May 2011


Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.

Dr. Dohra Ahmad, an Associate Professor in the English Department, writes:  

I read Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Animal Dreams when I’d just gotten out of college and was trying to figure out what to do with my life. Besides having a great plot and funny, interesting characters, it also contained a bunch of different lessons that were helpful for me at the time and continue to be so:

1. We all have a responsibility towards the various local and global communities we belong to.

2. If bad stuff is happening and we don’t know about it, it will probably catch up with us pretty soon.

3. There are many different ways to fight that bad stuff and make the world better.

4. In order to be as happy and effective as possible, you need to pick the way that is truly enjoyable and meaningful to you (not the one you think you’re supposed to do).

I know those lessons seem simple, but they’re what I needed to learn at the time – and they mean much more when they come across in a story instead of as a list like this. So if you’re thinking about Big Questions but also looking for a good read, try Animal Dreams.


 

Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.

Dr. William Over, a professor in the Department of English and Speech, writes:

Reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky as a teenager exposed me to a culture radically different from our own.  Still, Dostoyevsky’s story about an idealistic young man who misjudges his own moral capacity and the effects of an action on his conscience resonated with my personal development during the turbulent 1960’s.  For me the most remarkable scene in the novel was the moment when the peasant whips his draft horse to death.  Surrounded by a street crowd both encouraging and decrying his obsessive action, the peasant driver releases his personal anguish through the relentless bludgeoning of his animal.  The moment is famous as a realistic example of human cruelty towards animals but also as a trope for the persistent pathology of general oppression.  Today such cruelty remains common at home and internationally; Dostoyevsky’s genius offers a compelling instance of self-inflicted moral despair.


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