The UW-Odyssey Course

The UW-Madison Odyssey Project provides adults facing economic barriers with a chance to start college.

Students enter the program by taking an introductory course in the humanities and arts. Each Wednesday evening from September to May, award-winning UW-Madison faculty and staff introduce students to great works and help them improve skills in writing and critical thinking.

Students read, write weekly, gain a voice, and develop a sense of empowerment through lively discussions of literature, history, philosophy, art, and writing.  

The project director is Emily Auerbach, professor of English and recipient of numerous teaching, arts, and broadcasting awards. Many guest faculty and artists join the class, and students take part in field trips to fine arts performances.

Students successfully completing the two-semester course earn six UW credits in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Here is a partial list of the poems, plays, novels, essays, autobiographies, philosophical works, and historical documents discussed in a typical year. In addition, students examine art ranging from ancient Greece to modern America.

William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience (including “Chimney Sweeper” poems, “Nurse’s Songs,” “Holy Thursday,” “London,” “The Lamb” and “The Tyger,” “The Schoolboy,” “The Little Black Boy,” and others)

William Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up,” “To My Sister,” “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”

Robert Browning, “Porphyria’s Lover”
William Shakespeare, Sonnet #29 (When in disgrace with Fortune) and Macbeth

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself

Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Emily Dickinson, selected poems about the power of writing, the mind, and freedom

Walt Whitman, Selections from Song of Myself

Langston Hughes, poems including “Mother to Son,” “Spirituals,” “Weary Blues,” “Harlem,” “Hard Daddy,” “Little Lyric,” and “Theme for English B”

August Wilson, Fences

Toni Morrison, "Recitatif"

Francisco Jimenez, "The Circuit"

Plato, dialogues from Apology and Crito about Socrates’ teachings, trial, and death; Allegory of the Cave

Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail and "I have a a dream" speech.

Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

James Madison, Federalist Paper #10

Bill of Rights

Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation and Gettysburg Address

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Four Freedoms Speech

Woodrow Wilson, Populist Party Preamble

John F Kennedy, “Ask Not What Your Country . . . “ Speech

Miscellaneous examples of other literary works (on handouts), including a scene from Antigone by Sophocles in which the heroine of that name dies to preserve her right to bury her traitorous brother, and Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour"