After defending my dissertation this July, I decided that, once I started at Wittenberg, each Friday would be devoted to reading. I have had little time to read for pleasure (or, quite frankly, for scholarly development outside of current projects) for the last couple of years, and I have deeply missed the period of preparation for my comprehensive exams. While most PhD students seem to gripe about the orals as an onerous task (although I may be wrong about this), I was thrilled to put myself on a schedule of literary gorging. There was a period that January, when the days were quite short, that I decided to put myself on a two novel-a-day schedule on non-teaching days. It certainly improved my teaching because of the infusion of new ideas, but it also helped me come somewhat to terms with the shame of not having read more at my age.
I have always been an avid reader, of course, but when I honestly enjoy something, I read very slowly. When I read Lolita for an American Literature class in undergrad, I had yet to finish the work by the time class arrived because I was distracted by the delicious language, thrilled and disgusted by the perversion, and utterly enraptured by the delicate balance of narration. I eventually finished it, two weeks after the class devoted to the novel. There are many such examples of shame, though--the shame at getting distracted into reading as if there are only a few books in the world.
Furthermore, when I was very young, I got into the habit of obsessive re-reading. I returned time and again to a number of books, which halted my progressive exploration of various canons. During grad school, I worked to read more widely, and now, I rarely return to a work unless I intend to teach it. I think, however, that this is a sad thing. It impoverishes my understanding, and it removes the possibility of familiarity. Baltasar and Blimunda was the last book I allowed myself to read more than once that I had no intention of teaching. I'm working on Love in the Time of Cholera now, sadly late to actually arrive at such a lauded work I know, which erupts at the same tender points into my psyche.
Of course, in this, I am exclusively talking about traditional novels. Web comics and graphic narratives I read repeatedly, hoping always that I can find a way to incorporate Ken Dahl's Sick or all of the volumes of Preacher into a single class. They read differently, though. One of my advisors objected to my distinction between graphic narratives, photography and painting, and more traditional textual literature, arguing that one mobilizes the same strategies in concert in the graphic work that are individually deployed in any of the other genres/forms/modes. I disagree. There is something both light and lingering about the form, that eludes a combination of textual and visual analysis strategies. I'm still struggling to describe it, but it feels