Believe it or not, there actually are some people out there who really (and I mean really) enjoy tearing texts apart (figuratively, mind you) and just figuring out all the mechanical stuff. They are known as English majors. More specifically, English majors of the literary persuasion.
We’ve managed to somehow assemble a group of these people for the rough beginnings of a group that is dedicated, more or less, to the fun of reading with a critical eye.
So how does it work? Well, we’ve decided to try and develop a reading schedule including novels, plays, stories, poems, and multimedia texts so we can all get together once every two weeks to provide our own bearing on the subject at hand and exchange analytical insights. Think of it as an informal book club on steroids that doesn’t include a bunch of old women talking about how nice Agatha Christie’s plots are (no offense to any who may identify). Think of it as a literature class (perish the thought!) that doesn’t mind getting stuck on weird tangents for a while and just splashing around in the intellectual puddle. Think of it as a group of classy, bright people getting together to share ideas based on a specific text.
There’s more to it than that, though. We’re planning on asking professors across campus to come in and give the discussions real heft. We’re planning on reading non-Western, non-canonical, and definitely a few nonsensical texts so that we can challenge our understanding of our field. We’re planning on putting together an undergraduate conference for English majors to present really bang-up papers and projects from all areas of the department. We’re planning on taking some time for professional development in whatever ways we can. We’re even planning a prolonged engagement with some of Kurt Vonnegut’s texts and an adventure to Indianapolis to explore the Kurt Vonnegut library in March. We’ve got ideas, and we’re going to try to get them moving.
We understand that everyone has class (it is college, after all) and a full, if not overflowing, platter of responsibilities. So we’re electing to meet every two weeks rather than every week. We’re hoping this breathing room will give everyone ample time to read the text in question. We hope that no one fears joining because they think they may have too much to read. We are not going to put people on trial for not doing the reading. We’re actually really sweet when it gets right down to it. We’re just trying to create a rigorous yet relaxed atmosphere in which we can work out texts and “escape, not from, but into living” (Cyril Connolly).
We meet every other week at 7:30 (the room has been changing, alas, but check our website for current info), and we’ve even got things planned up to March. Ask to be added to our Facebook group (Ball State Literature Group 2011) to get all of the information your little heart could desire. We would really love to have everyone come and share with us. And maybe you can help us come up with an actual name! We really need one.
If all else fails, hey, we’ve got donuts!
Jeremy Carnes & Ben Rogers