Dangerous Readings: Readings in the History of Ideas

       Fall Quarter, 2015


Faculty:                             Office:                               Contact Information:                     Office Hours:


Stacey Davis        Sem 2 C3104 867-6761 davisst@evergreen.edu     Wed 12-1pm and Appt.

Leonard Schwartz   Com 360   867-5412 schwartl@evergreen.edu   Wed 9am-10am and Appt.


Program Description:

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? In this two-quarter program, we will examine the intertwined developments of poetry and history, and the implications of those histories for a theory of reading. What is the function of the poem, how is it to be heard or read, and how do its metaphors and syntax shape the very way a people or person might think and feel? What is the traditional role of the historian, and how do historians produce texts that authorize their own truth? How do historical and poetical 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 and shaping of the historical imagination?

In the past, reading was deadly serious business. In this program, we’ll explore the relationship between illuminated manuscripts, medieval devotion, and power; how the advent of printed reading rocked Europe and sparked 100 years of war in the 16 th century; links between political cartoons, scandalous pamphlets, and the terror of the French Revolution; the ways in which readers in the Romantic age fashioned a notion of themselves and their visions of a good life through their readings; and how the advent of post-structuralism in the 20 th century has exploded the way we think of reading today.

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




Fall Class Schedule and Rooms:


Tuesday:               10:00-12:00       Sem 2 A2105                                          lectures

                                    1:00 – 3:00          Com 320                                                    lectures; workshops


Wednesday:        10:00-12:00      Sem 2 A2107 and Sem2 A2109  seminars


Thursday:              10:00-12:00        Sem 2 A2105                                          lectures; workshops

                                    1:00- 3:00             Sem 2 A2105                                          workshops




Patrice Modiano, Dora Bruder, University of California Press

Sappho, If Not, Winter, translated by Anne Carson, Vintage

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Norton Edition

Alice Notley, The Descent of Alette, Penguin

Fanny Howe, The Wedding Dress, The University of California Press

Saint Augustine, The Confessions, Penguin

Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre

Lynn Hunt, The Family Romance of the French Revolution, U of California Press

Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, Schocken

Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way, Penguin

Marguerite Duras, The War, New Press

Plus: pdfs and photocopies




Program Assignments for Credit:

**Keep a PORTFOLIO of all completed assignments and other relevant examples of work this quarter to be turned in at the end of the quarter with written reflections


Weekly Reading:

Students are responsible for reading all assigned texts and materials in advance of class meetings and seminar. Taking detailed notes on lectures and on readings in a reading response journal or notebook is strongly encouraged. Try to get ahead in your reading if you can. These readings are complex and often lengthy: plan on spending at least 20 hours per week outside of class time doing the readings.


This is a writing-intensive class. Students will receive weekly writing assignments, ranging from summaries to short analysis to longer critical papers. Written assignments will help students strengthen their analysis of both history and literature. Each writing assignment will include specific parameters and requirements, as well as a due date, for that assignment. To receive full credit, students must complete all written work on time. In case of absences, students are responsible for getting their work to faculty and for figuring out written assignments they might have missed with the help of their peers.

Writing Workshop:

Students will participate in writing workshops led by one of the faculty or by program TAs on certain weeks.

The workshop will consist of various prompts and writing assignments, collaborative work, and shared critiques of writing and artistic work.



Cross Cultural Poetics is airing this quarter on KAOS 89.3FM Olympia on Thursdays 8 to 9PM. Some of the writers we are studying will be appearing on the program. These shows provide helpful introductions to some of the writers in question.





Weekly Readings:


Week One: (9/29-10/1)                 Modiano, Doris Bruder

                                                                        excerpts from Genesis

Week Two: (10/6-10/8)                 Sappho, If Not, Winter

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War Intro; Book 1 (all); Book 2 (paragraphs 1-69)

Week Three: (10/13-10/15)       Notley, The Descent of Alette;

                                   Homer The Iliad, pdf, excerpt

Week Four: (10/20-10/22)           Saint Augustine’s Confessions;

Howe’s The Wedding Dress

Pdfs of Natalie Davis, “Printing and the People” and “City Women and Religious Change” from Society and Culture in Early Modern France

Week Five: (10/27-10/29)            Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre;

Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

Week Six: (11/3-11/5)                     Howe’s, The Wedding Dress;

Paul Celan poetry (photocopy)

Week Seven: (11/10-11/12)        Hunt, The Family Romance of the French Revolution

                                                                        Note: Wednesday, 11/11 is a school holiday – no class

Week Eight: (11/17-11/19)         Proust, Swann’s Way

Thanksgiving Week:                           No classes

Week Nine: (12/1-12/3)                 Proust, Swann’s Way

Benjamin, “The Work of Art”

Week Ten: (12/8-12/10)               Duras, The War

Evaluation Week (12/15-12/17) Note: you will be required to be on campus through 4pm 12/17