What leads us to classify some forms of knowledge as important and others as less important? Over the course of the Fall 2016 semester, the members of “Trivial Pursuits” explored theories of reading and knowledge production that took triviality, ordinariness, and pleasure seriously. The works we read focused on how so-called trivial pursuits become entangled in the serious projects of educating oneself, learning how to live with others, and making sense of dominant cultural values. We considered how triviality has been imagined by novelists and theorized by philosophers of everyday life. We looked at the relationship between amateurism (doing something for love and pleasure) and professionalism (doing something for a living). We also discussed how the embodiment of knowledge and expertise can be profoundly raced, gendered, and sexed. These conversations led us to reflect on the nature of reading itself and the continuing value of literature and hermeneutic interpretation in a world that would seem to trivialize the humanities but is still much in need of them.
Our course culminated in a group project organized around a single burning question. See below for the question and the conversation it produced amongst the seminar participants.