Five Wise Men and their Epiphanies: From Dante to Proust

Course Leaders
Day of Week: Thursday
Course Length: 5 weeks
Starting: 11/04/2021
Ending: 12/09/2021
Period of Day: Period 3
Course Fee: $50.00
Standard period time.

Course Description:

This course will introduce the work (and world) of five original and extraordinarily creative individuals whose explorations of man’s understanding of himself and his relationship to others and to his world enriched western civilization.

Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy: a quest to know the soul by an exiled, thwarted lover in a time when pilgrimages’ and crusades’ holiness was waning (as also portrayed by Chaucer’s pilgrims).

Leonardo Da Vinci: In pursuit of Nature’s secrets, as a reconnection with ancient learning reinforced the development of Humanism (with a sideways look at human folly).

Luis da Camoes: The Lusiados–the epic rediscovering of the world as exemplified by the harrowing voyage of Vasco da Gama to India, recounted by another exile, who reimagined Homer and Virgil to glorify his longed-for Portugal.

Michel de Montaigne: The rebirth of self-knowledge by a savant who straddled the contemplative and political worlds of his time and whose celebration of friendship preserved a seminal text of radicalism: On Voluntary Servitude by Étienne de la Boetie.

Marcel Proust: Lost time and love restored: An overview of the writer’s intense exploration of memory, emotion, and relationships (and his intuitions that inspired Proust Was a Neuroscientist) and which parallels two other 20th century pilgrims, Sigmund Freud and James Joyce.

Classes will consist of lecture and discussion. There will be no assigned reading.

Books and Other Resources:


Course Leader Bio(s)

David Mirsky

A product of the South Bronx (see Ogden Nash; “The Bronx; No Thonks”) and educated at Bard College and Western Reserve School of Medicine, I pursued (an aborted) residency in neurology in New York and then spent two years in England, working for the National Health Service in two innovative psychiatric hospitals, Claybury and the Marlborough Day. As a medical student, I spent two summers at Charenton Hospital, the Parisian equivalent of Bellevue that has a long history of humane care for the “aliénés,“ as patients were called, and the last refuge of the Marquis de Sade (see Peter Brooks’ play, Marat Sade). I completed my adult and child psychiatry training in Boston and have spent the subsequent decades working in community mental health programs in Massachusetts and teaching in medical and nursing schools. Mentors, colleagues, and patients have illuminated my path, along with the insights of Sigmund Freud, Dante Alighieri, Marcel Proust, Michel de Montaigne and, most recently, Bill Griffith (“Zippy” in the Boston Globe)—“outsiders” all, and exemplars of the compassionate life. I have taught My Five Psychiatric Obsessions at LLAIC in the Spring 2021 semester.