Coming of age
Philosophical and Historical Perspectives
The idiot (Elif Batuman), college, history and memory, immigration and international, language, relationships, virtuosity
On the first page of Elif Batuman’s The idiot, Selin — a Turkish-American first-year at Harvard in 1995 — stands in line to receive her first email address. ‘Insofar as I had any idea about it at all, I had imagined that email would resemble faxing, and would involve a printer. But there was no printer. There was another world …’ The novel is the story of Selin’s first year, her ‘coming of age,’ going from something like childhood to something like adulthood, in the course of two semesters and a summer abroad. In the center of her story is the opaqueness of language and the seeming impossibility of communication, embodied in her complicated ‘romance’ — much of it mediated by email — with a senior international student from Hungary. This unit will provide an opportunity for us to think philosophically about higher education, and about what is means to be a child or adolescent, and potentially become an adult. These educational and developmental processes are mediated, as they are for you today, by new digital technologies that seem both to disrupt normal communication, and to cast doubt on prior faith we might have had in the meaningfulness of language, generally.
[Something about virtuosity, in connection with Biestra]
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