How I Think About Literature
How I Think about Literature is a series of talks that feature (mostly) faculty from the departments of the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (DLCL). The speakers explain how they understand literary study -- what is the purpose of reading literature, why do we study it, and what can we and our audiences get out of that endeavor? The talks have been popular with a broad audience -- faculty, lecturers, grad students, undergraduates in the DLCL and other units. We started the talk series in 2010-2011, when the DLCL departments began to cooperate more in different ways; the idea was for us to take turns introducing ourselves intellectually to each other, as well as making sure that we were speaking in a way that could reach out students. Over the first five years of this talk series, some two dozen people have spoken. Some have addressed literary theory, others have presented a single text and interpreted it as an example of how they think about literature, and a few faculty have presented an intellectual autobiography, explaining how they found themselves becoming literary critics. The people who have spoken in this series are assistant, associate, and full professors, and some have since retired. At the suggestion of a couple of our majors, we broke out of the pattern of inviting only faculty and on one occasion we convinced Stanford President John Hennessy to speak about how and why he reads literature (especially, as we discovered, long 19th-century novels). We anticipate that the series will evolve in the next years and give more members of our community the opportunity to think out loud about literature and why we read it.
- Gabriella Safran, DLCL Chair (2010-2015)