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Riding the Rails: The American Railroad through Literature and Culture with Michael A. Smith

Come ride the rails with criminals and poets, politicians and prospectors!

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Time & Location








About this class:

This is a 12-meeting virtual class using the Zoom platform.

Tuesdays Jan 9, 16, 23, 30, Feb 6, 13, 20, 27, March 5, 12, 19, April 2 - 6-7 pm Central time.

This course will take participants through popular rail spaces inside the train and beyond. From the observation car to the boxcar to Hell on Wheels ghost towns, this course will span American literature and culture while discovering the sometimes secret, hidden, and surprising curves of the transatlantic track. Pulp, poetry, and cinema will be featured along the way, including Zane Grey, C.S. Giscombe, Double Indemnity, and Strangers on a Train.

Instructor bio:

Michael A. Smith received his PhD in English from Duquesne University, where his dissertation focused on the American railroad, geocriticism, and placemaking. He has published research on the poetry of Muriel Rukeyser (Humanities, 2022) and interviewed the founder of geocriticism, Prof. Bertrand Westphal, for the St. John’s University Humanities Review (2023). Michael works with The Fine Foundation.

Humanities North Dakota classes and events are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Humanities North Dakota. However, in an increasingly polarized world, we at Humanities North Dakota believe that being open-minded is necessary to thinking critically and rationally. Therefore our programs and classes reflect our own open-mindedness in the inquiry, seeking, and acquiring of scholars to speak at our events and teach classes for our Public University. To that end, we encourage our participants to join us in stepping outside our comfort zones and considering other perspectives and ideas by being open-minded while attending HND events featuring scholars who hold a variety of opinions, some being opposite of our own held beliefs.

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