Summer Reading

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - La Pia de Tolomei 03
Looking for some books to read over the summer? I know it can be a time for lighter reading–I’ve been reading Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn as a break for the last few days–but summer can also be this magical time when we discover what Mark Edmundson calls “alienated majesty” when we find our “own suppressed and rejected thoughts flowing back” to us.

For me, this will be one of those heavy summers filled with reading and diaper changing and awkwardly explaining to librarians that baby poop from breast milk is totally water soluble and that stain will come out.

So I thought I would invite you to join me–erhm on the reading journey, not the diaper-changing-and-surviving-the-ire-of-librarians journey. For the next few weeks, I’ll put up my summer reading lists.

As part of the program I’m in at Emory, I need to design and read three lists for my exams. Normally, we have two related periods (like Romantic and Victorian, or medieval and early modern) followed by a third reading list centered on a theory (perhaps Marxism, queer theory, or disability studies).

My lists follow this format, but are a little different. Since I focus on Victorian medievalism, my periods are not adjacent to each other. My first list is a Victorian list, while my second list is a medieval one.

Today, I’m putting up my Victorian list. As the first reading list, it will be the largest. Each one will get subsequently smaller. Like any Victorian list, it will include essentials like something from Charles Dickens and and Charlotte Brontë. There will of course be some Tennyson, with In Memoriam holding central place. In this way, my list has been influenced by others made in my department and this standard reading list.

Where this list might look a little different is my emphasis on Victorians who look back to the medievals. I’ll have a little more early fantasy with William Morris and George MacDonald.

I’ll also focus more than usual on two authors that are at the center of my research: Gerard Manley Hopkins and Thomas Hardy.

Hopkins deserves to be on any Victorian list. Often “The Wreck of the Deutschland” or the commonly anthologized “Pied Beauty” with its celebration of “dappled things” will be included in a Victorian list. I’m including a lot more though. I need to include his nature and terrible sonnets and his very medieval works like “Angelus ad Virginem.” I also need “The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo,” a poem so central to Hopkins’s aesthetic and the purpose of this blog.

If you’re following along, try getting the poems from the Poetry Foundation. Searching for Hopkins and then clicking on the Bartleby link will give you the 1918 edition with Robert Bridges’s changes. You can read more about that difference here.

Hardy will likewise be on any Victorian list as a novelist. And I’ve included three of his novels on mine. But he was also an amazing poet. Sometimes scholars will separate Hardy into a Victorian novelist and a Modernist poet with how his life straddles both centuries, but I think his poetry has strong roots in Victorian medievalism.

Here are a few of the books on the list, and you can follow the link to see the rest.


The Mayor of Casterbridge Thomas Hardy The Complete Poems Gerard Manley Hopkins
Idylls of the King The Lady of Shalott In Memoriam
Past and Present Apologia Pro Vita Sua The Idea of a University
Sonnets from the Portuguese Aurora Leigh North and South: By Elizabeth Gaskell (Illustrated) + FREE Oliver Twist
Robert Browning's Poetry The Warden Barchester Towers
A Tale of Two Cities A Christmas Carol David Copperfield
Villette The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Middlemarch
Take a look at the rest of the list at Goodreads

If you’re reading any of these works throughout the summer, let me know. I’d love to hear what you think about them. And if you are also living a summer filled with diapers and reading whenever the newborn is asleep, let us know that too. Solidarity always helps.

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