The Power of the Book

Schools of Public Engagement: BPATS

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Degree Students
The Power of Book
Summer 2024
Taught By: Gina Walker
Section: A

CRN: 3805

Credits: 3

​​Students across the country in conservative communities have been creating underground book clubs to read recently banned books, while The Brooklyn Public Library launched the “Books Unbanned” initiative to support teens who are spearheading anti-censorship movements. At the same time, AI technologies are upending conceptions of authorship. This course invites students to learn the story of the power of the book and its perils. We begin with the moment when the technology of writing began to replace oral culture as the medium of cultural exchange and remembrance. Mesopotamian princess/priestess/poet Enheduanna (2285 BCE-2250 BCE), perhaps the first named author for whom we have an image, texts, and autobiographical details, wrote cuneiform hymns that chronicled her role as the victim of attempted rape and invited suicide by her father’s usurper. Writing, at least among elites, quickly became the medium of political, religious, public, and personal conflict. In the fifth century BCE, the philosopher Plato argued that memory was the greatest human competence. He worried that the spread of writing would diminish this capacity, luring people away from consulting with one another to solve individual and collective problems. Knowledge was quickly gendered as accounts of the past were formulated into the practice of History, a record of information mainly by, for, and mostly about men. Once Johannes Gutenberg perfected movable type in the mid 16th century to produce large texts in multiple copies, the printed book became a weapon in the battles between opposing sides of every issue. Book banning and burning signaled the erosion of individual and social freedom, as it does in our time. Each student will have the opportunity to create an independent project that addresses some of the knotty questions about documenting the past and preparing for the future that this story of the book raises.

College: Schools of Public Engagement (NS)

Department: BPATS (BPAT)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: Online - Synchronous

Max Enrollment: 21

Add/Drop Deadline: June 17, 2024 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: July 25, 2024 (Thursday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 1:50am EDT 7/13/2024

Meeting Info:
Days: Tuesday, Thursday
Times: 9:55am - 11:45am
Building: Online Course
Room: 999
Date Range: 6/11/2024 - 8/1/2024