Dangerous Reading: Foundation in the Humanities and Arts
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What does it mean to read? How does reading shape one’s identity, and how does identity shape how one reads, and what one finds in those books? What does it mean if the text we are reading is in musical symbols rather than words?
In this foundational program in the humanities and arts, we will examine the intertwined developments of poetry, music and history, and the implications of those histories for a theory of reading. What is the function of the poem, how is it heard or read, and how do metaphors and syntax shape the way a people or person might think and feel? Might music function in a manner similar to a poem or are other factors in play? What is the traditional role of the historian, and how do historians produce texts that authorize their own truth? How do historical, poetical and musical works—and the various epistemological claims made in their name—interact in the contemporary moment? What is the role of translation in the dissemination of literary texts, musical scores and shaping of the historical imagination?
In the past, reading was deadly serious business. We’ll explore the relationship between illuminated manuscripts, medieval devotion, and power; how the advent of printed texts, both literary and musical, rocked Europe and sparked 100 years of war in the 16th century; links between political cartoons, scandalous pamphlets, and the terror of the French Revolution; the ways in which readers and listeners in the Romantic age fashioned a notion of themselves and their visions of a good life through their textual encounters; and how the advent of post-structuralism and post-modernism in the 20th century has exploded the way we think of reading and listening today. Fall quarter will focus on texts, music and ideas from the classical world to the 19th century, as well as on contemporary refractions to those texts and moments; winter will move into the 20th and 21st centuries, but with a foot in the past as we read Homer.
From Homer and Thucydides forward, there has been a competition between poetry (which was often intended to be sung) and history over the right way to read and remember. Readings will include Thucydides' The Peloponnesian Wars, Homer's The Iliad , Sappho's Poems and St. Augustine's Confessions. We will also consider Marcel Proust's Swann's Way , Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents, and Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. We’ll delve into the cultural history of reading through texts such as Robert Darnton's The Great Cat Massacre and Lynn Hunt's The Family Romance of the French Revolution . Contemporary writers and texts to be considered in light of the double imperatives of history and poetry include Marguerite Duras' The War , Alice Notley's The Descent of Alette , and Henryette Mullin's Sleeping with the Dictionary .
Student activities will focus on reading, writing, listening, and seminar participation.
To successfully participate in fall quarter students will need access to a laptop with the ability to use zoom. Students should expect to spend 10 hours per week in synchronous meetings using zoom and canvas. Students will have access to alternatives to synchronous (in person or remote) participation if conditions require.
Class Size: 62
Located in: Olympia