With three literature classes, life these days is a never-ending stream of new books. Here’s what I’ve been reading for class lately!
The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
I’m reading this for my senior seminar. It’s a biographical novel based on the life of Nat Turner, a slave condemned for leading an insurrection against his white owners in 1938 Virginia. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Styron imagines and explores the psychology of slavery and oppression. Writing in the late 1960’s at the time of the Civil Rights and Black Power movement, he ties the cultural ideas of Nat’s time with the issues of the day. Although it’s not something I’d read on my own, I’m enjoying getting to know Nat’s mind and delving deep into Styron’s complicated argument.
The Rape of Lucrece by William Shakespeare
In this long poem, Shakespeare takes on the classical myth of Lucrece, a chaste wife who is violently raped by Sextus Tarquin in ancient Rome. In it, he delves deep into the minds of his characters, exploring the psychology of rape and its deeply rooted consequences. It’s an extremely disturbing text, especially since so much of the mindsets are still so prevalent in rape culture today. Although it left me extremely unsettled, I found myself enraptured in Shakespeare’s words and deeply moved.
Here’s a clip of an actress performing a musical rendering of the text:
The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capelanus
Commissioned by Marie, the Countess of Champagne in the late 12th Century, this is one of the most important texts in the Courtly Love tradition. It’s written as a treatus addressed to a young man named Walter. Cappelanus writes out the rules and guidelines of Courtly Love. It’s a strange text, filled with discourses, rules, and statements that are shocking to readers today. Honestly, this text was really hard to get through. Although entertaining at points and definitely disturbing, it was really boring.
The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn
I’ve been sneaking chapters of this book in my free time. I have to write a paper on it for my senior seminar in a few weeks. Inspired by Dickinson’s letters and poetry, Charyn imagines the life of the beloved poet. The novel begins with young Emily studying at Holyoke seminary and follows her life and development of writing. What’s interesting about this book is that writing isn’t the emphasis–Charyn seems much more concerned with events in Emily’s life and how they impact her consciousness. I’m not sure what I’ll say in my paper, but I do know that I adore this book so far. Unlike so much assigned reading, it feels like reading for pleasure. I’m about halfway through and find it utterly delightful.