With terms like “senility,” “dementia,” “Alzheimer’s, “Delirium,” and “PTSD” being bandied about regarding the mental health of the protagonist in Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” it was obvious that we had a sizeable contingent of social workers participating in the discussions during the Opening Day of the 12th Annual Tampa Bay Great Books Council’s

TBGBC Chief Moderator Patrick DeMarco leads his morning group into the multilayered tragedy of “King Lear”

Annual Conference! Some thirty aficionados of literature and life gathered in St. Petersburg today (Saturday, January 28th, 2017) for the first two sessions of the Conference, organized under the theme: “It’s a Mad, Mad World.”

Attendees began the day with two discussion groups contemplating Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” grappling first with the essential question as to whether Lear was, indeed, “a man more sinned against than sinning.” Tampa Bay Great Books Council co-founder and Chief Moderator Patrick DeMarco conducted one breakout group, with veteran moderator and TBGTBC Board members Joel Fyvolent guided the shared inquiry in the second group. (It should be noted that “daughters” in our discussion groups outnumbered “sons” by a two-to-one margin, but that seemed to have little effect on the development of objective, citation-supported conclusions!)

Amanda Putnam makes her point while Fay Goldstep (L) and Judy Patterson (R) listen attentively

Following a buffet lunch, the two groups re-convened for discussion of Joseph Heller’s classic, “Catch-22,” with TBGBC President and co-founder Sara Cohen moderating one group, and Patrick DeMarco managing the discussion for Group II. The discussions ranged from the clash between organizational policies and concepts of honor and service (“control mechanisms” or “existential dilemmas”), while embroiling amoral entrepreneurs, “mediocre” leaders, and those simply seeking to survive the carnage and confusion around them. Participants focused a critical eye on the role on Heller’s use of humor and irony, as well as whether the major points of “Catch-22” could have been communicated with more economy of expression.

Ann Sofia (R) makes her point as Barbara Brown (C) and Arlene Zimney (L) evaluate

One group suggested that, ten or twenty years from now, students and reading groups will be still be discussing “King Lear,” while the ongoing popularity of “Catch-22” seems more tenuous.

After a full day of discussions, Saturday evening brought the group together for a festive gourmet meal at the award winning Park Shore Grill.  Great conversation, delicious food and wonderful friendships among Great Bookies are a big part of what brings us all together each conference.

The TBGBC Conference wraped up on Sunday (January 29th) with groups meeting at 9:30 AM to discuss the complex theories espoused in Michel Foucault’s “Madness and Civilization,” and a final wrap-up session and raffle drawing to bring the meeting to a close.

Moderator Joel Fyvolent manages the morning discussion of “King Lear” as (L-R Joyce Simard, Diane White, Tom Watson, Anne Strozier, (Joel), Daniel Morton (partially hidden), Patrick Putnam, Kevin Chittim, Shirley Borkowf, and Kailie Shaw listen to the comments.
Judy Patterson captures the attention of (to her left) Ladi Volicer, Eleanor Herer, Brenda Tipps, and moderator Patrick De Marco

DAY two

Some thirty dedicated readers and thinkers returned to their homes in the U.S. and Canada today (Sunday, January 29th) as the 12th Annual Tampa Bay Great Books Council Conference concluded with a gala raffle

Ladi Volicer (center left) gets the attention of (from left Diane White, Kailie Shaw, Eleanor Herer, Fay Goldstep, and moderator Joel Fyvolent.

following heavy discussions of Michel Foucault’s “Madness & Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason.”

TBGBC Chief Moderator Patrick DeMarco led one discussion group, while veteran moderator (and retired physician) Joel Fyvolent moderated the second group. In discussions that were both wide-ranging and intense, participants grappled with concepts of “madness” described by terms like “vapours,” “humours,”, “fibers,” and “excesses of energy,” while some remarked on the power of royalty and the ruling classes to confine non-productive members of society using an economic rationale.

In yesterday’s sessions, attendees examined the nature of madness as depicted in William Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” with a general consensus that “Lear” will continue to draw the attention of scholars for years to come, while the ongoing popularity of “Catch-22” seems more problematic. Today’s Foucault selection was praised a “historicist’s view of the concept of madness over the ages,” and even as a “lyric poem” on the subject, while a substantial number of participants faulted uneven editing and lack of continuity as shortcomings that inhibited their comprehension of Foucault’s message.

Mario Sparagana, a regular TBGBC participant from Sarasota, delivers his point in the discussion led by Patrick DeMarco (at head of table).

If you have a comment about this Conference or a suggestion for a future TBGBC event, let us know!

Enjoy a few pictures from this morning’s concluding sessions of the 12th Annual TBGBC Conference!

Watch this Facebook page and the Tampa Great Books website for new about our next great event coming soon (www.tampagreatbooks.org).

Peter Putnam (far right) compares Foucault’s text to a “lyric poem,” as (from left) Sara Cohen, Maurice Shaw, and Brenda Tipps ponder.






Kevin Chittim, who will soon be moderating the Friday morning Great Books classes for OLLI-USF starting February 2017, adds an observation while Joyce Carpenter, Mario Sparagana, Joyce Simard, and Barbara Brown follow along.


Following the morning’s breakout sessions, all participants were invited to a give their feedback on the Conference. Here, one of our first-time participants, Ruth Leventhal (center), offers candid remarks on one of the texts chosen for discussion.





Non-Board Members participated in our annual raffle, with frequent participant Daniel Morton picking up a “Book Lover’s Calendar” from Anne Strozier. (Thanks to Barbara Brown for leading the selection of winners, and to Anne Strozier for matching winners with prizes!)
Ann Bagley was the lucky winner of a Publix fruit basket generously donated by our friends and longtime supporters at Publix.
Amanda Putnam picks up a mystery gift in the raffle.


Peter Putnam receives a box of gourmet coffee as his raffle prize.
Sarasota’s Tom Walker now has a Tampa Bay Great Books conference bag to add to his collection.








Fay Goldstep finds out that good things come in small packages, as she receives her prize.


Kailie Shaw another spectacular fruit basket, generously provided by our friends at Publix Supermarkets. Thanks for their ongoing support for Tampa Bay Great Council events!