Courses / English / 5 units / ENGLISH 180B: Reading Politics: The History and Future of Literacy

Reading Politics: The History and Future of Literacy

5 units
June 26 - August 19, 2017
Section 1   T, TH  11:30AM - 1:20PM

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.




  • Students can choose to take this course for 3, 4, or 5 units. Those who enroll in the course for less than the maximum unit count will have reduced classwork proportional to the number of units chosen.
  • The 5 unit version of this course is offered as part of the Summer Intensive in Human Rights, and qualifies toward the Certificate of Completion in Human Rights. 3 or 4 unit enrollments will not qualify toward the Certificate. Enrolled units can be adjusted in Axess through the Final Study List deadline.


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