Reference, reading, and nonreading: Learning from Bayard (with a grain of salt)

Evan F. Kuehn


This spring I had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course on the history of philosophy from René Descartes to William James. On most of our twice-weekly class sessions, I would bring a half-dozen or so books with me beyond the anthology we were working from. My duty as a librarian impelled me—there are riches untold (to freshman, at least) in our stacks, waiting to be unveiled. Usually these books were pulled haphazardly from my office shelves just before class. Sometimes they were checked out from our library, less often requested from elsewhere a week or two ahead of time because I actually knew what I wanted to talk about that far in advance. I would bring secondary literature to recommend for further research, other unassigned works by authors we were reading in the event that a first exposure might have sparked philosophical discipleship, along with living thinkers like Seyla Benhabib or Giorgio Agamben who have fruitfully picked up the threads of the Enlightenment problems we were considering.

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Copyright Evan F. Kuehn

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