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Topics in Literary Interpretation I

The Literature of Walking

Two foot prints in purple

” . . . a two-beat miracle, -- an iambic teetering, a holding on and letting go.”

                                                                                    -Paul Salopek, To Walk the World

Walking is literally in our bones. It is a physical act that is considered one of the characteristic traits of our species. It is also a topic, a trope, a theme in a vast worldwide literature. This course will explore the relationship between the two. What ideas about walking permeate these writings, and how might walking itself be conducive to writing, alongside physical well-being, sociability, activism, and contemplation? How has walking figured in the thought and imaginative writing of the past? What does it mean to walk? Focusing on the tropes of labyrinth, pilgrimage, pathway, and trail, we will explore writings that consider walking as physical and emotional therapy, as ritual, as spiritual and creative practice, as protest, restraint, and persecution.


Key texts will include:

  • walking “classics”, many shorter forms (essays, blogs, guidebooks, travel journals, diaries)
  • writing that tackles the politics of walking in urban spaces, enforced walking, and walking that is triggered by war, famine, and persecution.


Assessments will consist of: 

  • Short weekly reflections (20%)
  • A group presentation (20%)
  • A final essay or creative project (30%)
  • A take-home final exam (30%)


  • ENGL 200
  • ENGL 290

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153



Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.