September 2011 Study and Discussion Groups

OLLI-UO in Portland

Find a group that fits your interests.

The following study and discussion groups meet weekly unless otherwise specified. All members are welcome to attend these sessions. Past participation is not required. For questions, study materials or more information on these groups, please call the OLLI-UO in Portland office at 503-412-3653.


The Story of Human Language [DVD discussion group]
10:30 a.m.–noon

“There are good reasons that language fascinates us so. It not only defines humans as a species, placing us head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators, but it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries.

“How did different languages come to be? Why isn’t there just a single language? How does a language change, and when it does, is that change indicative of decay or growth? How does a language become extinct?

“Dr. John McWhorter, one of America’s leading linguists, addresses these and other questions as he takes you on an in-depth tour of the development of human language.”  (


How to Listen to and Understand Great Music [DVD discussion group] 
10:30 a.m.–noon

“Music, the most abstract and sublime of all the arts, is capable of transmitting an unbelievable amount of expressive, historical, and even philosophical information to us, provided that our antennas are up and pointed in the right direction.

“In this Teaching Company DVD course “you will hear and understand an entire language of unmatched beauty, genius, and power [as] Professor Greenberg takes you inside magnificent compositions by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Verdi, Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and more.” (
Facilitator: Joanna Rood

Legacy: The Origins of Civilization [DVD discussion group]
September 14 and 21, 1:30–3:30 p.m.

“What can the past teach us about the present? Come along as charismatic historian Michael Wood travels the globe to trace the origins of six great civilizations: Iraq, India, China, Egypt, Central America, and Western Europe. Each journey offers surprising perspectives on questions that matter today—about the environment, the individual, society, and spirituality” ( Facilitator: Lynn Hingson.

  • September 14—Iraq: Cradle of Civilization “In places like Uruk and Eridu in modern-day Iraq, humans founded the first cities nearly 6,000 years ago. They left us literature, astronomy, and mathematics, as well as lessons in overpopulation and environmental stewardship.
  • September 21—China: The Mandate of Heaven “With great thinkers such as Confucius and Lao-Tzu, the Chinese conceived a civilization reflecting cosmic harmony, sustained by civic and social virtue, ancient ritual, and reverence for ancestors” (


Extra Innings
Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.–noon

As “third agers,” we are experiencing, for the first time in human history, thirty additional years of healthy life. This experimental discussion course will utilize emerging findings from the science of gerontology as well as gerogogy, defined as self-directed learning using life experience as a platform. This discussion course is not a life-review course. Class discussion will not only allow participants to look back on past experiences, but will encourage participants to look ahead as they travel through their third age.

September 8 and 22, 1:00–2:30 p.m.

In September, Literati will read Mark Twain’s celebrated novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Listed among the Great American Novels, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been both the object of serious study and controversy since its publication in 1884. Literati will supplement discussion with the DVD Teaching Company series, History of World Literature, taught by Purdue University Professor Grant L. Voth.

  • September 8 and 22: Discussion of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • October 13 and 20 : Discussion of the Gothic novel, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.

Leaving a Trace: Writing About Your Life
Thursdays beginning September 8, 2:30–4:30 p.m.

Led by OLLI member, Judi McGavin, this group provides a friendly, supportive, and intimate setting to explore and share memories and experiences.

“In this course, we will explore moving from journal writing to finding the ‘line of thought.’ We will write, share, engage in writing exercises, and have a couple of guests who have moved from journal, to memoir, to a published book.

“Through this experience, I hope to share with you how to leave a lasting piece of work about your lives. We will identify ten key patterns hidden in all journals and find the story underneath the surface of recorded fact. We will learn how to play detective to your days, find the ‘thought line’ or the arc of life’s meaning in your life, and frame these stories for journal, family chronicle or memoir.”

Past questions the writing group has considered are:

  • What is something that got left behind?
  • What is something you cannot deny?
  • What is something you wrote or did that you no longer understand?

Members may join this group at anytime.