Tuesday 2 November 2010

What are you reading? Sarah Hardy, Peer Mentor

This semester I am taking 'Jamestown to James Brown' which traces the African American experience from slavery to the twentieth century meaning that I am reading a mixture of historical essays, slave narratives and antebellum slave poetry. Outside of the set texts I have been reading Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father which both reinforces many of the themes we look at in 'Jamestown', and also has been an enjoyable and very manageable read.

In September I read Richard Wright’s Native Son which tells the story of Bigger Thomas’s murders, rapes and subsequent trial in Chicago in the early twentieth century. Wright states in his introduction that in writing Native Son he hoped to illustrate the everyday discrimination and poverty faced by African Americans in a narrative that 'would be so hard and deep' that the white audience would 'have to face it without the consolation of tears'.  80 years after its publication Wright’s novel is still an uncomfortable and at times shocking read, possibly more so as many of the themes and frustrations raised in the novel are still relevant and manifest themselves in modern explorations of the African American experience such as The Wire.

This semester I have also been reading Milton’s Paradise Lost as part of the Thursday reading group. Although confusing to follow (particularly as I have no basic knowledge of the Bible) each week I find I am able to understand more and follow the subsequent discussion. I particularly found our reading of Book 4 interesting as I could see Milton’s direct influence on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which I studied in Year 1. However, whether my enthusiasm for Milton will last remains to be seen as the epic charity reading in December may prove to be overkill...

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