Summer scholars will be welcomed with a dinner at my home in Fairfield, CA on Sunday, June 25. Regular seminar meetings will take place in a classroom on UC-Davis’s campus five times per week, Monday through Friday from 1:00-4:00 PM, beginning June 26. For each meeting we will discuss specific selections from the readings relevant to the topics assigned. I expect you to keep journals of your responses to and queries about the readings, and to use these in our meetings to generate discussions. Please prepare a list of questions, with references to specific pages in the text, which prompted them. We will use these questions and selections to generate discussions. I will schedule time to meet with each of you individually at the beginning of the seminar to discuss the research, curricular, or creative projects you will undertake during the summer, and will be available to consult with you on topics of interest throughout the summer.
I direct these seminars in a format similar to an advanced graduate seminar and invite your active participation. With limited exceptions, I do not lecture. Instead, I encourage engagement in discussions with your colleagues. In other words, our meetings are intended to facilitate collegial dialogue and explore divergent interpretations of the assigned material in a relatively open-ended way. Together we dive deeply into the material we read in common, examining the varied, sometimes conflicting, ways to understand what Arendt was trying to say.
You should be prepared for an average reading amount of 70 pages per night. If you are selected for the seminar, I will discuss with you how to plan to complete some of the reading in advance.
I have invited several colleagues of mine to share their expertise with us. The Israeli filmmaker, Ada Ushpiz, who recently completed a documentary on Arendt, will present her film, Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt, and discuss its production. Dr. Ayten Gündogdu, professor of political theory at Barnard College, will lecture based on her new book, Rightlessness in an Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants, (Oxford University Press, 2015).
In addition to participating in the close reading of and discussions about the primary texts, each summer scholar will be part of a small group and will launch the seminar’s discussion on assigned topics during one randomly assigned day during the four weeks of our sessions. Finally, each summer scholar will be expected to develop a creative essay/presentation on a theme related to the main topics raised by our common readings and discussions. I invite you to be imaginative as you approach the form as well as the content of your “essay.” We’ll let Arendt be a model for us. She was a public intellectual who believed in the importance of fostering critical thinking about public life. Her essays appeared in the leading intellectual journals of her time. Her life and work have been the subject of plays and art exhibits as well as scholarly conferences. If you would like to develop curricular materials for use in your classrooms, I encourage you to do that. But, by all means, take this opportunity to experiment and be creative!
Former summer scholars have designed art works, written curriculum and lesson plans, personal essays, plays, and poetry, using Arendt as inspiration. You might decide to explore topics covered in the seminar through debates, dramatic presentations, genres of writing or even film. Or perhaps you’ll create a multi-disciplinary presentation on connections between Arendt’s work and contemporary politics. Don’t treat this as a chore, but rather as an opportunity to share your creative responses to the reading with your colleagues. I encourage group projects.
To assist you in developing these projects and to explore further the application of seminar readings to your teaching and professional work, this year, I have organized an extra-seminar workshop for summer scholars. This will take place outside our regular seminar meetings on June 29th, and will be directed by the award-winning poet, Celia Bland, of Bard College’s Institute for Writing and Thinking, who has led similar workshops in previous years.