1. What is a Lecture?

In an academic context, the word 'lecture' usually connotes a discourse given before an audience for the purpose of imparting information. But Webster's dictionary (Nabokov's favorite for English), before listing this meaning, first defines 'lecture' as a 'the act of reading,' which, it so happens, will be more relevant for us here.

The technology exists for delivering an oral discourse over the Web, but for now this course will be textual and hypertextual rather than multimediated. In effect, what we've done is flip the two most common meanings of the word 'lecture.' I won't be speaking--you'll be reading. And reading is what this course is all about.

2. Why the Web?

The great advantage of the traditional lecture is that is allows a group of individuals to be physically, intellectually, and emotionally together in a given space at a given time. There is no substitute for shared experience.

On the other hand, the logistics of gathering so many people together can be tricky. Peoples' schedules and prior commitments vary, attention spans vary, rooms can be stuffy and hot, or cold and draughty, and it has been my experience that institutional chairs are uncomfortable in inverse proportion to the interest of the lecture.

The great advantage of the Web for delivering information is that it allows the reader to read at one's leisure, in one's favorite chair, with a cup of coffee or tea at hand. Even greater liberties are of course possible. You might, for example, choose to read or type without any pants on, as I am doing now.

3. My Assumptions

The Web eliminates the context of the traditional classroom. Lacking that context, I have made several assumptions in preparing this course. They are:

a) that you possess a certain measure of intellectual curiosity
b) that you possess a certain measure of emotional sensitivity
c) that you have a sense of humor
d) that we, as members of the same species, share certain experiences ( love, laughter, loss, embarrassment, ecstasy, etc.) that allow a common ground for interaction between otherwise infinitely diverse human beings.
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