"A Community of Close Readers"
by Isabelle Rosini (B.A. English '20)
At the beginning of each semester, English majors receive their syllabi with mixed feelings. Excitement arises within us because we get to do what we love for homework: read. Alongside this excitement, however, fear abounds, and we wonder how we will be able to complete a small library’s worth of books in less than four months. In the midst of all our class reading, though, many of us still find time to read for fun.
And for that ever burning desire to discuss, discover, and, yes, read for pleasure, there is English Society. English Society holds monthly book discussions which are led by members of the English faculty and student officers. These discussions provide an excellent opportunity for English majors to practice their craft without the pressure of the classroom. Lindsay Myers, a two-time graduate of Catholic (B.A. English ’13 and M.A. ’18) and former president of English Society, understands that English Society’s attraction is twofold: “English Society gives you the opportunity to discuss important, classic, or just really good books from the Canon with other people who are invested in the same thing. But then on the other side, which I think is more compelling, is that you can go in with your guard down, you can let the author do what he/she wanted to do with the book.” Lindsay also explains why informal book discussions can be just as productive as the ones that students have in formal class settings: “You can be casual when talking about books. Its ok for you to say ‘that was really awesome’ and not be able to fully articulate why with a thesis. I think that English Society allows you the opportunity to stretch your analytical and literary muscles more slowly.”
Makenzie Winter (B.A. English ’19), like Lindsay, views English Society as a place for book lovers to share their perspectives. She clarifies, though, that informality does not equate to unpreparedness: “Everyone comes prepared, having read the book, ready to discuss favorite passages and persisting questions with vigor — It's what every English course aspires to be.” But It is not just current students who come ready to defend or question the book of the month. Having stayed in D.C. after graduation, Wesley Cocozello (B.A. English ’14) attends English Society every so often to rejoin what he calls a “community of close readers.” He says: “For me, as an alumnus, going to English Society reminds me that I can read simply for the joy and the challenge of it, a reminder I need rather frequently working in a professional world that prizes extracting only what you think you need from a given text."
Although English Society is based out of the English Department, the group welcomes and encourages students from all majors to attend. Lindsay remembers appreciating the perspectives of non-majors: “It is nice when you hear from the occasional engineering, philosophy, theology, or history student … someone who you are probably not going to encounter as much in your junior and senior years of undergraduate. It’s nice to realize that you don’t have to be a trained professional in reading books in order to have a book mean something to you or have something meaningful to say about it.” So English majors, non-majors, alumni — if you are thinking about coming to the next English Society discussion, stop thinking and start reading! We hope to see you there.
Book discussion selections for Spring 2019: Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis, and a Bob Dylan album (TBA). To learn more about English Society at Catholic U., please visit the English department webpage, follow English Society on The Nest, or look for event announcements on Twitter.