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CORE 200 Liberal Arts Reading Salon

Small groups of students come together with an experienced facilitator for close reading and discussion of interesting texts.  The class lasts for twelve weeks (instead of the usual fifteen) and meets once each week for two hours in a seminar setting.  The Salon encourages the sharing of ideas and thoughts, highlights common themes and interdisciplinary connections as they emerge from discussion.  Discussions that grow out of reading groups can become the starting point for future research.  

The two-unit Salon is an integral part of the new Thematic Approaches to Humanities and Society minor. A special feature of the Reading Salons is that some of the books to be read by the participants will be selected by the students early in the semester.  The course is graded Credit/No Credit.

Sample Description

Andrew Hakim, Department of English

"A Most Dark and Sinister Business": Clues, Criminals, and the Art of Detection

Understand this, I mean to arrive at the truth.

-Hercule Poirot in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

It is only left for us to prove that these apparent "impossibilities" are, in reality, not such.
-C. Auguste Dupin in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"

In this salon we will explore the parallels between reconstructing a crime and the act of reading or viewing a story.  From "amateurs of crime" such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, to private investigators like Philip Marlowe, and on to police detectives from television programs such as the CSI and Law & Order franchises, the detective is not only a popular culture hero, but also a figure who raises fundamental questions about narrative.  Indeed, we might say that detective stories are narratives about narrative, which both underscore and undermine the concept of knowledge by teaching us to read, to think, and to put together the pieces as we pursue solutions to life's mysteries.  As a genre, detective stories investigate issues of identity (Whodunnit?), epistemology (How do we know?  What do we know?), and hermeneutics (How should we interpret/understand clues and evidence?).  Throughout the semester, we will examine several major tropes of the genre and how they function as sites of artistic and cultural investigation:  the labyrinth of the city, deduction vs. induction, the femme fatale, noir, the hidden past, and the pleasures and puzzles of memory.

Christie, Agatha.  Murder on the Orient Express.  (1927) New York: Berkley, 2004.  
Doyle, Arthur Conan.  The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I.  New York: B & N Classics, 2003.  
Himes, Chester.  Cotton Comes to Harlem.  (1965) New York: Vintage, 1988.  
Ishiguro, Kazuo.  When We Were Orphans.  New York: Vintage, 2001.  

The Big Sleep. Dir. Howard Hawks, Warner Home Video, 1946.
Chinatown.  Dir. Roman Polanski, Paramount, 1974.
Insomnia.  Dir. Christopher Nolan, Warner Home Video, 2002.

To sign up for the minor and for advisement, please see a Thematic Option advisor (CAS Building Room 200) or call (213) 740-2961.