‘Instead of spending my afternoon I think I’ll save it.’ Newlin Archer said those words in Wharton’s Age of Innocence as he contemplated how to pass a summer day. Now that exams are over and the term has finished I am thinking about what to read this summer and next term. After exams in 2010 I decided to read theory all summer then changed my mind. Instead of theory I enjoyed re-reading some favorite authors from Rushdie to Lyly, with Toril Moi tossed in for good measure. It was a marvelous reading summer which I spent with texts chosen purely for pleasure.
Pleasure reading can feel like a stunning luxury after a study year spent reading with such focus and intensity. After working with the Advanced Units this year I am thrilled to say that pleasure reading and ‘study’ reading seem to have merged into a more insightful experience. This is a very welcome realization right now because I am deciding what units to read next year and how I will use my precious time this summer.
This summer feels like a wonderful gift I’ve just opened. I feel very excited and happy to approach new reading material. Thinking about what units I want to read next term is important to me and influences the reading choices I will make for this summer. Right now it is a bit of a dilemma. I joined the English and Comparative Literature program to become a better writer. One big factor informing the save versus spend metaphor is how what I read inspires what I want to write creatively. At first I thought courses in Modern literature and texts written closer to our time would provide greater resources for my creative projects since the form, language and issues are more familiar.
Familiar does not seem to be necessary or even helpful for inspiration. It also does not help me solve the problem of choosing what units to pursue next term and how to spend my summer reading time. To my surprise the medieval and early modern texts are incredibly inspiring though they are much more difficult to read; one fantasy I have is finishing this degree and moving to Rome to become a Dante scholar.
Becoming a Dante scholar in Rome is a highly romantic notion though I could happily read The Divine Comedy for the rest of my life and Rome is one of my favorite cities. I am not so confident about reading Hemingway or Faulkner the rest of my life even though the historical period when they lived and wrote is central to my own creative projects and interests. Sometimes I think it would be best to finish this degree as quickly as possible then I wonder what that would really achieve. My reading list would look quite different this summer if I selected units to get through courses quickly. Is that really how I want to spend my summer reading time?
Instead of spending my reading time this summer I think I will save it to read texts that will enhance both my creative writing work and my study projects. Like Mr. Archer, saving my summer afternoons to nurture a romantic notion and passionate attachment somehow feels like the most productive, pleasurable choice. I am heading to my hammock with Shakespeare and Chaucer to savor summer time.