Spring 2020

The Making of Dictionaries

Listed in: , as COLQ-240


Ilan Stavans (Section 01)


The course focuses on the history of dictionaries as epistemological resources from the Enlightenment to the present. It debates the changing nature of language, the strategies lexicographers employ to compile word banks and the capital bestowed on them, the connections between dictionaries and readers, the evolution of dictionaries from print to digital, and the marketing mechanisms that have been used. We will also examine the multifaceted nature of the genre (historiographic, etymological, bilingual, specialized, etc.), gaming (crosswords, scrabble, and so on), and other derivatives. While concentrating on the English-speaking world, comparisons with Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, and other languages will be made. Students will collaborate on a study that includes working with Merriam-Webster in Springfield, Mass. Co-taught by Professor Stavans and Peter Sokolowski.

This course is part of a model of tutorials at Amherst designed to enable students to engage in substantive research with faculty in the humanities and humanistic social sciences.

Open to sophomores and juniors interested in research. Limited to 6 students. Spring Semester. Professor Stavans.

If Overenrolled: instructor will shape a diverse class in terms of class year, background, and Five College student.


Attention to Research, Attention to Writing, Languages Other Than English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020