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Gutenberg Conspiracy

The Gutenberg Conspiracy is a (usually) monthly gathering, open to all, of people interested in reading books and discussing them with others.  It has no official standing, having arisen strictly out of faculty interest in reading something other than what was required for class preparation, but it has become part of the school’s intellectual fabric and is often supported more faithfully by staff than by faculty.

Gutenberg participants suggest books they’ve read or want to read; the facilitator compiles and circulates a slate, tallies the votes, and announces the winners (usually) before summer begins.  The facilitator also persuades various people to lead each book discussion.  Some participants consistently read the books during the summer; others consistently read each book (or a portion thereof) immediately before the discussion; still others treat meetings as book review sessions to determine whether or not to read the volume.  The chosen books have spanned genres in fiction and non-fiction, but have always been prose.  Never has a theme governed any given year’s reading.

In addition to choosing books, the group each year (well, most years) asks one person (usually faculty) to give a "Last Lecture," and offers carte blanche to the deliverer.  Sometimes, but not always, the vote goes to someone retiring or leaving as if it were indeed a final lecture.  This tradition revived an earlier one originated by the Student Senate.  Where possible, copies of those lectures have been included with the Gutenberg Conspiracy Lists. In some cases, a copy is no longer extant.

The Gutenberg Conspiracy originated in 1973 at English professor Jane Elizabeth “Missy” Archer’s call, beginning that spring by reading Islands in the Stream, The Painted Bird, and End of the Road.  When Archer departed at year’s end, the idea languished.  In the late 1980s, Psychology professor Randall Wight revived the custom.  In 1998, when Wight became CORE Dean, he passed leadership to Music professor Edwina Thedford.  At her retirement in 2005, Thedford delegated leadership to Political Science professor Susan Zlomke.  Zlomke left in 2007, having designated Archivist Wendy Richter as successor.  Richter left before exercising office; Circulation Librarian Shirley Dumais picked up the fallen mantle and coordinated the program until 2010, when historian Chris Mortenson assumed leadership.

 

2020-21

August 26
Mort by Terry Pratchett (Johnny Wink)

September 23
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Ray Granade)

October 28
Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World by Timothy Garton Ash (Bethany Hicks)

January 27
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard (Stan Poole)

February 24
The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies Who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bomb by Sam Kean (Sara Hubbard)

March 31
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (Ray Granade and Jeff Root)

2019-20

The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (Bryan McKinney and Kent Faught)

Educated by Tara Westhover (Ray Granade)

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson (Jeff Root)

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Race by Robin DiAngelo (Elizabeth Kelly and Autumn Mortenson)

2018-19

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (Johnny Wink)

Protestants Abroad by David A. Hollinger (Myra Houser)

What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain (Ray Granade)

The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse (Kevin Brennan)

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Ray Granade and Johnny Wink)

The Gift of the Stranger by David I. Smith and Barbara Carvill (Doug Sonheim)

Last Lecture - Mike Reynolds

2017-18

The Death of Expertise by Thomas M. Nichols (Kevin C. Motl)

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (Sara Hubbard)

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (Ray Granade)

Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma (Bethany Hicks)

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Myra Houser)

A Horse with Holes in It by Greg Brownderville (Johnny Wink)

Last Lecture - Scott Holsclaw

2016-17

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (Johnny Wink)

The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin (Bethany Hicks)

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner (Ray Granade)

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Under-rated Organ by Giulia Enders (Joe Jeffers)

Visions of Power in Cuba by Lillian Guerra (Myra Houser)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Stan Poole)

Last Lecture - Joe Jeffers

2015-16

Eve's Diary by Mark Twain (Johnny Wink)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Myra Houser)

The Question That Never Goes Away by Phillip Yancey (Ray Granade)

Arkansas Godfather: The Story of Owney Madden by Graham Nown (Wendy Richter)

The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu (Tiffany Eurich)

Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert (Raouf Halaby)

Last Lecture - Joe Jeffers

2014-15

I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter (Johnny Wink)

The Creative Habit: Learn from It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp (Ray Granade)

The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan (Johnny Wink)

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs (James Taylor)

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel (Raouf Halaby)

Last Lecture - Scott Holsclaw

2013-14

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Ray Granade)

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (Lacy Wolfe)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Jennifer Fayard)

Napoleon’s Buttons: 17 Molecules That Changed History by Penny LeCouteur and Jay Burreson (Sara Hubbard)

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough (Raouf Halaby)

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (Johnny Wink)

Last Lecture - Johnny Wink

2012-13

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Ray Granade)

What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael J. Sandel (Kevin C. Motl)

The Fall of the Faculty by Benjamin Ginsberg (Hal Bass)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Becky Horne)

The Social Animal by David Brooks (Kevin Brennan)

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander (Steve Thomason)

Last Lecture - Raouf Halaby

2011-12

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Kevin Brennan)

Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum and Josipa Roska (Byron Eubanks)

The Wave by Susan Casey (Ray Granade)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Sara Hubbard)

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Johnny Wink)

Last Lecture - Glen Good

2010-11

Transforming a College by George Keller (Rex Horne)

Unscientific America by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum (Kevin Brennan)

Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre (Amy Sonheim)

Natural Right and History by Leo Strauss (Steve Thomason)

Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (Johnny Wink)

Last Lecture - Amy Sonheim

 

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