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Solitude in Literature

HNRS 2030 Sec. 900 - Spring 2023

Dr. Christine Cloud Hill Memorial Library

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
200 French House

After two years of lockdowns and quarantine, we know solitude quite well...or do we? Solitude is not merely the absence of other people; it is a positive state distinct from isolation, aloneness, or the feeling of loneliness. Great minds have sought out solitude for intellectual and creative pursuits, religious devotion, or communion with nature. In this course, we will encounter some of the most compelling solitary voices among the poets, authors, and characters of English literatureWe will read essayists like Montaigne, Simone Weil, and Annie Dillard on the nature of solitude; Anglo-Saxon laments and medieval mystics; Jane Austen’s Persuasion; Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer; Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince; and poets from the seventeenth century to the present day, including George Herbert, William Wordsworth, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, and Mary Oliver. As these texts reveal the joys and the limits of solitude, they help us to understand: What role does solitude play in the centuries-long quest for the “good life”? What is the relationship between solitude and creativity? How might these texts deepen our own inner lives/experience of solitude? And what will we learn by bringing these solitary voices into the community of the classroom?

Fulfills General Education:

English Composition