Odyssey: First Thought—Three Buddhist-American Novels

This class explores the combination of meditation and writing in the novels of three Buddhist-American writers: George Saunders, Ruth Ozeki, and Peter Matthiessen. Their novels combine great storytelling with probing investigations into the purpose of existence. In addition to analyzing the readings, this course introduces participants to basic meditative techniques and writing techniques as practiced by these novelists.

Classes One and Two: George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo. Saunders is a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner. This novel has been rolled out to much popular acclaim, including being shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Award. In Buddhist terms, the Bardo is an intermediate state between death and rebirth, used metaphorically here to express the internal conflicts experienced by Abraham Lincoln following the untimely death of his son.

Classes Three and Four: Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being. Ozeki is ordained as a Zen Buddhist teacher. This sci-fi novel was a 2013 Man Booker Prize finalist. As described by The Washington Post, the book is "as contemporary as a Japanese teenager's slang but as ageless as a Zen koan."

Classes Five and Six: Peter Matthiessen, In Paradise. Winner of a Pulitzer for both fiction and nonfiction, Matthiessen practiced and taught Zen Buddhism. This novel's setting is a modern meditation retreat conducted in remembrance at a Nazi concentration camp, a retreat similar to ones Matthiessen sometimes conducted himself.

911.298.01 Homewood campus
Mondays, Sept. 24 to Oct. 29, 6:45 to 8:45 p.m.
Cost: $198

JHU full-time faculty/staff are eligible for 80 percent tuition remission; spouses, 50 percent. You will be unable to register online and receive the discount. Contact 410-516-8516 for more details.