Spring 21 (un)common reads

These courses are discussion-oriented, one credit seminar courses centered on a book.

Please use the UF Schedule of Courses to find times, places, and other course information.

Books listed by Topic Area:

Books may be listed in more than one category, but please peruse them all.

(un)common reads courses - all

CourseClass NumberTitleSectDay/PeriodInstructorSyllabus
IDH2930     Heretics, a Cuban Novel: Anti-Semitism, Rembrandt, and Art as Heresy       T/7  Little, William       
IDH2930    Diet to Disease     Clair, Victoria  
IDH2930   Cosmic Koans     Edelman, Jonathan  
IDH2930   Big Rock Candy Mountain   W/3  Pagan, Victoria  
IDH2930   The Just City: Toward a Theory of Urban Justice and Equity   R/4 O'Malley, Michael  

Heretics, a Cuban Novel: Anti-Semitism, Rembrandt, and Art as Heresy

The course explores the second and more recent magnum opus by the renowned contemporary Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura, Heretics (English translation 2017). Heretics is structured around the refusal of the Cuban regime (and other countries including the United States) in 1939 to allow the passenger liner MS Saint Louis to land 937 Jewish refugees and exiles from Germany; subsequently, almost all these refugees were forced to return to Germany where many were exterminated in the Shoah. The novel’s detective plot involves a famous and subversive Rembrandt portrait of Christ that raises the question of heresy in Judaism; likewise, the novel’s subtext involves the nature of Cuban writers and their social and political “heresies” under the contemporary communist regime. Finding and recovering the painting for its rightful Jewish heirs in Cuba is the task of the fictional Havana detective Mario Conde. As supplements to reading this profound novel in which history, art, and fiction intersect, students will view two films which will serve as comparisons and contrasts for discussions about the novel.

The Just City: Toward a Theory of Urban Justice and Equity

In this course we will read and discuss Susan Fainstein’s book, The Just City, which explores how justice and equity can be factored into urban planning and policy decisions.

Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner

“On both coasts, the hospitals were jammed, the Army camps were crowded with sick soldiers, while whole inland parts of the country were virtually isolated.” Bo Mason gives up farming for bootlegging. Heedless of expert advice, he hatches a plan to cross from dry Saskatchewan to Montana, to bring back a few cases of whiskey. He scores big, but only after spreading the virus across a wide swath of territory, coming home, falling sick, and infecting his family. Empty streets and stricken households make for eerie reading now. Big Rock Candy Mountain (1943) is Wallace Stegner’s greatest novel and a semi-autobiographical story of his childhood told through the fictional characters Bo and Elsa Mason, whose marriage also suggests an allegory of the West itself, perpetually and fatally wedged between a destructive, antisocial individualism and a too often stymied quest for stability and community.This American novel will provide us hours of conversation about the world as it is today. We’ll come away appreciating how literature can help us process the trauma of a pandemic and the quest for a just society.