University Honors Program

University Honors Program

Culture of Books and Reading

Culture of Books and Reading (HNRS3074) is an University Honors seminar with a study tour to Scotland!

Meeting Time is Saturdays from 10AM - 12:50PM, BOK: DC, HU

Check out the ghost story the 14SS class wrote during their tour  to Edinburgh! 

This course provides a cross-cultural study of books and reading in world societies and how ethnic, religious, and national cultures have regarded the printed word now and in the past.  Looking at the form of the book from cuneiform to contemporary digital texts, students will also have hands-on examination of rare volumes from the University of Cincinnati’s Rare Books Collection to help them learn about cultural approaches over time to sacred, secular, and political writings, and to provide the technical and cultural contexts for contemporary reading habits from graphic novels to social media.  Students will also construct simple forms of books.

As part of this ethnological approach, they will also examine the values, purposes, and material expressions attached to books and libraries, and how a given culture or nation may relate to the culture of the world at large in these ways. 

In addition to local field excursions to repositories and exhibitions to study books and manuscripts, there will be a study tour to Edinburgh, Scotland over Spring Break.  The beautiful city of Edinburgh has been designated a UNESCO City of Literature and is a key center for our seminar’s topics.  From Scotland’s misty legacy of poets, legends, ghosts, and storytellers that gave rise to a culture’s legacy of books and reading to its inspiration for Harry Potter and its influence on reading behaviors in the 21st century, Edinburgh will be a vibrant component of this seminar.  


Tentative Itinerary

Friday, March 14 – depart Cincinnati for Edinburgh

Saturday, March 15 – arrive in Edinburgh, check in to hotel.   Tour the Royal Mile, High Street, Grassmarket Square, and St. Giles Cathedral.

Sunday, March 16 – Morning on your own.  Afternoon: tour of University of Edinburgh Medical Museum and the legends that gave rise to Scottish ghost stories; tour of Greyfriars’ Kirk; exploring reading and social media.

Monday, March 17 – The National Library of Scotland’s rare books and manuscripts, and the mysterious book sculptures; University of Edinburgh and lecture/discussion of the city’s storytelling legacy; the Writers’ Museum; Scott Monument.

Tuesday, March 18 – Day tour to Loch Ness, Glen Coe, and the Highlands.

Wednesday, March 19 – Tour of Edinburgh Castle; the underground city of Mary King’s Close, Canongate; the heights of Arthur’s Seat.  Afternoon on your own.  After dark: ghost tour of Edinburgh.

Thursday, March 20 – Day tour of Loch Lomond and Stirling Castle.  Group dinner.

Friday, March 21 – return to Cincinnati. 

Other activities may include museum visits, book heritage tours, and traditional music.  For the time on your own, information for suggested notable sites and activities of interest will be provided.


Course Information

Course details:

     •  Course number is HNRS3074

     •  Meets on Saturdays at a 10:00AM - 12:50PM

     •  Course Attributes: H, I

     •  BoK: DC, HU

     •  Credit hours: 3

     •  Honors Seminar

Course Expectations

Students are expected to meet the instructor's academic and behavioral expectations during the class time leading up to the travel component. Students who do not meet academic and/or behavioral expectations will not be permitted to travel. Students in this situation will not receive a refund.



Total expected cost to be paid to UC is $1700. The actual cost per person for UC is $2900, but this will be offset by a $1000 grant from University Honors and a $200 grant from UC International Programs, making the actual total expected cost $1700. All participants will receive these grants.

Costs include airfare, accommodations, some meals, some ground transportation, admissions, and tickets.

Costs do not include passport, tips, some meals, snacks, personal supplies, souvenirs, or ISIC (international student identity card, $25).

Students have the choice to purchase an ISIC (International Student Identification Card) from UC International for $25. This is not included in the total expected cost.



The application for this seminar is now closed.

Applicants will be contacted in the beginning of fall semester to arrange an interview with Prof. Kevin Grace, the course professor.

UC undergraduates who are not in the University Honors Program are welcome and encouraged to apply, provided the student has a cumulative university GPA of 3.4 or above. Graduate students are not eligible to enroll. Priority is given to University Honors students, but we are often able to offer spaces to other students as well.

A waiting list will be maintained.


Travel Documents

In order to travel outside the United States, you will need to have passport that is valid for at least six months after your return; for this course, that means September 2014.  To find the forms you need to apply for or renew your passport, go to the Passport page on the US State Department's website.  New passports regualrly cost $135 while renewals cost $110.

UC recommends that students have an International Student Identification Card (ISIC).  UC International has information regarding how to obtain an ISIC.  ISICs are $25.


Please visit the CDC page for the United Kingdom.  Talk to your doctor about which vaccines to get, if any, and any health precautions you should pursue.


Course Director:

Kevin Grace, Head of the Archives & Rare Books Library, with research and collection responsibilities in rare books, urban studies, institutional and government materials, and multicultural documentation; University Archivist; and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the University Honors Program.


Please contact seminar professor Prof. Kevin Grace or André Durham of the University Honors Program.