Alumni College presents

July 20-24, 2014

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In the perception of many people at the time, the outbreak of World War I marked an epochal break. A world came to an end as the lights went out over Europe and much of the world. The last year of peace – 1913 – became an object of nostalgia and a benchmark for high economic indicators that states hoped to match again after 1918. Through four years of an unprecedentedly brutal total war, a new world appeared to be born – but it was more chaotic, violent, and threatening and did not at all seem to justify the enormous sacrifices. It soon became clear that none of the major conflicts of the prewar period had truly been resolved. For many people, the world had gone astray, and the slaughter was devoid of meaning. Without 1914, the Second World War, the Holocaust, and the spread of communism are hard to imagine.

Alumni College 2014 will reflect on the events of exactly a century ago, trying to convey an understanding of trends and possibilities in the feverish, anxiety-ridden, and yet profoundly innovative prewar period. We will look at society, culture, and politics and try to re-evaluate the notion of a break, given that many trends in the arts suggest that 1914 was perhaps less of a watershed than is often assumed. We will try to bring alive the enormously vibrant culture of this period, caught between a frightening abyss of meaninglessness and nihilism and, on the other side, old certainties that appeared increasingly shallow and shaky.

  Previous themes have included the following:  
  •     2013: The Spanish Civil War 
  •     2012: An Age of Democratic Revolution? 
    • From the American War of Independence to the Revolutions of 1848
  •     2011: The Italian Renaissance
  •     2010: The Great Depression
  •     2008: The Victorian World
  •     2007: In the Shadow of the Great War
  •     2006: China: Traditions and Transitions
  •     2005: The Cosmos
  •     2004: The Environment and the American Experience
  •     2003: The Small Town: Its History and Future
  •     2002: Islam and the West: A Clash of Cultures?
  •     2001: Free Speech and the American Tradition
  •     2000: Sports and Leisure: The Mirror of American Culture
  •     1999: The Civil War
  •     1998: The End of the Century and Millennial Thinking: The 1890s and 1990s in America

Alumni College, traditionally held in late July, is a great opportunity to step back in time to attend class with some of Colby's star faculty members at a time when Maine and the campus are at their most beautiful.

A different theme is selected each year. Participants attend classes in the morning, then participate in group discussions, take field trips, or watch demonstrations in the afternoon. Meals with faculty and evening films fill the later part of each day.  Participants may stay in the residence halls or off campus, and the program typically runs four and one half days.