Lloyd Pratt, will present a talk entitled "Free Reading: A Political History" on Tuesday, March 20 at 5:30 pm, Brown/RISD Hillel, Winnick Chapel, 80 Brown Street. Over the course of the twentieth century, the pedagogical innovation known as "free reading" dominated the landscape of American primary and secondary education. Taking its compass points from pragmatist philosophy and Emerson, free reading anticipated and later paralleled the rise of the New Criticism in the American university. These two developments predicated the self-justifying claim of American university English departments to offer a politically essential training in "close reading." By way of a brief account of a twentieth-century reader of Emerson, Pratt sketches how these developments lead to more recent institutional efforts to claim a form of "critical reading," one detached from any content, as the defining feature of a liberal arts education. Lloyd Pratt is the Drue Heinz Professor of American Literature at the University of Oxford. He is an editorial board member at "American Literature" and an associate editor of "NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction." Pratt is the author of "The Strangers Book: The Human of African American Literature" (2015) and "Archives of American Time: Literature and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century" (2010).