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  • Analyzes, Interprets, and Critiques Literature
  • Provides Lively Discussion and Debate
  • Develops Cultural Aptitude

These courses provide the opportunity to read and discuss novels, short stories, memoirs, plays, and poetry. You will explore classic and contemporary literature from ancient texts to current bestsellers as you gain skills to analyze, interpret, and critique writing; develop cultural aptitude; and participate in nuanced discussions and lively debates.

Brilliant Minds

Read examples of works in which brilliant minds use their gifts to entertain, inspire, engage, and enlighten us.

2018 Fall
1 section

Contemporary Irish Short Fiction

Survey some of the best contemporary Irish short fiction, starting with work from icons like George Bernard Shaw and Seamus Heaney.

2018 Fall
1 section

Masterpieces of 20th-Century Literature

This course is devoted to the modernist novels of the 20th century that now enjoy classic status.

2018 Fall
1 section

Novels with a Social Conscience

Examine eight novels that use moving, memorable stories to illuminate the injustices evident in cultures and communities.

2018 Fall
1 section

Reading the World: Selections from Today's Newsstand

Discuss articles from a range of magazines and online platforms, including The New Yorker and Charlie Hebdo.

2018 Fall
1 section

Shakespeare: The Roman Works

Explore Shakespeare’s epic Roman tetralogy: The Rape of Lucrece, Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra.

2018 Fall
1 section

Strange Awakenings: Characters in Search of Themselves

Read short stories, novellas, and novels that use epiphanies to explore fundamental human experiences and emotions.

2018 Fall
1 section

The Great Ones: Artists from the Kennedy Center Honors

Explore the lives and legacies of America’s greatest artists, from dancers and actors to musicians and comedians.

2018 Fall
1 section

The Greatest Journey of Them All: Reading Homer's Odyssey

Relive—or enjoy for the first time—the fabulous adventures of Odysseus as he journeys home to his wife and son after the Trojan War.

2018 Fall
1 section

The Historical Novel

Sample the historical novel, and learn how it has changed over time and why it is flourishing today.

2018 Fall
1 section

The Novel Today

Discuss major new work by today’s top writers, including emerging novelists, award winners, and established favorites.

2018 Fall
3 sections

Women Fiction Writers

By reading some of their acclaimed novels, explore how female authors see the world and portray their distinctive experiences.

2018 Fall
1 section

Reading Ancient Greek

If you have a basic knowledge of ancient Greek, then use your skills to read and discuss an ancient Greek work that changes each semester.

2018 Fall
1 section

1985: Literature Goes Global

Experience literary works written in 1985, an explosive and eventful year on the global stage.

2018 Fall
1 section

Making a Murderer: Novels, Documentaries, and Stories of True Crime

Deepen your knowledge of current events, criminology, psychology, and storytelling’s power by exploring narratives of crime and punishment.

2018 Fall
1 section

The Literary Life in New York

See New York through the lens of four distinctive novelists.

2018 Fall
1 section

Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: The Five Books of Moses (Torah)

Read the first five books of the Bible, tracing the processes by which they were formed and considering the multiple contexts that informed them.

2018 Fall
1 section

2005: The Beginning of 20th-Century Literature

Read novels from 2005 that respond to the conditions that marked the beginning of 21st-century culture.

American Masterpieces of Short Fiction

Explore a diversity of styles, content, and demographics as a way of appreciating the expansive range that American short fiction achieves.

An Afternoon with Thoreau: What Walden Means Today

Examine Thoreau’s Walden in its mid-19th-century context and for its relevance to our current culture and environmentalist thinking.

An Introduction to Dante's Purgatory

Read selections from Dante’s Purgatory, which guides readers through seven levels of suffering and ultimately to Earthly Paradise.

Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Revisited

Explore Annie Dillard’s exhilarating stories of nature that pair first-person storytelling with philosophical and religious questions.

Autobiography and Memoir: Inside the Heart and Soul of Another

Explore the lives, times, and places of others through a variety of autobiographical books, films, and essays.

From Ballad to Rock and Roll: Song and Poetry

Examine links between the English lyric tradition and popular song, from medieval and folk ballads to contemporary singer-songwriters.

Greek Tragedies with Happy Endings

Read three delightful ancient Greek tragedies with happy endings, and explore how the Greeks occasionally imbued tragedy with optimism.

Images of Women

Explore how female writers, from Edith Wharton to Elena Ferrante, have created rich, complex, varied portraits of women.

International Detective Narratives: Around the World with Sleuths

Read selected international detective novels in translation and others by Anglophone writers who set their work abroad.

Literature for the 21st Century

Discover a generation of authors likely to set literary trends well into the 21st century.

Love, War, Peaceful Ending: Reading Homer's Iliad

Read and discuss The Iliad by Homer, a plea for peace embedded in the archetypal epic of war.

Masterpieces of 19th-Century Fiction

Study five major 19th-century classics of literature that have passed the test of time.

Murder, Mayhem, Mystery: The Usual Suspects with Unusual Stories

Explore the history of the mystery novel, and follow how it has changed in style and subject matter over the years.

Nervous Conditions: Contemporary Literature of Sub-Saharan Africa

Explore the vast and diverse terrain of sub-Saharan Africa by reading and discussing literature from the region.

Playing Desert Solitaire with Edward Abbey

Explore the writings of Edward Abbey, whose radical voice is not only a cry in the wilderness, but also a cry for the wilderness.

Plays with a Social Conscience

Examine how eight well-known playwrights bring moving, memorable stories to the stage and illuminate injustices evident in culture and communities.

Podcasts: Short Stories to Go

Learn how to download and listen to a variety of the best podcasts—an emerging form of storytelling for the digital age.

Reading Dante's Inferno

Examine Dante’s Inferno and its key themes, overall message, and place in cultural and literary history.

Shakespeare: The Sonnets

Explore Shakespeare’s sonnets and consider the potentially scandalous stories behind them.

Shakespeare: Wenches, Witches, and Wives

Read and discuss three of Shakespeare’s masterpieces: The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Macbeth.

The First World War and British Fiction: Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End

Read Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End, and discuss the social upheaval brought on by onset of World War I.

The Wilderness World of John Muir

Examine the life and writings of John Muir, whose legacy endures through the Sierra Club and the national park system.

Religion and Literature: From the Bible to James Baldwin

Explore themes—love, death, evil, suffering, and forgiveness—across religious and literary texts from the Western canon and beyond.