“Reading With” imagines how literature might build bridges between specialized communities otherwise isolated from each other. We can fill in the blank with any number of audiences: reading with engineers, reading with economists, reading with biologists, etc, etc, etc. The “with” is very important — rather than reading at, reading to, or reading for, our goal is to create connections through books in a way that is collaborative and mutual. “Reading With” believes that literature can provide a common ground necessary for different communities to learn from each other and tackle some of the world’s most serious problems.
In its current form, “Reading With” is primary envisioned as a methodology for humanities pedagogy in higher education, but its practices could be adapted far beyond the college classroom, whether into the K-12 curriculum, the corporate boardroom, or the neighborhood bookclub. The basic idea of this website is to provide resources that might allow groups to address a range of issues through literary texts. The site is arranged by “Communities,” “Issues,” and “Texts,” all of which are overlapping and able to be interlinked. For example, if you are a coder, you might begin with “Computer Scientists,” to see what relevant issues and texts we have compiled around that field so far. If you are interested in the environment, you might start with “Climate Change,” to see what communities and texts could converge around that topic. And if you plan to read Frankenstein or teach it in your next class, you might click on that text to see what audiences and issues it could address.
A little about me. My name is Abigail Droge. I’m a recent graduate from the PhD program in the Stanford University English Department, and currently a Postdoctoral Scholar and Lecturer at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My passion is to think about ways that literature might exceed the bounds of a typical English syllabus. How can we use literature to think about economic inequality, big data, or best practices in the tech industry? How can we bring literature into unexpected spaces, like science classrooms, or help people from different disciplines to start a conversation? My own research focuses on the history of reading in nineteenth-century Britain; I study the archives left behind by everyday Victorian readers and think a lot about how people used novels to build communities, share expertise, and establish relationships across the boundaries posed by academic specializations. My favorite kind of literature is a living literature, one that can imagine new applications for books in the hands of real readers. I hope to continue that process in the twenty-first century through “Reading With.”
The ideas presented here come mainly from courses that I’ve taught at Stanford and UC Santa Barbara. (See the “Syllabi” tab for course descriptions, lesson plans, and assignments.) I link throughout to blog posts that I originally wrote in my role as a Postdoc and Director of the Curriculum Lab for the Mellon-funded digital and public humanities project “WhatEvery1Says” (WE1S) at UC Santa Barbara. (The posts are reproduced here under the project’s Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.) I also include sample student work from my classes, which is posted with permission. I am immensely grateful for the constant inspiration and dedication of my students — without them, most of these ideas would not have been possible. Many thanks as well to Jeffrey Greger for his beautiful illustrations.
The current content of this website represents only a small fraction of the possibilities — the project is meant to grow and expand as it continues. If you have an idea for a new community, issue, text, syllabus, or resource that could be added, please get in touch! I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — I’d love to hear from you.
For more information about my work and interests, please see my personal website: abigaildroge.com