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Department faculty offer "Readings for Our Time"

Members of the UVa English Department have suggested the following texts as ones that might be helpful to students, colleagues, and other members of the community in relation to current circumstances.

The surge in sales for George Orwell’s 1984 and, more recently, for Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale suggests that there may be a hunger these days for readings relevant to the moment.  Members of the UVa English Department have suggested the following texts as ones that might be helpful to students, colleagues, and other members of the community in relation to current circumstances.  

We have provided links (and in one case an attachment) where appropriate.  Local bookstores and libraries should have copies of others.  The English Department has a small budget for purchasing single copies should individuals interested in particular texts find them beyond their means. UVa’s Center for the Liberal Arts has a separate budget, also small, for buying individual copies for K-12 teachers. To receive a book under either of those auspices, please send an email to luftig@virginia.edu.

1.     Michael Levenson, the William B Christenson Professor, recommends Sophocles’s Antigone (play, available in various translations): “I read it,” Levenson says, “as a great refugee text.”

 2. Devin Donovan, a lecturer in the writing program, recommends two readings: a) this excerpt from Kenneth Ruscio's commencement address to the 2011 class of Washington & Lee University, in which, Donovan says, Ruscio “asks his audience to approach life with an appreciation for nuance, even though he recognizes how alluring the ‘security blankets of certitude’ can be for us, and b) Rumi’s “The Guest House,” which Donovan calls “a nice meditation on how difficult it is to be human, and how we might approach that difficulty with generosity and gratitude instead of anger or fear”: https://allpoetry.com/poem/8534703-The-Guest-House-by-Mewlana-Jalaluddin-Rumi

 3. Writing Program lecturer John T. Casteen IV suggests Albert Camus’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech for its depiction of the Writer as Public Intellectual: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1957/camus-speech.html

4. Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here is recommended both by Writing Center Director Patricia Sullivan and by Vanessa Braganza, recent alum and former VP of the UVa English Student Association.

5. Victor Luftig, Director of the Center for the Liberal Arts, suggests Adrienne Rich’s “North American Time,” as a way of thinking about the pertinence of poetry in a time of crisis: http://macaulay.cuny.edu/eportfolios/smonte10/files/2010/08/North-American-Time.pdf

6. Professor Mrinalini Chakravorty is teaching a very timely course on “Migrant Fiction” this semester and offers two lists: “the first,” she says, “focuses on writers from the countries specifically named in the travel ban that I’ve read and have had friends recommend.  I’m sure there are others that I’m not familiar with.  The second list contain books that speak to the theme of the course from other vantage points.”

Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North (Arabic Novel Translated by Denys Johnson-Daviesl, Sudan)

Amal Al-Jabouri's "Hagar Before Occupation/Hagar After Occupation” (Arabic Poetry Translated into English by Rebecca Gayle Howell, Husam Qaisi, Iraq)

Adonis: Selected Poems (Translated from Arabic by Khaled Mattawa, Syria)  

Nuruddin Farah, Gifts (Novel, Somalia)

Ahmed Fagi, Homeless Rats (Libya)

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (Graphic Novel, Iran)

Ghasan Kanafani, “Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories” (Hilary Kilpatrick, translator from Arabic, Syria/Palestine)

Simin Behbahani, A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems (Translated from Farsi by Farzaneh Milani and Kaveh Safa, Iran).

Ibrahim Al-Koni, The Bleeding of the Stone (Translated from Arabic by Maya Jayyusi, Libya)


Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Refugees

Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands

W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants

Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

Michelle Cliff, No Telephone to Heaven

Teju Cole, Open City

Sam Selvon, Lonely Londoners

Caryl Phillips, A Distant Shore

Tuesday, February 14, 2017