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Literature at Sea: A Brief History of Existence

Vitally important to human existence (and perhaps foundational to all matter) is the sea, of which we know relatively little. Take an imaginative deep dive into this space through literature.

CurriculumAll CohortsFacilitators

Learning Goals

The first philosopher in the West, Thales, theorized water to be the originating element of all nature. Fast forward to today, and not only is this still plausible, but we know relatively little about the deep sea. From exploration to war to global Internet cables, the sea has been and continues to be a central space in human history, separate from our landlocked everyday existence, but literally and figuratively underpinning it.

Together, we will take an imaginative deep dive into the sea through literature. Spanning from Homer to computer-based writing, we will develop a working knowledge of the sea as subject, setting, and structuring force in literary history. The goal is to develop a rich new way into not just reading books but perceiving the world.

Learners will definitely walk (or swim) away with enhanced literary knowledge. More individual goals, such as philosophic or writing projects, can be discussed as we go along.


This study will be spread out over 12 weeks, with a discussion meeting each week (60-90 minutes, depending on enrollment). We will also have a forum space for ongoing discussions as we read as well as sharing related material such as videos, games, and sea shanties for those who wish to become even more immersed in this water-based world.

In addition to the discussion time, there will be approximately 3-4 hours of reading per week. To accommodate flexible needs, only one text will spill over into a second week and most weeks will include selections should you need to make adjustments over time.

As we progress, I will provide valuable context (literary and historical), insights into what is called the “blue humanities,” and guidance on sometimes challenging reading and the wider task of developing humanistic knowledge. I have a PhD in English, and have been teaching literature at university since 2015, but this topic is one I am just beginning to pursue. Accordingly, this will be a shared journey, but I will make efforts to help everyone get the most out of the material, whether for intellectual or creative pursuits.

Who Should Sign Up

The ideal participant is someone genuinely interested in reading and being involved in a lively discussion group. Since some texts will be older or experimental, the ideal participant should be open to learning from a wide range of literature, though all texts will be very worthwhile with often unexpected treasures to discover.

An interest in the sea would, of course, make this course particularly exciting, but that can come later. This is intended broadly as a unique co-learning experience, going on an adventure through the history of literature and the process of developing humanistic knowledge.

Additional Details

No further purchases, such as of books, are required.

Scholarships available — please email if you're interested in a reduced scholarship rate.

12 weeks

Participants should have college-level reading comprehension in English. No further skills or background knowledge are required.

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