We read. A lot. And not all of it’s student papers. If nothing else we read what we assign, because, well, we have to. And we list our readings for your perusal, because, well, coming up with a reading list solo is hard.
We read literature. Margaret Atwood, Jamaica Kincaid, T.S. Eliot, Zbigniew Herbert, Sylvia Plath, Angela Carter, Ursula LeGuin, Flannery O’Connor, Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami, Andre Dubus. Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Burning Chrome, Denis Johnson’s Jesus’s Son, Julie Orringer’s How to Breathe Underwater, Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Julio Cortazar’s Cronopios y Famas, Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, Jorge Luis Borges’s A Universal History of Iniquity, Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater, Junot Diaz’s Drown, Italo Calvino’s Castle of Crossed Destinies and Invisible Cities and Cosmicomics (we love his versatility in the classroom). We read graphic novels because they belong in the canon too: Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.
We read essays. From Henry Jenkins’s Convergence Culture, Sherry Turkle’s Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, Jessica Hagedorn’s Danger and Beauty, Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good for You. Douglas Wolk, Jamaica Kincaid, Jonathan Lethem, Martha Nussbaum, Michel Foucault. Vivian Gornick’s “On the Street,”Ann duCille’s “Dyes and Dolls,” Robert Scholes’s “On Reading a Video Text,” Marguerite Helmers’s “Media, Discourse, and the Public Sphere,” Julian Dibbell’s “A Rape in Cyberspace,” Jeffrey Cohen’s “Monster Culture: Seven Theses,” Carol Clover’s “Gender in the Slasher Film,” Slavoj Zizek, “The Desert of the Real.” Picture Morpheus in his armchair and mirror-shades, gesturing to Neo as he speaks that phrase, the sky boiled by thunderclouds, lightning. That’s the force we want in our essays. That power. That ability to fascinate and engage.
For ourselves we read everything Dennis Cooper and Gabriel Garcia Marquez; we love His Dark Materials, Lloyd Alexander, anything Atwood; we read journalist perspectives on countries stricken with war and ethnic conflict, and the places where art and trauma intersect: Anita Pratap’s Island of Blood, Lasantha Wickrematunga’s “And Then They Came for Me,” Greg Marinovich’s The Bang-Bang Club, Ben Okri’s Stars of the New Curfew, Chris Abani’s Becoming Abigail, Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost. We read manga: Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. We indulge our grown-up angst and our inner twelve-year-old boy. We believe that good writing emerges from good reading. We change our readings every other year, to prevent ourselves from getting comfortable in our old age with the same old things, because our students keep growing and experiencing the world anew, and if we allow it we–and our reading lists–will fast become outdated.