Members of the Duke University Institute for Learning in Retirement in North Carolina like to be introspective. Here are two examples, taken from their winter 2006 course catalog, of outstanding courses that take them along this route.

THE PERSONAL ESSAY; or, ON BEING, SEEING, THINKING

Can you write a personal essay in two pages in which you explore your world and examine its meanings? No doubt about it.

In this course we will write short essays that are creative nonfiction, which means that their value lies not only in the content but in their language as well. Using voice, narrative, imagery and metaphor, our main job as serious writers will be to convey the intimacy and depth of personal refection. Through description, commentary and anecdote we will tell about such things as the people we have known, the places we have seen, the birth of a child, the death of a friend, aesthetics and politics, war and peace, the city versus the country.

Attempts to scale down your thoughts into “words in the best order,” which is what Coleridge called good prose, will exercise your mind, refine your writing skills, and reveal your interior life.

Required Text: Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones (eds.), In Brief: Short Takes on the Personal, Norton.

ASKING QUESTIONS: Self-Initiated Inquiry

During this series, participants will engage in self-initiated inquiry. Driven by their own questions, each will develop a research project that integrates informational writing with personal narratives.

Individual participants will have the opportunity to choose a topic that is important to them, develop thoughtful questions, and find answers by exploring various sources. Each will actively construct meaning from personal experience using a variety of written, verbal and visual texts.

Within this context, learning will be considered a social act in which peers collaborate, respond critically, and reflect upon their work. Lastly, participants will discuss their experiences as researchers and, if so inspired, express what they have leaned through other creative modalities.





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