COMMON SEMINAR 2016: "Keywords" with Colin MacCabe & Jonathan Arac

In light of Pitt's Year of the Humanities, the 2016 Common Seminar will take up one of the university's great ongoing projects (co-sponsored by Jesus College, University of Cambridge), Keywords, based on continuing Raymond Williams's work on topic, which he published in book form in 1976.  Two Professors of English long associated with the project, Colin MacCabe and Jonathan Arac, will team teach the Common Seminar in a special arrangement: two parallel sections will run, each with 12 seats, one as CLST 2050, the standard Common Seminar, and an as-yet unnumbered section in the department of English. Students who take the English section will be able to get CLST credit for the Common Seminar, or take it as an elective in a yet-to-be designated CLST category. 

Professors MacCabe and Arac describe their upcoming seminar:

Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society by Raymond Williams (1976, 2d ed., 1983) is one of the most important works by one of the founders of Cultural Studies. Keywords is made up of short essays that take crucial terms in contemporary social and political debate and use their philological history as a means of engaging with their contradictory current uses and meanings. Its combination of scholarship with relevance has proved inspiring and offers a model for how academic work can prove socially significant. A group of scholars from Pitt with colleagues from other universities is working to update Williams's work. See the website: <>. This seminar will be an important part of the final stage of the project. Students will be expected to participate in the final decisions on the 100 words that will make up the lexicon for 100 Keywords for the 21st century to be published by OUP as the final outcome of this ten year research project. They will also be expected to produce a considerable number of the final entries for this volume. It will conclude with a visit and lecture by Williams’s most famous pupil Terry Eagleton who, along with two other distinguished lecturers, historian of science Harriet Ritvo (MIT) and recent MLA President Margaret Ferguson (US Davis), will propose various entries and review the work of the students.

This course aims to introduce students both to methodological and substantive issues that formed Williams's work and the uses to which it may be put.Shared reading will include major works by Williams and William Empson (a remarkable figure in the history of literary criticism). Students will be encouraged to develop projects germane to their own research interests. The kind of work done is applicable in all languages and literatures, as well as in reflective social sciences and for the rare scientist.