OLLI @Berkeley members enjoy exclusive access to courses taught by UC Berkeley faculty and other scholars. Click on the course titles or “learn more” at the end of course descriptions to review syllabi, faculty bios, video presentations, interviews from our archive, and more.

Monday, Starts March 29

Pre-recorded Video Only

**ENCORE** The Use and Misuse of the American Military

Michael Baker

Over the last 75 years, the U.S. military has been used as a foreign policy cudgel in an often inexplicable fashion, making our country appear imperialistic, hypocritical, and erratic. The results are embarrassing—the world’s most powerful military has not won a war since 1945, has destroyed numerous societies, created millions of refugees, spawned disdain for our policies, and created many enemies who will seek payback for U.S. hubris. We will look at case studies of American foreign policy fiascos that have eroded the reputation of America around the world. Learn more.

271 slots available
$120.00

**ENCORE** Why Shakespeare Matters in Today's World

Michael Moran

The purpose of this course is exploring why Shakespeare’s masterpieces continue to remain relevant centuries after they were written. Tackling these works from the perspective of a director and actor – the class aims to reveal what has fascinated and inspired artists for centuries and the timeless paradoxes, inherent in these classics, that lie at the core of the human condition. This course will focus on how Hamlet, Coriolanus and King Lear speak to our current unprecedented moment of an impending Presidential election, global warming and a pandemic. We will explore how the themes of apocalypse, revelation and plague deeply inform Shakespeare’s masterpieces and how theatre artists use these masterpieces to create meaning from moments such as the one we are living in today. Learn more.

251 slots available
$120.00

Live-stream and Recorded Video

9:30am - 11:00am PT

The New U.S. Supreme Court: From Bad to Worse

William Sokol

This course will be comprised of lectures by and interviews with SCOTUS watchers including the author of Supreme Inequality Adam Cohen, Berkeley School of Law dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Berkeley Journalism professor Cynthia Gorney, journalist Emily Bazelon, Berkeley Law professor Catherine Fisk, civil rights and immigration lawyer Ira Kurzban, and Berkeley Chancellor’s Professor of Law Bertrall Ross. We will explore the Court’s potential impact on key areas such as religious freedom and reproductive, workers’, and immigrants’ rights. We will listen to some of this term’s oral arguments, read a few briefs, and discuss the most important cases currently on the docket. Learn more.

134 slots available
$155.00
12:00pm - 1:30pm PT

Science Fiction or Fictional Science?

Gibor Basri

From the time of early science fiction writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, science fiction has explored the notion of scientific progress and its implications for human society. This course will bring the perspective of current physics and computer science to books and movies from the past few decades. Topics may include starships, time travel, alien contact, cosmic disasters, general artificial intelligence, and the physics of Star Trek. We’ll have fun trashing a few movies as implausible and discover what is actually possible according to current scientific understanding. Learn more.

220 slots available
$155.00

Live-stream Only

2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

Suburban Ennui and Dystopia in American Fiction

Stephanie Wells

This course will examine the weirdly specific genre of American suburban fiction made notorious in the 1970s by writers such Updike and Cheever. What is it about this aspirational niche of the American dream that so often leads those who have “achieved” it into despair or alienation? Through novels and short stories epitomizing this genre, we’ll explore themes of technology, sexuality, marriage, whiteness, class, NIMBYism, parenting, and the yearning for home that even home itself can’t satisfy. Authors will include some, but unfortunately not all, of the following: Oates, Updike, Cheever, DeLillo, Eugenides, Senna, Boyle, Atwood, Levin, Moody, Moore, Saunders, Carver, and Homes. Learn more.

219 slots available
$155.00
Tuesday, Starts March 30

Live-stream and Recorded Video

9:30am - 11:00am PT

Native History 1900-Present

Enrique Lima

In this survey course about issues affecting Native peoples, we will discuss historical events such as the assimilation era and its devastating policies of allotment and Indian education; the shift toward the Indian New Deal and its decriminalization of Native identity and strengthening of Native government; the backsliding into the destructive federal policies of termination and relocation, which utterly transformed Native communities; the response to termination by Red Power activists, and, beginning in the 1970s and continuing into the present, the era of Native sovereignty and self-determination. Learn more.

227 slots available
$155.00
2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

California History of Residential Design

Linda Day

Design is critical when money is tight and spaces are small. The history of California housing, starting with the Victorian era’s small upright redwood boxes, yields lessons for habitable and affordable housing today. Bungalow builders responded to population growth with pattern-book housing in streetcar suburbs linked to job centers. Automobiles allowed the ranch house to spread across suburban landscapes. With increasing land cost, designers put more housing on less land. California brought space-saving designs and the integration of interior and outdoor spaces to America with lessons for sheltering people of all income levels. Learn more.

233 slots available
$155.00

Live-stream Only

9:30am - 11:00am PT
Note change in time

Writing Legacy Letters

Sara Orem

In this time of isolation, when we are not seeing those we love — children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, old and good friends — we have all thought about what each of these significant people mean to us. The last third of our lives is the perfect time to conceive of letters, poems, artwork, and even lists that evoke the meaning of these relationships. Legacy letters tell the story of our important relationships so that long after we’re gone, our beloved relatives and friends will have something from us. Create your own legacy letter, portrait, poem, or notes to initiate a keepsake for others that will be your gift to them and to yourself. Learn more.

5 slots available
$235.00
12:00pm - 1:30pm PT
Note change in time

Science in the Movies

Vincent Resh

The public’s awareness of the consequences of scientific advances often first arises from movies. This course discusses the scientific basis and accuracy of several movies in terms of the messages they convey and their impact on popular culture and science itself. Topics discussed include the search for forbidden knowledge, the creation of life, artificial intelligence, pandemics, genetic engineering, space exploration, ecological issues, and dystopian scenarios caused by population and resource pressures. Depictions of current issues that scientists face are discussed in terms of how they are presented in movies. Learn more.

245 slots available
$155.00
Wednesday, Starts March 31

Live-stream and Recorded Video

9:30am - 11:00am PT

Before the Storm: America 1815-1850

Mick Chantler

During this period in America, great cities sprung up in the east, vast lands in the west were opened to millions of pioneers, and many came to see “the good life” as theirs for the taking. All this came at a price: Native Americans were pushed out of their traditional lands, a brutal slave empire grew in the south, and the forests east of the Mississippi were largely destroyed. In this lecture course, we will trace the impact of several key players: Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, John Q. Adams, and slave-rebels Nat Turner and Cinque. Learn more.

334 slots available
$155.00
12:00pm - 1:30pm PT

Russia Under Putin

George Breslauer

This course will examine the entirety of Vladimir Putin’s leadership. The course will begin by examining the inheritance bequeathed to Putin by Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Ensuing lectures will consider and evaluate his foreign and domestic policies over the past twenty years. Learn more.

175 slots available
$155.00

Live-stream Only

9:30am - 11:00am PT

Intimate Beethoven: Towards the Romantic String Quartet

Alexandra Amati

This course continues the journey into the string quartet repertory begun in the “The Classical String Quartet.” We will explore works by early, middle, and late Beethoven, as well as quartets by Brahms, Dvořák, Debussy, and Ravel. We will discuss the influence of romanticism on the genre’s style and the changes that came about when the pieces were intended for public performance rather than private enjoyment. Note: Registrants need not have taken “The Classical String Quartet” to fully engage with this course. Learn more.

234 slots available
$155.00
2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

Nature Journaling and Botanical Drawing

Claudia Stevens

In this course, students will learn a step-by-step methodology to develop their work. Good foundational skills are offered. Each week students will study a new local native plant and complete a sketch. This course brings art to science while inviting students to have fun developing fine art skills. Topics include the art of seeing / drawing, laying out accurate plant structure, watercolor pencil and gouache tips, the art of taking field notes and researching general ethnobotany, creating dimension and depth, and dry brush painting with layering. A materials list will be provided. Learn more.

0 slots available
$235.00
2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

The Genius of Sondheim

Bonnie Weiss

Now in his ninth decade, Stephen Sondheim remains the most revolutionary composer/lyricist of our time. In this course, we’ll take a comprehensive look at the “Shakespeare of the Broadway musical.” Both familiar and rare video and audio clips of his work will be used to demonstrate his achievements and profound insights into the human condition. We’ll watch interviews with Sondheim, some filmed within the past two years, and your instructor will share the insights she’s gained from her own interviews and correspondence with him. Learn more.

237 slots available
$155.00
Thursday, Starts April 1

Live-stream and Recorded Video

9:30am - 11:00am PT

Faith in Politics: Religion, Power, and Governance

Darren Zook

What role, if any, should religion play in politics? From the French system of the separation of church and state to the Vatican City’s complete synthesis of the (Catholic) church and state, or from Indonesia’s Muslim-majority secular democracy to the Islamic Republic of Iran, there are a seemingly endless array of ideas and examples of how to relate religion and politics. Where does the relationship work best? Where does it fall apart and even lead to violent conflict? Using examples from around the world and a broad selection of world religions, this course will try to answer the eternally vexing question of when, if ever, politics and religion can fit together. Learn more.

310 slots available
$155.00
12:00pm - 1:30pm PT

Masterworks: Uncovering Hidden Meaning within Great Paintings

Bruce Elliott

Art has never been created for “The Ages.” Paintings we think of as timeless masterpieces were created for viewers from the artist’s own era; consequently, much of the embedded meaning is lost on today’s audiences. This course will provide cultural context for classic paintings, putting modern viewers in the mindset of each artist’s contemporary audience. Course sessions will be structured around three elemental themes that have inspired some of the most magnificent, yet most enigmatic, masterpieces: Creation, Transformation, and Mythology. Each class session will train the spotlight on four great paintings devoted to one of these themes.  Learn more.

160 slots available
$155.00

Live-stream Only

2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

Country Rock, 1965-Present

Peter Elman

In this course we will explore how two genres of music — country and rock and roll — merged to create a timeless, uniquely American style and how the country-rock movement changed the landscape of popular music. We will look at several artists and their key albums, including: Everly Brothers, Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Gram Parsons, Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, Poco, Rick Nelson, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris. We will also examine trends in instruments and lyrics. Learn more.

175 slots available
$155.00
Thursday, Starts April 8

Live-stream Only

2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

Writing Between the Lines: Use Style to Make Meaning

Deborah Lichtman

What is the relationship between form and content? How do novelists create suspense with syntax? How can an effective sentence become a brilliant one? In this class for writers, we’ll study the techniques of some great stylists. We’ll examine literary passages to see how they work, then apply what we learn to in-class writing exercises. Lectures will cover topics such as diction, rhythm, imagery, and cadence. Together we’ll heighten our attention to language and expand our repertoire as writers of imaginative prose. Learn more.

0 slots available
$235.00
Tuesday, Starts January 19

Pre-recorded Video Only

Conspiracy Theory in Modern History

Tamim Ansary

We often speak of conspiracy theory as an ominous, metastasizing force in modern history, but what exactly does this term mean? This class defines the phenomenon, sets it apart from mere theorizing, and follows it through four distinct historical eras — from the Crusades to the present — showing how particular conspiracy theories reflect the history of their times. We’ll explore the social and psychological roots of this idea system, the sources of its power, and the underlying mythic structure common to all conspiracy theory. Learn more.

142 slots available
$120.00

Great Cities: Capitals of Western History

Bruce Elliott
It can be said that for each stage of Western history there was a capital city, a prime center from which power and culture radiated. This course highlights six magnificent cities that dominated their respective historical epochs: Venice in the High Renaissance; Madrid in the Age of Exploration; Amsterdam, Europe’s 17th century commercial wonder; Imperial Vienna in the Romantic era; and Victorian London in Britain’s Age of Empire. This sweeping historical journey culminates by chronicling the evolution of New York City, history’s first modern metropolis. Learn more.
104 slots available
$120.00

Live-stream Only

9:30am - 11:00am PT

A Country Music Road Trip

Peter Elman
This class will explore key movements that contributed to the explosive growth of country music as an industry, art form, and subculture. Focusing on three major regions: Tennesee, California, and Texas, we will concentrate on the period 1950 – 1975. The last two classes will explore the women of country and provide an overview of the country song. We’ll get to know how the lyrics continue to evolve to reflect how our culture has changed, yet come back to a few main themes. We’ll also do an in-depth analysis of why country music is so emotional. Learn more.
111 slots available
$155.00
2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

Introduction to the Art of Memoir: Illuminating Your Life Through Story

Rachel Richardson

The material of your life is a vast trove of stories. But, as Hilary Mantel said, in order for anyone to find that life interesting, "art must intervene." This class will introduce you to the art of memoir writing: it will show you how to approach your life the way a writer does, as raw material to be shaped, and how to make the essential editorial decisions along the way. In our eight sessions, we will consider the craft of memoir in terms of its building blocks, from scene to setting to characterization to symbol to the tricky position of our own speaking "I." We will read excerpts of published memoirs and freestanding essays, and will discuss the ways they succeed (or fail) and what we can borrow from their examples. Each week students will be invited to share a short writing exercise with the group, which may be discussed as class time permits. You will come away from this class with many scenes drafted and the tools to commit to a longer work.

0 slots available
$235.00

Live-stream and Recorded Video

12:00pm - 1:30pm PT

Art as Agency

Annice Jacoby
Art is everywhere and belongs to everyone. Artists play an ever-changing role as catalysts, visionaries, provocateurs, healers and tricksters. This course will be an exploration of contemporary art’s response to conceptual, aesthetic, social and political ideas and forces. We will highlight celebrated and deliberately anonymous artists working in a range of materials and contexts — from Kehinde Wiley taking over Times Square to global responses to the pandemic. Learn more.
204 slots available
$155.00
2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

The Great Documentaries

Michael Fox
In this course we explore pivotal films that defined the technique, tone, and tenor of the modern documentary. From “Titicut Follies” (1967) through "The Gleaners and I" (2000, Agnes Varda), this screening, lecture, and discussion class appraises key works of lasting power and influence. We’ll discuss the responsibility of the filmmaker to the subject, the thin line between observation and activism, truth vs. storytelling, and our evolving relationship to images. Learn more.
85 slots available
$155.00
Wednesday, Starts January 20

Live-stream and Recorded Video

9:30am - 11:00am PT

Brazilian Culture and Music

Ami Molinelli,Sherry Keith
This course explores the Afro-European roots of Brazilian music through lecture, listening samples, and live percussion. We will begin with the influence of European 20th century music, then move through the development of samba and bossa nova and the traditions of carnival. We’ll end by exploring the protest music that evolved during the military dictatorship of 1964 – 85 and samba reggae that celebrates Brazil’s African roots. Learn more.
183 slots available
$155.00

Live-stream Only

12:00pm - 1:30pm PT

Post-Colonial Science Fiction

Devorah Major
Science fiction from its beginnings was a way to envision and invent the future. Non-Eurocentric characters, however, generally played minor roles, except as aliens. This course will look at how Black, Indigenous and other non-Eurocentric cultures envision the future and analyze current political, historical, and social events through futuristic stories. We will be reading and discussing short stories and looking at how they reflect current events. The authors we will be investigating are skilled wordsmiths who have chosen science fiction as a dynamic way to create philosophical, political, and sociological journeys in imagined spaces and times. Learn more.
229 slots available
$155.00
2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

20th Century African American Women Writers

Stephanie Wells
This course will examine a (sadly small) sampling of groundbreaking poems, essays, short stories, and novels written by African-American women in the twentieth century, with a focus on a handful of thematic and often intersectional threads that run through many of these texts, including racial identity, sexual identity, patriarchal culture, and cultural constructions of the American Black woman. Writers may include Hurston, Larsen, Brooks, Clifton, Walker, Marshall, Morrison, Lorde, Dove, Smith, Gay, Bambara, Rankine, and/or Ward. Learn more.
159 slots available
$155.00
2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

Sustenance and Creative Exploration in Chaotic Times

Lauren Vanett
Since the pandemic, we’ve all had to grapple with many unknowns and still make our lives function in the best possible way. In this interactive, experiential and supportive class, you’ll look back at what you’ve done for sustenance so far and move forward by doing an experiment which will expand your vision by creating something new for yourself — a practice, an experience or something concrete. We’ll use guided meditations and simple breathing techniques along with principles of creativity and evidence-based strategies from positive psychology, neuroscience, and mindfulness to help us gain more flexibility, choice and ease with the challenges of living in chaotic times.
0 slots available
$235.00
Thursday, Starts January 21

Live-stream and Recorded Video

9:30am - 11:00am PT

Extreme Politics: Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Terrorists

Darren Zook
If it is a truism of politics that the center is always stable, then why do certain individuals and movements constantly gravitate toward the extreme left and right? Using contemporary case studies and focusing on politics while also drawing on insights from fields such as psychology, biology, and sociology, this course will investigate the sources and causes of political extremism and radicalism, as well as potential solutions. Learn more.
50 slots available
$155.00
2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

EPA: 2021 and Beyond

Alexis Strauss Hacker,Dan McGovern
EPA Region IX administers EPA’s programs in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and 148 Tribal Nations. In this course, a dozen current and former Region IX managers will explain how EPA’s air pollution, water pollution, drinking water, hazardous waste, climate change, pesticide and toxics programs work. The critical role of science in developing and administering environmental regulations will be underlined, topical case studies of environmental challenges featured, and the environmental justice concerns of underserved communities highlighted. A wrap-up panel of Bay Area non-governmental organizations will explain how you can get involved. Learn more.
181 slots available
$155.00

Live-stream Only

12:00pm - 1:30pm PT

Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin: Psychedelic Trailblazers

Richie Unterberger

Between 1966 and 1970, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin rose from unlikely origins to superstardom after years of hardship and struggle. They created remarkable, explosive bodies of work before dying only weeks apart. Combining a wealth of film and audio clips with expert commentary, this course celebrates the music and lives of these icons. Learn more.

186 slots available
$155.00
2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

Writing in Place

Tony Platt,Cecilia O'Leary
In this extraordinary and tumultuous moment of history, when our mobility is limited and our daily life minimized, writing can help us to find our bearings and make sense of an unstable world. Our topics include: living with restrictions on our movement and interactions; the meanings of home; what it means to be an inessential worker; our neighborhood, street, or building; changing definitions of aging, health, and personal and family relations; political participation in the age of a pandemic; fears and hopes for the future.
2 slots available
$235.00
Monday, Starts January 25

Live-stream and Recorded Video

9:30am - 11:00am PT

Realism in World Politics: The United States and Germany

Matthew Specter
The history of foreign policy "realism" begins with transatlantic exchange of ideas between the US and Germany in the late 19th century. This course explores how and why a transatlantic realist tradition evolved in the 20th century US, identifies its strengths and weaknesses, and its legacy for US foreign policy today. Learn more.
194 slots available
$120.00
12:00pm - 1:30pm PT

Tempered Ambition: India's Rise in Global Politics

Vasundhara Sirnate
In this course, we will explore key questions in our assessment of India’s relationship with several countries such as: How has the Indian state shifted away from an idealistic vision of “non-alignment”? What motivated the growth of India’s aspirations to be seen as a great power? Is there a grand strategy in Indian foreign policy? What underlies India’s international relations and how have they evolved over time? How do India’s domestic politics affect its international outlook and relations with other countries? Learn more.
201 slots available
$120.00
2:30pm - 4:00pm PT

Diving Into the Movies

Harry Chotiner
In this course, we’ll take a look at six films that seem worthy because of the interesting nature of their themes, issues, storytelling, and acting. Students will receive notes before each class with suggestions regarding what to look for when watching the film. After the lecture, there will be a discussion about the different elements of the film and whether or not it should be considered a work of art. The class aims for the fun, vitality, and warmth of friends sharing a conversation about a great film they’ve just seen. Learn more.
146 slots available
$120.00