How to Solve Problems with Books: Archives and Advocacy

This week marked a real treat for “How to Solve Problems with Books”: a chance to see Victorian print culture up close and personal in UC Santa Barbara’s Special Collections. Our goal was to reach a better understanding of how Victorian literature was originally produced and consumed. Of particular emphasis was the question of how […]

How to Solve Problems with Books: Creating a Five-Year Plan with the Victorians

How do we turn literary analysis into action? This question guides the final installment in a series of three assignments for “Uses of Literature: How to Solve Problems with Books.” The sequence has been designed to spark a dialogue between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries. In our first assignment, the “Research Memo and Annotated Bibliography,” […]

How to Solve Problems with Books: Advice from the Victorians

How would the Victorians advise us if they could see the effects of industrialism today? The next assignment in “How to Solve Problems with Books” asks students to grapple with this question by inhabiting the perspectives of nineteenth-century figures (both historical authors and fictional characters). The assignment is the second in a sequence of three, […]

How to Solve Problems with Books: Explaining Ourselves to the Victorians

How would we tell the Victorians about ourselves? Specifically, how would we ask their advice about the legacies of industrialism that we face in the twenty-first century? These questions structure the first in a series of assignments for “How to Solve Problems with Books.” Taken as a whole, the assignment sequence is meant to enact […]

How to Solve Problems with Books: Syllabus Design

We are excited to kick off the Winter quarter here at UCSB! This term, I’ll be teaching a new class called “Uses of Literature: How to Solve Problems with Books.” I here share my syllabus and lay out some of the aims of the course. Like my Fall course, “Reading with Scientists,” “How to Solve […]

Reading with Scientists: The Time Machine and Environmental Science

What stories do both literary and scientific texts tell about the environment? This question motivated a “Reading with Scientists” unit that paired H. G. Wells’s famous novella, The Time Machine (1895), with four selections representing different aspects of environmental science: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything (2014), and the websites of […]

Reading with Scientists: Ursula Le Guin’s Omelas and the Dystopia of Big Data

What should you do when you realize you’re living in a dystopia? The wisdom of Ursula Le Guin helped us to tackle this question in “Reading with Scientists.” We began by reading Le Guin’s classic short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” Coming in at only ten pages, the plot is simple, yet […]

Reading with Scientists: Isaac Asimov and Driverless Cars

Which is scarier: a technology that follows human orders or one that acts for itself? After bringing to a close our encounters with Frankenstein’s rebellious Creature, “Reading with Scientists” turned to Isaac Asimov’s classic short story “Runaround” to consider the opposite extreme: a creation that does what it’s told. “Runaround,” originally published in 1942 and […]

Reading with Scientists: Students Imagine New Ways to Teach Literature

Imagine yourself as a teacher who must engage a scientific audience in a conversation about literature. This is the prompt that I want students to consider for our next assignment in “Reading with Scientists.” In this post, I’d like to share the content of the assignment sheet that I’ve handed out to students, who will […]