Classes with the Best Reading Lists at Kenyon

Image via Matthias Stom

Now that I am an old and grumpy senior, I have begun to spend my time one of two ways. The first way is by complaining about how crowded the servery is at noon and attributing the crowd to the extra 90 students that admissions allowed to enroll this year and the year previous. (Related: admissions, if you are going to get rid of the supplemental essays, you better get ready to really, really improve your enrollment math because the servery just can’t handle any more of us). The second way I spend my time is by reflecting on how much and how well I’ve read during my years at Kenyon. I thought my fellow seniors (and some extra-smart juniors and sophomores) might also feel that they’ve become very well-read during their time here, so I asked a bunch of them to recommend the classes they’ve taken that have had the best reading lists.

Jordi Alonso ’14- Modern American Poetry (Spring 2012 with Daniel Mark Epstein) . Personally, I was having trouble breaking out of a sort of poetic rut I’d dug myself into, and reading modernist American poetry, and really analyzing and reading the poems very closely, both within their historical contexts and outside of them, made me notice trends in both the greater scope of American poetry and, in a much lesser, but more impactful way, trends in my own poetry. After taking the class, I finally felt that, as a burgeoning modern American poet, I fit somewhere in the spectrum. Much more prosaically, I simply loved the class because I got to talk a lot about my favorite poets.

  • Reading list: the Library of America’s Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry

Catherine Dwyer ’14- Writing the Modern City with Prof. Hawks.

  • Reading list: Baudelaire, Frank O’Hara, Mrs. Dalloway, also a lot of cool theory.

Izzy Sanderson ’15- My Toni Morrison English seminar. As someone that loves Toni Morrison there is really nothing better than reading the majority of her books in succession. By reading several books from one author it is possible to use previous books as context and background for other books. It is a unique and beautiful experience that I would highly recommend.

  • Reading List: The Bluest Eye; Sula, Song of Solomon; Beloved; Tar Baby; Paradise; A Mercy; Playing in the Dark
Gabe Brison-Trezise ’16 – Theft and Imitation. We read a wonderfully varied bunch of poetry, short stories, and novels and then tried to adopt the authors’ styles in writing pieces of our own. As dubious as the course title may sound, imitating others definitely helped me develop my own creative writing voice – and I learned that using adverbs is bad! But I still do so unapologetically! The class’s historical and social tinges – Tim O’Brien, religious cultism, Native American heritage, the Gardner art heist – made it all the better.

  • Reading List: Emma Donoghue’s The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits; Shane Book’s Ceiling of Sticks; Katharine Weber’s The Music Lesson; Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love; Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”

Leslie Martin ’14- Politics and Literature – The class is all about tyranny and the state of oppression as told through literature. It was taught by Prof. Baumann fall semester my sophomore year. What made it amazing was the range of genres and authors and that it had a single theme that one can see throughout all of the books and plays. There were a number of books that have actually changed the way I look at the world the power structures found in our society. Many of the books and plays I would have never read on my own and remain some of my favorite books.

  • Reading List: Xenophon’s Hiero dialogue; Julius Caesar; Richard III; The Persian Letters; Don CarlosDanton’s Death; Dostoevsky’s Demons (Бесы); The Foundation Pit. 
Becca Hafter ’14– Systems of Stratification with Prof. Marla Kohlman. Though I initially took this class solely to fill my QR requirement (sorry Prof. Kohlman!), I became obsessed with most of the books and essays we read. Each text dealt with different but overlapping realms of social stratification, laying the groundwork for our quantitative analyses of societal inequalities.  I have included the most notable of our many, many readings below.
  • Reading list: Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s Racism Without Racists; Karyn R. Lacy’s Blue-Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class; Cameron Macdonald’s  Shadow Mothers: Nannies, au Pairs, and the Micropolitics of Mothering; Robert Szafran’s  Answering Questions with Statistics (just kidding). 

11 responses

  1. Existentialism reading list is the reading list of which no greater reading list can be conceived. Except maybe Pragmatism because it wouldn’t buy that argument.

  2. Becca, why don’t you ever ask me to contribute? You got something against Zombies?!? I never thought I could possibly eat YOUR brains, but I don’t know. They’re starting to look tastier and tastier.

  3. Advanced fiction writing, with a fun list of linked story/novels that included the obscure Kissing in Manhattan (amaze) and the prize winning mainstream your mom’s book group has read this Olive Kittridge, and the famous stately Updike, a sweet collection that made me like Updike after all.

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