Deep Read | 7 February 2020

Humanities Institute launches new ‘Deep Read’ initiative with spotlight on Margaret Atwood


February 06, 2020
By  for UCSC News

The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz has launched “The Deep Read,” a new initiative that invites the campus—and the community at large—to take a deep dive into literature, art, and the most pressing issues of the day.

(photo by C. Lagattuta)

The idea is to read books from a wide variety of genres and explore their implications on our politics, inner lives, and communities. Driven by our rapidly changing and tumultuous times, The Deep Read is designed to be a new platform for intellectual engagement, classes on campus, and major events with top writers and thinkers.

The inaugural Deep Read book selected for 2020 is Margaret Atwood’s latest Booker Prize-winning novel, The Testaments–a sequel to her 1985 classic about a dystopian future, The Handmaid’s Tale, which was adapted into a critically acclaimed television series.

To kick off the program, The Humanities Institute (THI) at UC Santa Cruz is giving away free copies of Atwood’s The Testaments to the first 1,000 students to sign up for The Deep Read, and another 200 books to the first Deep Readers outside the campus who sign up as well.

(photo by C. Lagattuta)

The program, which includes digital programming to help deepen the reading experience and salons hosted by UCSC in Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, and New York, runs parallel with a class and various events on campus, bringing insights from such fields as Literature, Feminist Studies, Engineering, and Anthropology to bear on Atwood’s work.

It all comes together with a visit by Margaret Atwood to UC Santa Cruz’s Quarry Amphitheater on April 5 for a conversation with alumna Kate Schatz, the New York Times bestselling author of Rad American Women A-Z, as part of the Humanities Division’s annual Peggy Downes Baskin Ethics Lecture Series. Admission is $30, but free tickets will be available to the first 1,000 students who register to attend.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled about the Deep Read program,” said UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive. “UCSC’s reputation as a home to cross-campus collaboration is built on exactly this kind of initiative. It brings people together through common purpose and inquiry. The conversation extends into the greater community, too. That can pay even greater dividends on a host of issues.”

Literature professor and Porter College provost Sean Keilen worked closely with The Humanities Institute in developing the program.

(photo by C. Lagattuta)

“Reading and lively conversation are the heart and soul of higher education,” said Keilen. “By creating The Deep Read, in collaboration with the colleges, The Humanities Institute makes it clear that on our campus, the foundation for a peaceful and flourishing community is the free exchange of ideas, grounded in shared texts and common concerns.”

“As a member of the Literature Department, I am especially glad that a novel was chosen to launch this new program. Great works of fiction reveal the truth of other people’s circumstances like no other genre of human activity and, in doing so, allow us to pass beyond the limits of our own experience, change, and grow,” he added.

Atwood’s work has been published in over 45 countries, and she is the author of more than 50 books of fiction, poetry, critical essays, and graphic novels. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Franz Kafka International Literary Prize, the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award.

“UC Santa Cruz is known around the world for its learning communities and I can’t imagine a better way to pull a community together–regardless of their location–than through a discussion of an important author like Margaret Atwood and her newest book The Testaments,” noted Irena Polić, managing director of The Humanities Institute.

“One of our core commitments at The Humanities Institute is engaging with the broadest community possible–from first-generation students and scholars in every discipline, to local residents and anyone interested in making sense of our complex world,” she added.

The 2020 Deep Read Program is made possible through the generous support of the Helen and Will Webster Foundation.

Sign up here to join The Deep Read community (free copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments go to the first 1,000 UCSC students and 200 community members across the country). Tickets are now available for Margaret Atwood in conversation with alumna Kate Schatz at the UCSC Quarry Amphitheater on Sunday, April 5 Admission is $30, (free tickets available to the first 1,000 UCSC students who register). For questions, email