My University semester finally started up again this Monday after our four-month summer break and I am so excited about it. I wanted to share some of my reading list, if you will—I don’t know, TBR didn’t seem like the right word. I’m only a part-time student so this year is filled with electives so I can move on with my art history major. I’m taking a Literature subject as well as Film Studies, so I’ll be sharing some of the books from that Lit class.
But because a whole year is a long time to take a break from my major, I’ve decided to pick out a couple of books from my shelves as a sort of syllabus of my own. So I’ve included some of those art books in this post too. And without further ado, let’s get into it.
Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
This is our first text for the semester, and honestly, I’m not really looking forward to it. I’ve read a little Marlowe in the past and I wasn’t overly impressed by him, though I do think the mystery around his early death is interesting to read about. Apparently there are two variations on the text, called the A and B texts—we’re expected to read both which just sounds like a really great time, you know? I have no idea what the play is actually about, so I guess I’ll at least have double the chance of forming an opinion about it. And now, I’m going to put my art history knowledge in the spotlight by telling you all about the painting on this Oxford World’s Classic edition. It’s actually a self-portrait done by German Renaissance artist, Albrecht Dürer. It was painted in 1500 when Dürer was 28 and is one of many incredible works done by the artist. I’m not sure if it’s just my monitor or whether they’ve edited the image, but it looks a lot brighter than the original. I highly recommend looking up Dürer if you’re unfamiliar with his work because he really does have an incredible body of work in all kinds of mediums.
Othello by William Shakespeare
Different movies and books always made it seem like my literature degree would be filled with Shakespeare, but I only studied the one during my actual degree which was The Winter’s Tale and I have absolutely no memory of it. Anyway, this time it’s Othello’s turn. I did read this back in 2015 and my Goodreads review doesn’t really give me the vibe that I was impressed with this at all. I do enjoy studying Shakespeare—there’s just so much to each of his plays that I just don’t pick up on by myself, so I’m excited for that side of it. Like Doctor Faustus, we’re watching a recorded play version of this alongside reading it, this time from the Royal Shakespeare Company. There are some pretty interesting readings going alongside this one so it should be at least informative even if I don’t end up liking the story any more than I did last time.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
I’ve also read Jane Eyre before, twice in fact, so I feel like I’m prepared for this one. I know the story, I have a basic understanding of the themes, I think, so hoping this one is smooth sailing. I was actually hoping to reread it again at the end of last year, so I’m glad that I didn’t end up getting to it now. You might be able to tell that I was a much bigger fan of this one than I was of Othello. I’m a little disappointed because there’s only one critical reading set for this week and there’s just so much incredible scholarship out there about Jane Eyre that we could be reading. I’m hoping there will be an essay topic about this one so that I have an excuse to bring in some of the stuff I’ve read before as well as explore some new things. Wow, I sound like a right nerd there, don’t I? I just really enjoy reading literary criticism and writing essays about the books and ideas I’m passionate about—it brings me a weird sense of comfort sometimes.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass and his different books and other works have come up quite a lot in things I’ve been reading over the last year or so—I’d already planned to pick something up later in the year. And what do you know? Here we are. I really know very little about Douglass apart from what I’ve learnt from those other books. I know that he escaped slavery, was an abolitionist, feminist, speaker, writer and editor. How much of those things will be included in this one here, I have no idea but I’m very interested to find out. This is the second to last text we’re studying this semester, right after Jane Eyre so I’m interested to see how it’s going to interact with everything else we’re reading, especially as we go into The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde right after this. I’m not quite sure of that transition, but I guess I’ll see, won’t I?
The Militant Muse: Love, War and the Women of Surrealism by Whitney Chadwick
I talked about this one months and months ago in a post basically talking about how much I wanted it, and then I was lucky enough to get it sent to me as a thank you. I hadn’t gotten to it yet, but now looks like the perfect time. I’ve been doing this online class through the National Gallery of Victoria about surrealism and now that it’s drawing to a close, I think it’s a good time to pick this one up. Discussions about surrealism often focus on the men (most of whom disregarded the women surrealists themselves), but I think the female artists are much more interesting to hear about. As you can see by the cover, this is going to talk about Frida Kahlo (whom I love), but my personal favourites right now are Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo who happened to be good friends but also just incredible artists in their own right. I’m not sure if this is the sort of thing I’ll actually write a review for, but I’m hoping to be able to mention it in a post later in the year, granted that I enjoy it.
Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology by Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock
This is a little bit of an older art book—it was published in 1982, but this is, of course, a new edition. I actually heard about this is another one of Whitney Chadwick’s books, Women, Art, and Society, and thought that it seemed interesting. I’ve also seen this described as a ‘classic of feminist art history’ which sounds right up my alley, to be honest. I have absolutely no idea who the ‘old mistresses’ are going to be, but I am crossing my fingers for some talk about Artemisia Gentileschi, who is one of my favourite artists, maybe Sofonisba Anguissola, or Rachel Ruysch—I’m really just guessing here so it’ll be interesting to see who is actually discussed. This is a reasonably thin one as well, coming in at just under 300 pages so here’s hoping it’ll be a quicker reader than some of the others on here. I may end up adding a few more art history books to this list during the next few months, but it’s really going to depend on how I go with these two and also how much free time I end up having between my actual subjects and other life stuff.
My Southern Hemisphere friends, do you have a reading list for your semester? And Northern Hemisphere friends, what have you been reading and studying?