Reading Politics: The History and Future of Literacy

Subject 
ENGLISH
Code 
180B
Grading 
Letter or Credit/No Credit
Description 

Reading is a political act. Through our major texts of Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist, Zora Neale Hurston¿s The Eatonville Anthology, and Azar Nafisi¿s Reading Lolita in Tehran, we will explore the classed, racialized, and gendered power dynamics of literacy and literature. How can books incite social revolutions? How can they maintain harmful inequalities? When is reading a tool of empowerment and when is it a tool of social control? We will examine these questions in a number of contexts, ranging from Victorian London, to the Jim Crow American South, from the Islamic revolution in Iran to a Silicon Valley proliferating with new forms of scientific, technological, and financial literacy. The course includes a significant service learning component, in which students will volunteer to tutor underprivileged readers through Bay Area literacy programs. Final projects will ask students to reflect on these tutoring experiences and consider the complex politics at work in the act of teaching someone to read.