English R1B

Reading and Composition: The Cultural Lives of Higher Education

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2017 Greer, Erin
MWF 12-1 211 Dwinelle

Book List

Coetzee, J.M.: Disgrace; Smith, Zadie: On Beauty; Woolf, Virginia: Three Guineas

Other Readings and Media

Selections from the following theorists and historians will be made available online: Matthew Arnold, Wendy Brown, John Dewey, Immanuel Kant, Achille Mbembe, Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, Nietzsche, Christopher Newfield, Cardinal Newman, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Craig Steven Wilder, and Mary Wollstonecraft.

In addition, students will follow higher education news coverage in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.


The purpose, nature, and structure of higher education in the West are currently undergoing dramatic revision. Tuition is rising steadily at both private and public institutions, as public support for teaching and research shifts; concerns and hopes abound about the potential of Massive Open Online Courses to revolutionize education; and every few months, an Op-Ed appears in a major publication defending the model of a broad humanities education against critics who demand to know what tangible value such education offers for students. In 2015, student demonstrations against administrative attitudes toward alleged racism on campuses across the US––and, simultaneously, South Africa––sparked additional heated debates about the intellectual, political, and personal nature of the spaces in which students live and learn.

Against this backdrop, this course will undertake a rigorous analysis of the ideals and realities of higher education, adopting interpretive lenses from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. With works of philosophy, we will explore the relationship between education, theories of human nature, and social contracts. With works of literature, we will interrogate the relation between higher education and various forms of power and social privilege. We will read contemporary critical essays championing the value of a broad, liberal education, and we will analyze the historical transformation of the organizational structure of universities in the U.S, U.K, and South Africa. In other words, this course integrates literary, historical, and philosophical perspectives to consider the past, present, and possible futures of higher education.

In addition to exploring questions surrounding higher education, students will develop their writing skills, practicing integrating close-readings of literature with research in other disciplines.

Back to Semester List