On Reading Classics | Discussion

I love classics. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that classics are my preferred genre. Some people can’t seem to fathom that I genuinely enjoy reading books like Faulkner’s Sartoris and Dickens’ Great Expectations and choose to read them in my free time. Perhaps this bewilderment is due to the bad reputation classics have gained from people’s negative experiences of being forced to read them in school. Or maybe classics have become too closely associated with the stereotypical pretentious air that some people put on when talking about this genre of literature. Whatever the reason may be, I’m here to break the barrier once and for all.

Classics don’t have to be scary, dull, or irrelevant; rather, they can be accessible, exciting, and relatable to our personal and societal experiences today. There are always going to be those books you just don’t click with (I’m sorry Bram Stoker, but I just reread Dracula and practically had to force myself to read the last hundred pages) but that doesn’t mean that the entire genre isn’t worth reading.

In an effort to spread my love of classics, here are some of my tips for reading them:

1 || Know the context. Before reading, take a few moments to research the time period and place in which the work was written as well as some information about the author. Knowing the context of a text is helpful for two reasons: a) you can better understand and relate to the characters when you know when, where, and how they are living and b) it helps explain any behaviors or beliefs that might seem odd or problematic to us today. Learning information about the author can also give us insight into why and how the text was written. For instance, while researching Faulkner I learned that he often listened to his elders tell stories about the Civil War, slavery, and his great-grandfather William Clark Falkner. The latter figure must have strongly influenced Faulkner because a similar legendary relative plays an important role in his novel Sartoris. Understanding the context of a work can make it easier to relate to the story overall.

2 || Make character maps. Wuthering Heights? The Sound and the Fury? Forget it: I would be completely lost and confused if I didn’t sketch out a character map. You can make one as you read, though I prefer to research the story ahead of time and map out the characters that way. There are countless helpful resources online that make creating character map easy and incredibly helpful. Even just writing a list of characters and some short descriptions of them can make following the story feel ten times easier.

3 || Take your time. Unless deadlines are imposed on you by others (teachers, professors, book clubs, etc.) there’s no specific point in time by which you have to read a classic. Go as slow as you need to in order to get the most out of the story, even if it takes you twice as long to finish as a different book normally would. Put it down and come back to it after a few days if you feel like you need a break or are feeling in the mood to read something else. There’s no pressure to read anything in one sitting or in a certain number of days, so don’t worry about how long it takes you to reach the final page. The more time you spend with a classic—or any book, for that matter—the more you’re likely to take away from the novel.

4 || Keep an open mind. As with anything you read, it’s important to keep an open mind that’s free from any preconceived judgments or expectations. There’s no use reading something when you already assume you’ll hate it before you even read the first page. Before starting Leo Tolstoy’s tome War and Peace I expected that it would bore me to tears; however, I was surprised to find that I actually looked forward to reading it more and more as I progressed through the novel. I know this tip probably sounds like basic common sense, but sometimes it’s helpful to be reminded of what would otherwise seem obvious. At times it can seem like classics are a genre of literature with their own rules and expectations; in actuality, they’re just like all other books!

It’s perfectly okay to not enjoy classics. I don’t go out of my way to pick up horror or paranormal novels and I don’t judge those who do. However, I do think that classics deserve a second chance.

Do you enjoy reading classics? Do you have a favorite? Did reading classics in school impact your feelings toward this genre? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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An Accidental Book Haul

You know when you drive by a used bookstore and say to yourself: “Well, maybe I’ll just pop in for a few minutes…” That happened to me recently, though a few minutes quickly turned into a few books making their way to the check-out counter with me. Sometimes you just can’t help it…

These are the secondhand books I ended up purchasing:

Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros

I read a few of the stories in this collection for my Modern Latin American class this past semester and really enjoyed them, so I was thrilled when I saw this book on the shelf. Cisneros writes stories about life and culture on the border between Mexico and the United States, which is an incredibly fascinating and important focus. Though this collection is in English, there are plenty of Spanish words and phrases incorporated in her beautiful writing. From what I’ve read of this collection in the past, I know that her writing really makes you think about how we define culture, identity, and borders.

¡Yo! by Julia Alvarez

I’ve always wanted to read something by the prolific writer Julia Alvarez, but I never knew where to start with her novels. When I saw this sitting on the shelf I just decided to go for it and make this my starting point with her work. I was mostly intrigued by the fact that Yo is the name of the protagonist of the novel, yet it also refers to the pronoun “I” in Spanish… I love double meanings like this! I’m really looking forward to finally reading some of Alvarez’s writing.

Solibo Magnificent by Patrick Chamoiseau

I’ve never heard of this book or author before, but after reading the blurb on the back cover I couldn’t put Solibo Magnificent back on the shelf. It sounds like a strangely charming yet morbid story, one unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I’m really interested in learning about oral tradition in general, so I feel like this will be a really interesting book to read from that perspective as well. Fingers crossed this turns out to be a great impulse buy!

J.B.: A Play in Verse by Archibald MacLeish

Okay, I’m going to be completely honest here: I basically bought this book solely because of the gorgeous cover design. (I know, I’m the worst. But just look at that cover! How can you blame me??) After researching it a bit, I learned that it actually won both a Pulitzer Prize AND a Tony Award!!! Needless to say, I’m very excited and intrigued to read this play. I can’t believe I never heard about it until recently!

His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis

Joseph J. Ellis is one of my favorite historians. I love his book Founding Brothers, so when I saw this in the used bookstore I knew I had to grab it. I haven’t read many biographies, but this one on George Washington promises to be meticulously researched, brilliantly written, and incredibly interesting. I haven’t read much non-fiction lately, so this will be a great change of pace whenever I actually get around to reading it.

Hopefully I’ll find time to read at least a few of these books before I leave for England! What are your thoughts on these books? What books have you purchased or received recently? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Is there more to Jane Austen than romance? (YES) | Discussion

Jane Austen’s works are often lauded as masterpieces of romantic fiction, and with good reason: her winding plots of courtships, engagements, and marriages have managed to captivate readers for centuries. Take the famous Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice, for example, who seems to have been placed upon a pedestal as the ideal male love interest (though that’s a problematic topic for another day). Though Austen’s novels are multidimensional works of literature with numerous fascinating facets to consider, the majority of the discussion surrounding these texts (particularly in the online bookish community) focuses solely on the romances they contain. While there is certainly nothing wrong with highlighting the romantic relationships and how they inevitably unfold, I can’t help but feel as though we are missing out on some great discussions by not opening ourselves up to other topics.

For instance, why does no one seem to be talking about the socioeconomic divisions and hierarchies driving these plots forward?  In Emma, the protagonist initially convinces her friend Harriet to not marry Robert Martin because he is not of a sufficient social status and doesn’t possess impressive, influential social connections. Harriet’s eventual rejection of Robert Martin based on a class distinction is what allows her to later grow romantic feelings for Mr. Elton, etc. Towards the end of the novel Emma realizes that she has always thought of herself as the perfect match for Mr. Knightley—and what better way for them to be suited for each other than through their similar social statuses? From this perspective, the entire plot of the novel is in some way motivated and driven by an awareness of class. In fact, it could be argued that many of Austen’s fictional relationships are founded on the basis of class.

Another interesting topic within Austen’s works is the position of women in society. Obviously this comes into play when discussing romance, but here it is viewed from a slightly different angle. To use Emma as an example once more (can you tell which of Austen’s novels I recently read?), she makes it clear from the beginning of the story that she does not wish to be married anytime soon. I would describe Emma as an independent, strong-willed, bold, opinionated, intelligent young woman who can certainly take care of herself—that is, until she ultimately resorts to marriage like nearly every female character in the novel. I don’t mean to suggest that marriage reduces a woman’s independence, or that Austen didn’t believe in the resilience of her gender. Rather, I think these inevitable courtships, engagements, and marriages that keep happening in her novels are Austen’s way of showing us how trapped women were during her time. Even a strong character like Emma can’t make it through a novel without a ring on her finger.

This rambling post is merely my way of wishing for a broader, more varied discussion of Jane Austen’s works (and literature in general, ideally). Talking about books is so much more fun and interesting when a lot of new and different ideas are thrown into the mix. So why not start with these old favorites?

What do you think of Jane Austen’s novels? Do you have a favorite? What are some topics that you wish were more discussed in relation to literature? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

What Cats Do | Book Tag

Cats are great. If I wasn’t allergic to cats you can bet that I would be getting one as soon as I lived somewhere without dogs that would torment it. Cats are independent, their purrs are adorable, and they have the prettiest eyes. Knowing my affection for cats, you can imagine how excited I was when I discovered the existence of the What Cats Do Book Tag. This tag was created by Kate @meltingpotsandothercalamitiesThanks so much to Zuky @ Book Bum for tagging me!!

Purr: As cats do this when they’re happy or relaxed, what is the book that makes you happiest or relaxed?

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. I reread this book almost every summer because it’s such a beautifully told story. I feel like I mention it in nearly every tag I do, but it honestly deserves all the recognition it can get!

Sleep: What is a book that put you to sleep or was just boring?

Last semester I took a course on Renaissance poetry and I’m looking forward to (hopefully) never having to do that again. Not only am I not really interested in that time period, but I just couldn’t take how sexist and repetitive the majority of those sonnets are.

Twitch while dreaming: Have you ever dreamt of a book you read?

YES. I vividly remember dreaming of Hogwarts and adventures with Harry and his friends when I first started reading and watching Harry Potter. I think it had something to do with getting Hedwig back after Draco Malfoy had stolen her…

Seems to play nice…until the claws are out!:  Which book had the biggest plot twist(s)?

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. The end of this book literally made my jaw drop. I’ve been saying this for EONS, but I can’t wait to continue on with this series!

Cuddles: Which book character would you give a hug to?

Stanley Yelnats from Holes by Louis Sachar. I just feel like this kiddo could use a hug after everything he’s been through. Plus, he has one of the best names ever and I’m so jealous.

Catnip: What’s a book that made you have warm and fuzzy feels?

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling. I love Mindy’s books because they’re honest, hilarious, and always leave me with a new perspective. (Also, shout out to the adorable chapter about her friendship with B.J. Novak!)

Cat breeds: Your favorite book(s)?

One of my favorite books is My Ántonia by Willa Cather (whose grave site I recently visited!). Cather’s writing is beautiful and this story dives into some really interesting ideas about travel, nostalgia, and how we develop our own identities.

Getting the cat: How did you find your favorite book(s)?

In the case of My Ántonia, I was assigned to read it for a Cultural Diversity in American Literature class I took during my second semester of my freshman year of college. I LOVED that class, both because of the professor and the subject matter.

Being in places they shouldn’t: Least favorite cliché?

I think one of the most cliche tropes in books is the love triangle. I can’t even explain how much I dislike love triangles in any form, especially when they’re either the entire basis for the plot or completely unnecessary aspects of the plot. (Unfortunately, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is a great example of this latter point.)

The good old cardboard box: Most underrated book series?

I LOVED the Secret series by Pseudonymous Bosch when I was younger, but I only know a few other people who have read it. This series is incredibly clever, creative, and suspenseful!!

Thanks again to Zuky for tagging me! This was such a fun tag! It makes me want to get a cat so badly….

What are your answers to these questions? Do you have a cat? Are you more of a cat person or a dog person (or both!)? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

“Well, at least you’re reading something…” | Discussion

Have you ever heard someone say to someone else: “Well, at least you’re reading something…“?

I hate that phrase.

I’ve usually heard it said in reference to a “fluffy” romance or young adult novel (Twilight often falls victim to this). It bothers me because it appears to come from a place of supposed superiority, as though the person saying it is somehow “more literate” or “intelligent” simply because they read different books. This phrase automatically categorizes certain books as being “better than nothing… but barely.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Reading is reading.

We talked a lot about stigmas attached to certain genres of literature in my Approaches to Literature and Culture class last semester and it all ultimately boiled down to a socially constructed divide between high and popular culture. This divide has been around for centuries in some form or another and it boggles my mind that people still get righteous and uppity about it today. For instance, we read this article written by Ruth Graham that was published by Slate in 2014. In the article, Graham argues that adults should not read books like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green because “if they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.” She asserts that young adult novels are inherently less complex than novels written for adults because the plights of teenagers are also inherently less complex than those of adults. In her mind, “great” literature and “complexity” are inextricably linked, though how she measures this enigmatic characteristic of “complexity” is yet to be explained.

To me, Graham seems like the kind of reader who has likely said “Well, at least your reading something….” at one point. The idea that there is some sort of hierarchy of “great” literature is incredibly frustrating, especially when people are just reading for fun. Who cares if I read Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury or John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars? I’ve enjoyed both novels immensely and see nothing wrong in being able to do so. This is one of the main reasons I try to read a wide variety of literature and reflect that in the book reviews I post on this blog. Reading is reading is reading and there’s nothing wrong with reading what you enjoy.

I might be preaching to the choir here because most book bloggers I’ve interacted with are wonderfully accepting of what other people read. Nevertheless, I think this is a really important topic to keep in mind.

Do you agree or disagree? What are some things people say about what people read that frustrate you? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

I Visited Willa Cather’s Grave

One day while reading a short bio of Willa Cather I stumbled upon the fact that she’s buried in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, only an hour and a half from where I live.

As you can imagine, I was ecstatic.

I was shocked when I learned she’s buried in NH because I knew she was born in Virginia and raised in Nebraska. Though she died in Manhattan, she asked to be buried in Jeffrey because apparently it was where she wrote a lot of her novels. She’s buried there with Edith Lewis, the woman she lived with for decades.

The sign on the Meeting House in Jaffrey, NH.

Recently my mom and I made the trek to Jaffrey to see the grave in person. She’s buried in the Old Burial Ground behind the Meeting House, which is a really beautiful old building in and of itself. When we pulled into the dirt parking lot on that rainy Friday morning we weren’t quite sure where we were headed, but fortunately we easily found her grave site because it’s in a corner near a stone wall (which we had to hop). The burial ground itself was actually kind of beautiful, even though that might sound weird. There were so many old, weathered headstones in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Part of me wanted to just stroll through it row by row and take it all in, but the rain encouraged us to be quick to avoid getting completely soaked. I was almost glad it was raining because it made the day feel cozy, peaceful, and even sort of eerie.

When we finally arrived at her headstone I couldn’t help but gasp. There she was. There’s a great quote from My Ántonia on Cather’s headstone, which made me so happy because I love that book immensely. There were also a bunch of rocks and pennies on her grave, most likely from others who admire her work as well.

I was definitely the happiest person in this burial graveyard (and the only person besides my mom).

Standing in front of Willa Cather’s grave was surreal. Too often it can feel as though authors are these untouchable, legendary figures who live on forever through the pages of their work. While visiting a grave like this it’s impossible to not feel a wave of realization wash over you: this woman was human, with hopes and dreams and flaws and desires just like the rest of us. Though I sometimes like to believe that the books I love hold a sort of elevated notion of truth and meaning that emanates from their spines, it’s important to remember that these texts were written by people just like us. Writers exist beyond their work, which is easy to forget when you’re engrossed in their stories and captivated by their words. Visiting Cather’s grave made everything feel much more real, tangible, and within reach.

Needless to say, I want to read everything that Willa Cather has ever written now, even more so than I did before. I’m so happy I had the opportunity to visit such an interesting piece of literary history— it’s definitely a place I would visit again in the future!

Have you ever visited the grave sites of your favorite authors? (Also, how weird is that question out of context?!) Do you have a favorite novel or short story by Willa Cather? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

MATILDA as a Feminist Text | Discussion

While reading Matilda for the first time ever recently (gasp!), I loved how Roald Dahl places such an emphasis on gender equality in the story. If we consider feminism to be defined as equality between all genders, I would argue that this lovely children’s book is a strong example of a feminist text. Here are 5 quotes that help illustrate this point:

“Matilda said, “Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable…”

This quote depicts girls as active agents in their own lives rather than the passive, conforming subjects that they are often portrayed as in literature.

“A girl should think about making herself look attractive so she can get a good husband later on. Looks is more important than books, Miss Hunky…”
“The name is Honey,” Miss Honey said.
“Now look at me,” Mrs Wormwood said. “Then look at you. You chose books. I chose looks.”

Here Roald Dahl takes a feminist stance by making Matilda’s awful mother possess a misogynistic mindset. This obviously shines a negative light on such prejudice against women by showing how ridiculous it sounds, especially coming from Mrs. Wormwood. By this point in the story, the reader knows that Miss Honey is a kind, smart, lovely individual who is both beautiful and intelligent. In other words, there’s no such thing as having to choose between “looks” and “books”!!

“I’m afraid men are not always quite as clever as they think they are. You will learn that when you get a bit older, my girl.”

I think the message is pretty clear with this one: men are not the only clever ones!

“Being very small and very young, the only power Matilda had over anyone in her family was brain-power.”

Probably my favorite thing about Matilda as a character is that she is a role model for everyone who feels ostracized by a desire to learn and be smart. Here Roald Dahl asserts that intelligence is power– just because one is disadvantaged in other ways doesn’t mean you can’t fight back with words and ideas and wit. Taken even further, one could argue that this also applies to feminism: just because someone is viewed as inferior for being a woman doesn’t mean they can’t challenge this adversity with brain-power. 

“All the reading she had done had given her a view of life they had never seen.”

This might be my favorite quote of the entire book. When I came across it while reading I literally stopped and reread the same line five or six times because I think it perfectly encapsulates one of the most important values of reading. Reading teaches us empathy, something imperative to understanding and accepting everyone around us. If more people read and had empathy, then perhaps feminism would be embodied by everyone.

The fact that this children’s book has such a strong, smart, independent female protagonist is so important for all readers, but especially younger ones. Characters like bookish Hermione Granger and clever Nancy Drew had such a huge impact on me when I was younger and I know that Matilda would have done the same if I had read this book as child. This is just one of the many reasons why Matilda is truly an incredible book!

Would you consider Matilda to be a feminist text? What are your thoughts on what constitutes a “feminist text” in general? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

5 Books to Read If You Like TWIN PEAKS

Recently I finished watching Twin Peaks, the American drama TV series that ran from 1990-91. Created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, Twin Peaks follows the mysterious events transpire in this small town after the murder of Laura Palmer, a local high school student. The best way I can describe this show is that it’s charmingly bizarre (meaning that it’s incredibly weird but in a good way). I loved this show (except for the horrible ending, which I just won’t talk about because AGH) and since I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it I thought I would turn my enthusiasm into a bookish post.

If you’re a fan of Twin Peaks, then you’ve come to the right place for some book recommendations! Here are five books I think you’ll enjoy if you like Twin Peaks (and vice versa):

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

If it’s the unexpectedly bizarre parts of Twin Peaks that you enjoyed most, then Far Far Away is the book for you. What’s more weird than a protagonist named Jeremy Johnson Johnson who can hear more voices than the average person, a talking ghost of Jacob Grimm, and a suspicious baker? It’s safe to say that I’ve never read anything quite like this entertaining, slightly twisted fairy tale retelling.

The Shining by Stephen King

I don’t think it’ll be a surprise to anyone that I’ve decided to include a Stephen King book in this list of recommendations. Not only are his books suspenseful and creepy like Twin Peaks, but they also tend to have a supernatural twist to them. It’s difficult to explain the kind of “otherworldly” elements in both Twin Peaks and The Shining (Is Jack Torrance being possessed by the hotel or is he just going insane?) which makes them a perfect pair.

The Woods by Harlan Coben

This murder mystery shares many parallels with Twin Peaks: the murders of teenagers, a woodsy setting, a protagonist called Cope (similar to Agent Cooper?), and a tangled web of characters that all have secrets of their own to look after. I read this while on a camping trip a few summers ago after my mom read it and absolutely loved it (on second thought, maybe a camping trip wasn’t the best place to read a murder mystery called The Woods…)

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Although this young adult fantasy book might seem out-of-place on this list at a first glance, in actuality it is more similar to Twin Peaks than it seems on the surface. Like Twin Peaks, The Raven Boys takes place in a small town where most people know each other, involves people with “otherworldly” powers, and focuses on the stories of both high schoolers and adults. (Also, Ronan sort of reminds me of the moody James who always rides a motorcycle on Twin Peaks, although I definitely like Ronan more.)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

When I think about how I often describe Twin Peaks as being “charmingly bizarre,” the first book that comes to mind is Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Everything in this short novel is incredibly unexpected and told in a way that will keep you entranced until the very last page has been turned, similar to the captivating suspense of Twin Peaks.

I hope these recommendations are helpful! Are you a fan of Twin Peaks? What are your thoughts on the books I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

War and Peace Newbies Tag

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is a classic I’ve always been curious about but I’ve never actually endeavored to read it. Fortunately, Laura @ Reading in Bed is hosting a read-a-long for especially for people who have never read this classic novel before. The read-a-long starts today and all of the details can be found on her blog here. Thanks so much to Laura for tagging me on Twitter!!

1. Have you read (or attempted) War and Peace? 

No, but it’s one of those classics that has always been on my TBR list.

2. What edition and translation are you reading?

I know that some people really research different editions of books before they settle on one, but for this read-a-long I didn’t really look into all of that in a lot of depth. I’ll be reading the Barnes & Nobles Classics edition solely because I bought it for a super cheap price. The pages are also wonderfully floppy– I mean, as floppy as a 1156 page brick can be. This edition is a translation to English by Constance Garnett.

3. How much do you know about War and Peace (plot, characters, etc.)?

Absolutely nothing, though from what I gather there’s some fighting parts and non-fighting parts.

4. How are you preparing (watching adaptations, background reading, etc.)?

Erm…. I’m not? I want to go into this read-a-long with as much of an open mind as possible, so I have done literally no preparation. I figure that if I need the help of a movie adaptation or background reading then I’ll just watch or read them as I go along.

5. What do you hope to get out of reading War and Peace?

Ideally, I would love to finish this read-a-long with a love of War and Peace and Russian literature in general. At the very least I hope to gain a better understanding and appreciation for Russian literature.

6. What are you intimidated by?

A few months ago I read The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which is the first and only Russian novel I have read up until this point. From this experience I know that I tend to get confused by the complicated Russian names of characters– I can only imagine how confusing a novel of this length could be!! I’m going to try highlighting the names of different characters in different colors as I read and see if that helps me keep them all straight in my mind.

7. Do you think it’s okay to skip the “war” parts?

It depends what you mean by “okay.” Would I skip the “war” parts? Probably not, because I’d like to experience reading the full novel. However, I think if some people want to skip the “war” parts then they’re perfectly fine doing so (so long as they later recognize that they’ve skipped these parts and haven’t read the full) novel.

Thanks again to Laura for tagging me in this tag and for hosting this read-a-long! I can’t wait to get started!!

Have you ever read War and Peace? Do you have any advice for reading this novel or Russian literature in general? Will you be participating in this read-a-long? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

My Problem with Shakespeare | Discussion

Confession: I don’t particularly like Shakespeare.

Usually when I tell people I’m not a huge fan of Shakespeare I receive a piercing glare and a disapproving “Really?” This conversation inevitably results in me trying to defend my opinions while undergoing intense scrutiny from the opposing party. Apathy towards the Bard was the norm when I was in high school, but people’s expectations seemed to change as soon as I entered college. Some people apparently view being an English major and a Shakespeare enthusiast as characteristics that always go hand in hand, as though one cannot be the former without also identifying as the latter.

I hate that this stereotype of English majors exists. Though I love British authors like Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte, I’m actually much more interested in American Literature than British literature. Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Willa Cather, Kate Chopin– these are the writers that fascinate me and make my little English major heart beat with bookish excitement. However, whenever I hear Shakespeare mentioned I can’t help but let out a little sigh of indifference.

The core of the problem is that I haven’t connected with Shakespeare’s works emotionally or deeply in any way. None of his plays have ever resonated with me personally like other texts often do. Does this come from my general disinterest in the time period? Or maybe it stems from the way I was taught to read Shakespeare in high school without actually seeing his plays performed? Whatever the reason, I find it difficult to empathize with his characters. For instance, Romeo and Juliet frustrated me endlessly with their impulsive decisions, melodrama, and plain foolishness. (Juliet, girl, you knew him for mere days!!)

Sometimes I feel like I’m missing the point of Shakespeare. I tend to take his works seriously and often literally when they’re probably meant to be comedic, ironic, sarcastic, or satiric. It’s probably safe to say that the Bard didn’t support the rash decision of the star-crossed lovers to give up their lives for one another; instead, he was probably trying to show how dramatic, emotional, and intense young love can be. (Never mind the fact that it makes for a really entertaining story.) I’m just not good at picking up on Shakespeare’s humor, which means that most of his works tend to fall flat for me. I completely recognize that this is an individual preference and I’m certainly not blaming Shakespeare for my inability to understand his intent– I just don’t the process of trying to figure it out!

I don’t mean to say that I hate Shakespeare’s works; rather, I’m sort of indifferent to them. Sometimes they’re enjoyable and entertaining, whereas other times I’m counting down the pages until I can close the play for good. However, I can say that I’ve recently gained a greater appreciation for his skill with language as well as his significant contributions to English literature in general. I still plan to continue reading as many of his plays as possible this summer to expand my Shakespeare horizons– fingers crossed I find one that I love!

Until then, the Bard and I will just have to agree to disagree.

What are your thoughts on Shakespeare? Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play? Have you encountered this English major stereotype before? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY