Reading and Writing the Literature of Social Engagement

Discovery Core Experience: VLPA Courses


60-Second Syllabus: Reading and Writing the Literature of Social EngagementVisual and Literary Arts Icon

About This Course: 

This course takes its inspiration from psychiatrist Robert Coles, who for many years taught an enormously popular course at Harvard entitled, “The Literature of Social Reflection.” As an educator, Coles advanced the premise that lifespan exposure to literature—particularly works of social observation—could inform and enhance readers’ experiences within, and contributions to, the lived world. Such a reading practice prioritizes character, courage, and compassion. Members of this class will join in a quarter-long exploration of this premise as it might prove relevant to our own lives and those of people we contact through daily life. Throughout the course, class members will be encouraged to explore and help transform the literature of civic engagement. Along the way, we will employ course materials, assignments, and activities as means by which to cultivate and enhance capacities crucial for constructive encounter with difference (creative coexistence)—such as generous reading, active listening, attentive observation, dialogue, reflection, negotiation, and conflict resolution.

Professor Linda Watts (She/Her/Hers)

Image of Linda Watts

About Professor Watts: 

  • B.A. Individualized Major, University of Delaware
  • Ph.D. American Studies, Yale University




"My preparation and principles cause me to seek holistic approaches to the study of culture; to pursue interdisciplinary forms of inquiry; to engage contextual issues of inequality, injustice, and silence; and to view teaching, scholarship, and service as (in part) potential agents of cultural intervention and change." -Professor Watts​