Reinventing Literary History

The Tale of Genji, Murasaki ShikibuUnder the auspices of the Ford Foundation’s Difficult Dialogues Initiative, Barnard College’s Reinventing Literary History Program, led by Margaret Vandenberg, Director of First-Year English at Barnard, has expanded its curricular options and enhanced the global reach of existing courses. An entirely new First-Year Seminar rubric—Global Literature—was inaugurated the very first year of the grant. Each subsequent year, we have organized additional seminars around specific regions. The great virtue of a curricular approach to generating Difficult Dialogues is that works of literature spontaneously inspire discussions already firmly grounded in cultural contexts. We have compiled teaching manuals that help transform potentially token additions into more fully integrated curricular conversations, grounding each text in its historical moment allows students to appreciate dialogues within, as well as between, cultures. Ultimately, every global reading will be supported with teaching manuals and extensive interdisciplinary websites, including image archives, historical primary sources, revisionist secondary sources, and comparative translations. The more difficult the dialogue, the less readily available these resources tend to be. Translated into more specifically curricular terms, this means that internet resources supporting nontraditional course offerings have to be built from the ground up. An ongoing project, the Reinventing Literary History website exhibits our progress as well as how far we have yet to travel on the road to global dialogue.

Visit the Reinventing Literary History section of the First-Year Foundations website.