On behalf of the University’s Faculty and the 2018 Common Reading Program, we welcome you to Washington University! We’re very excited you will soon be joining us, and we are busy preparing for your arrival.
The Common Reading Program initiates your intellectual college experience and highlights the essence of your education – habits of inquiry and debate that underlie effective citizenship in communities beyond the self. Throughout the first semester, you will encounter themes from the book in classes, discussions, and on-campus programming.
On August 24th, as part of the 16th annual Common Reading Program, you will be participating in what we anticipate will be a dynamic and thought-provoking discussion of the book, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie.
In this book, Dai takes us into the painful experiences of re-education following the Cultural Revolution in China. The experience of reading and discussing this transformational novel will allow you to put yourself in the place of the characters in the book. One of the principle goals of the humanities is to cultivate empathy and immersing yourself in the characters of the novel will give you a glimpse into the life of those who lived through the harsh world that the book describes.
Literature has another great influence, which is that because it can’t be censored and because it can make experience so real, it has the power to change the world. Certainly the world has changed in the years following the Cultural Revolution.
In your studies here, we’ll also be talking to you about the great problems of the world. Those underlying our approach to identity are certainly among the greatest facing society. But so are climate change, inequality, hunger, international conflict and disease. This sounds heavy, but it isn’t for us because we believe in the energy and optimism that you are bringing to education and all the great work you will do at WashU and beyond.
Welcome, Bears. Let’s get started.
Provost and Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor