Schedule