Schemel Forum Courses Explore the Worlds of Film, Literature and Evolution

Aug 21, 2013

Schemel Forum Courses Explore the Worlds of Film, Literature and Evolution 

The Schemel Forum courses at The University of Scranton this fall focus on selected Woody Allen films, a masterpiece of English fiction and humankind’s ongoing efforts to grasp biological diversity.

Taught by University of Scranton professors, the courses are “Seriously Funny: Woody Allen among the Philosophers;” “Science, Sinners and Saints: George Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch’;” and “Understanding Biological Diversity: Past, Present and Future.”

Stephen E. Whittaker, Ph.D., professor of English at the University, considers Woody Allen a maestro and the 1980s his “golden decade.” He invites participants to watch and discuss six films on the subjects of beauty and truth: “Stardust Memories,” “A Midsummer Night‘s Sex Comedy,” “Zelig,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” “Another Woman” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

“Woody Allen has always worked the vein of existential angst that marks the intersecting strata of carnality and spirituality in human experience,” said Dr. Whittaker. “Almost magically, while rendering us to ourselves with startling honesty, he has found ways to let us laugh at our predicament. In the process of his development as an artist, he has also followed the roots of Freud’s equation of psychoanalysis and creativity into the mother lode of Greek philosophy. In these films from the 1980s, we see Woody’s clear exploration of the coherence of aesthetics and metaphysics – of desire and the sublime. Together these six films comprise a sort of ‘Divine Comedy’ by Woody Allen.”

“Seriously Funny: Woody Allen among the Philosophers” will meet in the Pearn Auditorium of Brennan Hall from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the following Mondays: Sept. 23 and 30; Oct. 7, 21 and 28; and Nov. 4.

            During “Science, Sinners and Saints: George Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch,’ Denise Fulbrook, Ph.D., adjunct faculty in the English and Theatre Department at the University, will explore one of the most important novels of the 1800s. Weaving a web of intrigue and relationships, “Middlemarch” charts the course of a community of people as they navigate the banal and extraordinary events that shaped the lives of women and men in Victorian England.

“In this course, we will trace the range of Eliot’s exceptional study of a provincial community in the throes of transformation,” said Dr. Fulbrook, “asking as we do questions about gender, science, money, love and the possibilities for sublimity that exist in our daily lives.” The course will meet in the Weinberg Memorial Library from 6 to 7:15 p.m. on the following Tuesdays: Sept. 24; Oct. 1, 8, 22 and 29; and Nov. 5.

Janice Voltzow, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Biology Department at the University, quotes Charles Darwin from his revolutionary “On the Origin of the Species” to explain why our planet’s amazing diversity of life has inspired and challenged the naturalists and scientists who have sought to understand it: “There is a grandeur in this view of life ... from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved.”

“Understanding Biological Diversity: Past, Present and Future” begins by examining pre-evolutionary approaches to understanding diversity and how those approaches were transformed by the theory of evolution. Participants will then explore how the rediscovery of Mendel’s experiments led to Modern Synthesis, which integrates the basic principles of genetic inheritance with natural selection and evolution. Building on this foundation, the course will evaluate modern approaches to quantifying and organizing the diversity of life on earth, both past and present. Finally, participants will explore the current and potential effect of humans on biological diversity. The course will meet in the Weinberg Memorial Library from 6 to 7:15 p.m. on the following Thursdays: Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31.

Registration is required to participate in the courses. Participants can attend any course for $60 per person or $100 per couple. To register, contact Kym Fetsko, events coordinator, at (570) 941-7816 or For more information on Schemel Forum programs and memberships, contact Sondra Myers, director of the Schemel Forum, at (570) 941-4089 or


The Schemel Forum is a program of participatory learning experiences aimed at cultivating the intellect and the imagination through study and discussion of classical texts and current policies, from the arts, history and philosophy to technology and theology. Founded in 2006 through generous gifts to the Rev. George Schemel, S.J., Fund, the forum has grown quickly from a handful of informal lectures to a comprehensive enrichment program of study, dialogue, performances and special events. Session fees vary by program.



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