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Transfer Student Research Seminar: Imagining the Library

Semester and Year FA 2017
Course Number FIRST-UG809
Section 001
Instructor Gregory Erickson
Days TR
Time 3:30 PM - 4:45 PM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin transfer students only. Permission required. To register, please contact Gallatin’s Transfer Student Class Advisers (


Archibald MacLeish, head librarian of the Library of Congress during World War II, asserted that librarians “must become active agents of the democratic process” and that libraries could be a kind of “warfare.” From the Library of Congress to the legendary ancient library in Alexandria to the medieval monastic library at Melk to the new fully digital library at Florida Polytechnic University, how we imagine, remember, and construct our libraries is indicative of how we narrate our cultural identity. In modern fiction, texts such as Jorge Borges’ “The Library of Babel,” Umberto Eco’s  The Name of the Rose , and the Harry Potter books use libraries to speculate about our world using the organization of great fictional libraries from the past and the future as metaphors for human thought. To imagine a library is to ask: What is worth preserving? Who has access to certain information? How do we organize this information? How do changes in our ideas of books and libraries reflect changes in the ways we organize other forms of knowledge and in how we read and think? In addition to actual and imaginary libraries, class topics will include the history of the book and of reading, the concept of scripture, theories of the archive, and the significance of new media and digital technology. Readings may include works by Plato, Aristotle, Joyce, Borges, Bradbury, Orwell, Benjamin, Derrida, Eco, Murakami, Scott Sherman, John Palfrey, Anthony Grafton and N. Katherine Hayles. Examples from film and television may include  Harry Potter ,  The Book of Eli ,  The Name of the Rose , and  Doctor Who . Student research projects and papers might explore the history, theory, or architecture of actual libraries new and old; they may look at the role of libraries in education, research, and in speculative fiction about the future of humankind. The course will include guest speakers and visits to the New York Public Library, the Morgan Library, and collections within NYU Bobst Library.


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Course Type

First-Year Program: Transfer Student Research Seminar (FIRST-UG)