2013 Reading Assignment: the real work: modern magic and the meaning of life by adam gopnik
Your Common College Reading is an introduction to college-level reading and discussion, and an introduction to the type of material common to seminar-style courses. You will discuss the required Common College Reading during Orientation (most likely on Tuesday, August 20). This discussion with your professor, classmates, and ALPHAs will constitute a small portion of your first grade in your First-Year Seminar.
The selection "The Real Work: Modern Magic and the Meaning of Life" is the text that you and all the other students will read. You can read it over the summer or shortly before you arrive for Orientation; it should take you no more than an hour or two at most. The link above provides you direct access to the essay.
Why and How Was This Selection Chosen?
"The Real Work: Modern Magic and the Meaning of Life" by Adam Gopnik, was published in The New Yorker in 2008. It simultaneously represents a fairly high level of writing while taking as its subject matter a fairly accessible topic: magic, magicians, and the way they perfect their technique. Members of the faculty committee that chose the reading describe the essay as "an intellectual and philosophical perspective on magic told through a series of interviews with well-respected (but largely unknown) magicians as well as famous magicians like Teller (from Penn and Teller), David Blaine, and David Copperfield. Part of the essay's premise is that anyone can learn to do a trick, but 'the real work is the accumulated practice of performing the trick in a completely convincing way.' To learn magic, one must participate in the tradition, practice the craft, and perform." That level of participation is analogous to what professors ask of their students, so the essay helps us to understand what we think of when we use the phrase "college level thinking". The essay touches on apprenticeship, dedication to mastery of technique, and what it means to be a member of a "disciplinary" community.