Category Archives: Reading

A Question

I’m thinking of teaching The Clansman by Thomas Dixon next semester. Dixon was a white supremacist, an admirer of the Confederacy, and a staunch supporter of Jim Crow. The Clansman, the second installment of a trilogy about the post-Civil War South, became the basis of one of the most influential films in cinema history, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. The novel is replete with racist invective and celebrates the KKK. It is also a historically significant text that provides insight into the ideology of white supremacy and the political uses of the genre of historical romance. Do you think this kind of fiction belongs in the classroom? Would you be interested in reading such a book in one of your courses? If you have any thoughts on this matter please share them, either in the comments field of this post or via email. I appreciate your feedback.

Hard Copy

A study was undertaken in 2013 with tenth-graders in Norway, where the students were divided into two groups. One group read two texts (1,400–2,000 words) in print and the other group read the same texts as PDFs on a computer screen. In the reading comprehension test that was administered, the students who read on paper scored significantly better than those who read the texts digitally. It was easier for those who read on paper to remember what they had read. Mangen et al. say that this is because paper gives spatio-temporal markers while you read. Touching paper and turning pages aids the memory, making it easier to remember where you read something. Having to scroll on the computer screen makes remembering more difficult.

Bookfish (HUM220/ HUM303/ HUM415)

Look at this book. Nothing in it is accidental. It is written. Everything has been put here for a reason. This certainty provokes our desire. There is a message here to interpret. How are we to understand it?

Knowledge is formed according to different methods. You can study the history of a thing, its development. You can analyze its structure by breaking it into parts.

Think of a fish. If you want to know the fish you can observe it: watch its action and see where it goes. If you really want to understand the fish you can capture it. You can kill it and open it up. Doing so entails a necessary violence. Understanding comes at a price.

The same is true for a book. The moment of fully engaged reading is like a swimming fish: pure process, complete absorption. That’s the story, working; the spell produced by its movement. But any effort to account for the story—to explain how it works—requires stillness.

Creating stillness—arresting the story in order to understand how its effects emerge from the interrelationship of its elements– is the act of interpretation.

Spring Readings for HUM303

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899) 9780141441672

Like chattel slavery, colonialism is Gothic in the extreme. In projecting his own shadows onto the African landscape, the European is ultimately imprisoned by that which he attempts to master.

Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya, or The Moor (1806) 9780199549733

A Terror Novel written at the time of the Haitian Revolution. Incest, murder, supernatural evil, and miscegenation.

Nick Groom, The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction 9780199586790

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) 9780140437959

Jacobs is working in the vein of the Gothic Romance, influenced by a subgenre established by Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

Thierry Jonquet, Mygale (1995) 9780872864092

A roman noir that slips into the nightmare territory of involuntary surgery and subterranean imprisonment.

Franz Kafka, The Castle (1922) 9780805211061

Kafka uses a core image and setting of the Gothic to explore the centerlessness of modernity.

Considered and deferred:

RL Stevenson, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca

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