Dangerous Reading: Foundation in the Humanities and Arts

Fall 2020
Winter 2021
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 62
16 Credits per quarter
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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.

Winter quarter will focus on the 20th-century, especially post-World War II, decolonization, and issues of gender, race and identity. We will read Homer's The Iliad as a companion to our reflections on war, rage, and the epic, along with examples of contemporary pieces challenging conventions of both the epic and the novel form. Film studies will be integral to our inquiries. Winter readings will include Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth,  Freud's  Civilization and Its Discontents, Simone de Beauvoir's  The Second Sex and Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy

Student activities will focus on reading, writing, listening, and seminar participation.

To successfully participate in winter 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.


Fall 2020 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 10005
Winter 2021 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 20002

Academic details

Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies and careers in

history, poetics, music, liberal arts

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing


In Person or Remote
Remote (F)
Remote (W)
Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting