Studies in Writing: Walking

English 4040/7040
Section 01
Alexandra Socarides
Middlebush 210

In this hybrid literature/writing course, we will explore essays, memoirs, and novels that are either about walking or that feature walking prominently. Students will also write pieces that stem from their study of walking as a physical, social, religious, and political undertaking. Throughout the semester, students will keep a walking journal as a way of developing and understanding what a practice of walking and a practice of writing entails, and what the connection is between the two.


This course will largely be driven by all of the questions we might ask about this most mundane activity: What are the joys, opportunities, and dangers of walking? What effect does walking have on memory? Does one walk towards, away, or through? Is walking always a way of being connected to the natural world? Can we walk better, or worse? How do those who move through the world using wheelchairs or crutches complicate norms around walking and perception?How do race and gender affect how we walk? What is the relationship between walking and solitude? Between walking and spirituality? Between walking and protest?


Beginning with nineteenth and early-twentieth-century essays about walking and moving to contemporary novels, articles, and public scholarship on the topic, this course will traverse a diverse array of kinds of writing and will encourage students to attempt new, brave, and experimental writing of their own. Assigned texts will include but not be limited to: essays by Baudelaire, Muir, Poe, Dickens, Thoreau, Woolf, and Rouseau, and book-length texts by W.G. Sebald (Rings of Saturn), V.S. Naipaul (The Enigma of Arrival), Teju Cole (Open City), Thomas Espedal (Tramp), and Harryette Mullen (Urban Tumbleweed).


*Note on accessibility: This course will be accessible to disabled or nondisabled students for whom walking might be difficult or impossible.