Fall 2019 Undergraduate English Courses

090:294 SAS Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar: Reading in Slow Motion

Reading in Slow Motion

090: 294: H2     20148  MTH 4 CAC, BRT-SEM


Fulfills the WcD Core Requirement.

Counts as elective credit towards the English Major and Minor


In this course, we will read one volume of nonfiction prose, Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby. Solnit is an essayist, an independent scholar, a memoirist, a theorist, and an activist who has mastered the arts of curiosity: her interests range over natural disasters, crime, gender relations, the history of photography, environmentalism, wandering and getting lost. In The Faraway Nearby, Solnit contends with loss—of memory, of family, of connection—and she meditates on why we rely so heavily on stories to rescue us from despair.

Why one book? We learn not by reading, but by re-reading. And yet, you could scan university syllabi the world over and you would find few, if any, courses where students are given the time necessary to reread a text that has already been covered. In this seminar, we will be learning about how we read by moving slowly through a text that is rich, challenging, and unsettling.

Why this book? Solnit is writing about a question at the heart of the human endeavor: what is the relationship between meaning and mortality? 

What else will we read? We will build the rest of the reading list together as we move through Solnit's text, following her lead. We will read the works she is reading and we will become better and better at seeing her work as being in dialogue with a host of other works.

What will you do besides read? This is a course in essayistic thinking. As such, it is a course designed to cultivate curiosity and original, research-based writing. There will be daily, graded, in-class responses to the day’s reading; there will be brief formal submissions along the way, as we make our way through Solnit's book. And there will be a final, research-based paper that explores a question of the student’s choosing.

Who should take this course? Anyone who wants to be a better reader. Anyone who wants to learn how to write creatively about the real world. Anyone who wants to acquire the habits of the creative mind. STEM students, students in the social sciences, and students in the humanities all will find much of interest in Solnit’s work.

To apply for admission, fill out the form located here. (Students need not be in SAS Honors or English Honors to be admitted to this course.) Applications will be reviewed in the order received. Accepted applicants will receive special permission numbers to register for the course.