Program in Comparative Literature

Reading World Literature

In search of lost time: reading worl literature


What is Reading World Literature?

“Something else to talk about.”

Reading World Literature is a Community-Based Learning approach to the humanities. In the program, graduate students teach courses on works of enduring literary value to incarcerated persons in a correctional facility. Working in conjunction with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO), it provides an opportunity for our graduate students to share their passion for literature, develop as teachers, and get involved in our community.


 What is Community-Based Learning?


When we say community, we mean it in the sense of communitas as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it:


“a strong sense of solidarity and bonding that develops among people experiencing a ritual, rite of passage, or other transitional state together.”


It is a focus on collaboration, reciprocity, reflection, and citizenship that distinguishes community-based learning. Reflection allows students to connect their community work with a deeper sense of civic engagement or Citizenship. Reciprocity reminds us that all participants in Reading World Literature have something to learn and something to teach, putting us all on more equal footing. Collaboration gives all participants agency to form their own learning goals and to shape their own program experiences.  


We offer literature courses with both intellectual and personal outcomes: critical thinking skills developed through close reading literature, intellectual curiosity brought on by new or unfamiliar ideas, and increased confidence from discussion of the text with a close-knit learning community. Instructors propose a reading schedule, develop thoughtful discussion questions, and pair the text with multimodal activities or supplementary handouts for further information.


Core Values



We believe literature is primarily a meeting place, secondarily a professional discipline.  We believe in a student-centered approach to encourage learning from others through engagement with literature. Dialogue is an essential aspect of the program.



Literature provides an opportunity for self-reflection, both when it is read and when it is discussed. Engaging with literature provides opportunities for self-discovery, self-efficacy, and critical thinking.



The Reading World Literature Program fosters human connection in the meeting ground of the literary text. Both University of Texas participants and those from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office have something to learn and something to teach in our program. University of Texas graduate students will lead class sessions in teams of two to model collaboration as well as to provide witnessing and accountability during the class sessions.



Above and beyond the professional integrity mandated by a career in the Humanities, the Reading World Literature program is committed to contributing to the community as educators to make the study of literature available to as wide an audience as possible.