In a verse letter to a friend, John Donne wrote, "Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls, / For thus, friends absent speak." He was talking about handwritten letters sent to personal friends. But the printed word also has the power to bring people together, to let writers speak with readers, and to bridge distances that separate readers from writers and from one another. By reading what men and women who lived 400 years ago wrote and read, we can learn from their experiences — which included frequent outbreaks of plague and other highly contagious illnesses — and gain perspective on our own lives in this time of global pandemic.


Theresa DiPasquale
Gregory M. Cowan Professor of English Language and Literature

Theresa DiPasquale is a teacher and scholar specializing in English Renaissance literature and culture. She offers courses on 16th and 17th century English writers, including Shakespeare, Donne, Lanyer and Milton, as well as classes on magic, science and mathematics in literature.

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COVID-19: A Liberal Arts Approach to the Study of a Global Pandemic was created in the spring of 2020 as a special one-credit course for Whitman College’s most newly admitted students, offering them an opportunity to get to know our distinguished faculty and to study a significant event in human history.