Professor DeWispelare’s New Dean’s Seminar for Spring 2013

Photo Credit: “Eleanora Reading” (1997). Fernando Scianna, Milan, Italy
We remain very excited about our newest faculty member, Professor Daniel DeWispelare, who is currently teaching Romanticism and Critical Methodologies.  For Spring 2013, he has designed a brand new Dean’s Seminar, “Literacy and Literature.”  Spread the word to those who are eligible–first-year CCAS students seeking a focused, seminar-style class in a focused topic.  Here is the course description:
For most of human history, the ability to read has been confined to a tiny segment of the population: religious mediums, dynastic chroniclers, and cosmopolitan diplomats.  However, beginning with the print revolution in the 15th century, and accelerating rapidly during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, literacy spread so rapidly and widely that it is now generally thought of as a skill learned in childhood which subsequently forms the precondition for all other intellectual achievements.  

Photo Credit: “Alphabetization Campaign” (1974). René Burri,  Havana, Cuba
Some—including several nations’ constitutions—have gone so far as to frame literacy as an inviolable human right.  This course will investigate the massive historical, artistic, and philosophical changes that have tracked the spread of literacy.  We will focus particularly on public policies that have gradually made literacy into a cornerstone of modern life while altering older ways of organizing local communities; on educational texts that have centralized literacy and brought standardized national languages into being; and on political and artistic reactions that have accompanied and criticized literacy’s expansion.  Readings will mostly derive from oral and written literature, but students can also expect to engage with social science work on how literacy is measured, how literacy’s modern-day ruptures reveal themselves along racial, class and ethnic lines, how multilingualism affects national literacy debates, how World English literacy facilitates globalization, and how new media continue to alter the future of homo legens.  

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