North American Section Meetings
Bruce Donehower, Ph.D. facilitates the meetings. He is the Section representative to the Goetheanum for the North American Collegium of the School for Spiritual Science in North America
Bruce Donehower, Ph.D. (UC Davis) has been a continuous member of the North American Section for the Literary Arts and Humanities leadership team with Marguerite and Douglas Miller since 2001 until the Millers’ retirement in 2019. From 2019 – 2020 he actively chartered the reorganization of the North American Literary Arts and Humanities Section in partnership with Section members from Canada and the United States, with other Section leaders in North America, and in close collaboration with Dr. Christiane Haid, who heads the Section for Beautiful Sciences (Literary Arts & Humanities) and the Visual Arts Section (Sektion für Bildende Künste) at the Goetheanum. In addition to the regular ongoing Section meetings that originate in California, Dr. Donehower facilitates regualr meetings of the North American Section leadership team and coordinates the work of this team with the Goetheanum. He is a frequent contributor to the magazine Stil, a joint publication of Sections for Literary Arts, Visual Arts, and Performing Arts Section of the Free School for Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland.
Other members of the leadership team of the North American Section are: Fred Dennehy (USA), Gayle Davis (USA), Arie van Amerigen (Canada), Robert McKay (Canada), Herbert Hagens (USA), Susan Koppersmith (Canada), Clifford Venho (USA), Robert McDermott (USA).
Dr. Donehower is a scholar of British and German Romanticism with a special interest in Novalis and the early romantic era. He is a poet, novelist, essayist, musician, storyteller, and translator. In addition to a Doctorate in English Literature (UC Davis) he has a Masters in German literature (UC Davis) and a Masters in English with emphasis on creative writing from California State University in Sacramento. He studied the craft of poetry with poets such as Dennis Schmitz, Gary Snyder, Sandra MacPherson, and Mary Oliver. He is a graduate of Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, where he studied with Rene Querido. He did his BA in English Literature at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY.
Dr. Donehower’s original books include: The Birth of Novalis: Friedrich von Hardenberg’s Journal of 1797, with Selected Letters and Documents; The Singing Tree: An Alchemical Fable; The Blue Iris: A Fantasia. And others.
Since retiring from lectureship at UC Davis in 2014, Dr. Donehower has devoted his energies to the Literary Arts and Humanities Section meetings and Section-related activities, and to music (classical guitar and composition), and to creative and scholarly writing. He recently established the imprint Sage Cabin Publishers.
Dr. Donehower has facilitated regular meetings of the Literary Arts and Humanities Section since 2010. These meetings occur in northern California. They began as a collaborative partnership with Jane Hipolito and southern California Section friends and members. These ongoing meetings are open to all Section friends and members in North America and elsewhere.
Bruce and his wife Marion sponsor Salons. These Section-inspired New Moon Salons are in-person events and are open to local Section friends and members and to friends and members elsewhere who want to use Zoom. Salons are nights of original poetry, fiction, art, music, fairy tale, and conversation.
Bruce and Marion Donehower hold fourth dan black belt certificates in Aikido (Aikikai), and they taught and practiced Aikido regularly for twenty-five years prior to retirement from their dojo in January 2020. They also trained in Tai Chi in Boston under Master T.T. Liang and have practiced this Taoist movement art continuously for forty-five years. Marion is a master teacher in Chi Kung and Tai Chi, an artist, a member of the Visual Arts Section, and retired Jungian sandplay therapist. Both Bruce and Marion have a special interest in the meeting of West and East (so-called), and they each have a half-century of sitting experience in a variety of meditation disciplines—in addition to the techniques taught by Rudolf Steiner.
How Often Do You Meet?
Friends and members of the Section for the Literary Arts and Humanities of the School for Spiritual Science in North America have met regularly and continuously in Fair Oaks since 2010. In March 2020, we opened our meetings to Section friends and members worldwide by use of Zoom. Livestreaming is used for some events.
Our hope is that the meetings will inspire friends and members of the Section for the Literary Arts & Humanities throughout North America and the world to sponsor initiatives in their own locales and—most especially!—communicate the information and results of their activities to other friends and members of the Section. And to the world!
Our regular meetings are open to anyone with an interest in the Literary Arts & Humanities and the School for Spiritual Science.
Planning is underway with Christiane Haid for North American Section conferences in 2024 and 2025. The 2024 conferences will occur in San Francisco and Toronto. The 2024 conference themes will be announced in the later months of 2023.
What Do You Do and Talk About?
The local group in Fair Oaks works on literary topics and artistic projects of mutual interest to Section members and friends. Our meetings have a poetic, artistic, and musical emphasis.
For several years, in addition to discussion meetings, we have sponsored Salons. These New Moon Salons are nights of music performance, original poetry and fiction, original art, and conversation. The group also hosts poetry readings several times a year.
Fairytales / Fairytale Group
We take seriously the words of the poet Novalis that fairytales (Märchen) are among the highest forms of poetic expression. The Section Fairytale Group meets regularly to read, discuss, and perform fairytales.
Poetry Nights / Writer Salons
We place creative writing at the center of our Section work — a position that it had when the Section was founded by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 and placed under the direction of the Swiss poet, novelist, dramatist Albert Steffen.
We host regular Poetry Nights where Poets & Writers can read their original work. Poetry lovers can also read and share favorite poems.
We encourage and foster original creative writing.
Translation & Scholarship
As noted in the Meeting Summaries and elsewhere on the website, we devote serious attention to literary critical activities. This includes translation. We have a special interest in critical theory from Plato to Postmodernism. A list of Research Topics is included below. This list is constantly growing and changing.
Field Trips to Galleries & Performances
From time to time, as conditions permit, we sponsor Social Outings to concerts, plays, and art exhibitions – or to local sites of literary interest.
Poets and Landscapes
This initiative focuses on literatures of the Pacific Coast of North America and landscapes in which such literature was imagined. The project hosts a close experiential look at the play between nature, elementals, and the being human.
Collaboration With Other Sections of the School
Our Section group actively collaborates with artists from the Vidual Arts Section and Performing Arts Section. We recently expanded our collaborative project to include the Natural Science Section. We embrace the idea of the School for Spiritual Science as a University — a zodiac of many faculties and displines, outreaching to the world, that has as a focal point meditation and contemplative practice. You can view a recent project that involved artists from three Sections of the School: the Literary Arts, the Visual Arts, and the Performing Arts: Atlantis by Novalis.
The local Section group in Fair Oaks includes artists dedicated to the study and performance of fairy tales, myths and legends. They collaborate to produce performance videos, salon performances, artwork, original music, books, and recordings.
Section Yearbook / Annual
A Section Yearbook is planned for 2023 or 2024, depending on whether folks get interested. Likewise, discussions are moving forward with our European Section colleagues to make possible an English edition of the magazine Stil. Stil is a publication of the Sections for Literary Arts, Visual Arts, and Performing Arts. For more about Stil, click this sentence.
The previous printed newsletter of the Section has been superceded by this website.
Themes Arising from the nineteen lessons of the First Class / for Section members.
Research Topics / Past, Present, & Ongoing
Here is a brief listing of topics and authors whom we have discussed over the past decade during our in-person and online meetings and events. More details are found in the meeting summaries on TheLiteraryArts.com website.
- Novalis, with emphasis on his primary writings.
- Art & Aesthetic Theory
- Critical Theory & Poetics / The History of Literary Theory from Plato to Postmodernism
- Romanticism, with emphasis on British romanticism and German early romanticism.
- Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach; related literature of the Grail; Arthurian legend.
- Fairytales. Myths and legends.
- William Shakespeare.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, with emphasis on the lyric poetry, Faust, Parts 1 and 2, The Elective Affinities, The Sorrows of Young Werther, The Italian Journey, Poetry and Truth, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, aspects of various biographies of Goethe, reader reception of Goethe during the late romantic and early modernist periods, Goethe’s importance to Rudolf Steiner and the anthroposophical movement, and selected scientific writings and writings on art and literature. We emphasize Goethe the poet.
- Owen Barfield, with emphasis on Barfield’s affiliation with The Inklings, Saving the Appearances, Romanticism Comes of Age, selected essays, poems, and lectures, and children’s stories.
- The Inklings
- Percy MacKaye and the MacKaye family
- The New England Renaissance
- Literatures of the Americas; literature of Northern California (with emphasis on the Beats and the influence of Asian spiritual traditions on the imagination of North American writers, beginning with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman).
- Buddhism, with emphasis on Buddhism’s importance to the North American literary conversation.
- Michael Ende and George MacDonald
- Christian Morgenstern
- Major and minor poets of British Romanticism, with emphasis on William Blake. This research topic includes writers Mary Godwin Shelley and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft.
- John Milton, with emphasis on Paradise Lost as a determining influence on romanticism.
- Rudolf Steiner, with emphasis on lectures concerning art, literature, mythology, the Mysteries of antiquity and their relevance for our time, and the evolution of human consciousness. We emphasize a literary approach, using the tools and methods of that discipline.
- Kathleen Raine
- The Chemical Wedding and related texts of the Rosicrucian Enlightenment.
- Contemporaries of Novalis, with emphasis on the Schlegels and Ludwig Tieck and philosophers and literary theorists active during the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century.
- Friedrich Schiller, with emphasis on the dramas and Letters on the Aesthetic Education of the Human Being.
- Hermann Hesse, with emphasis on Novalis and the continuity of the early romantic literary tradition.
- James Joyce
- Albert Steffen
- R. M. Rilke, with emphasis on “The Sonnets to Orpheus.” Rilke Project.
- Modernism as a context within which to read the events of the Christmas Foundation Conference from a literary perspective.
- Early romanticism as a context within which to read the texts of Anthroposophy from a literary perspective.
- Reader reception of Goethe and Novalis and other related writers of their era as a context within which to better understand from a literary perspective the developments in nineteenth and early twentieth century Europe that led to the Christmas Foundation Conference.
- The Foundation Stone Meditation.
- Various special topics such as “The Karma and History of the Anthroposophical Society.”
- Subjects arising from work with the nineteen lesson of the First Class.