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Writer as Reader Workshops

The Fictions of Thomas Jefferson: Notes on the State of Virginia, The Declaration of Independence, and The Federalist Papers

November 1, 2013

How do you found a nation? Can it be written into being? What are the objects that are founding documents? How do we relate to them and to their authors? Participants in this workshop will treat Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia and the Declaration of Independence as highly experimental works of imagination that help us to work through the difficult notion that American identity is constituted through writing.

 Using writing-to-read strategies, we will tease out the dynamic relationship between the politics and culture of Jefferson’s times and his passionate democratic visions (looking, in particular, through the lens of Federalist 10 and 51). We will then turn to an exploration of 21st century attempts to come to terms with the story of national and racial identity that Jefferson inscribes by working with Annette Gordon-Reed’s writing on the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.

 Texts: Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (any edition); The Declaration of Independence; The Federalist Papers (Penguin)

Suggested Text: The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (W. W. Norton & Company)

Workshop fee: $200 (includes morning coffee, lunch, and 
workshop materials)