Dr Richardson’s Summer Suggestions for My Students

My teach­ing year has end­ed for 2021 and so begins a long-await­ed sum­mer of read­ing, writ­ing, watch­ing films, and swim­ming in the sea. At the end of our encounter with Roman­ti­cism (from Blake’s ‘The Tyger’ to Mary Oliv­er’s ‘The Sum­mer Day’), some of my Eng­lish stu­dents asked for sug­ges­tions for the sum­mer break. I made this list for my Year 9 class, but you may enjoy this too… a hum­ble start­ing point with the free­dom to ram­ble and choose one’s path towards revelation. 

Gus­tave Doré, “The White Rose,” from Dante’s The Divine Com­e­dy (1855)

Break the Algorithmic Chains with Dr R’s Summer Suggestions! 

  1. Read one poem for each week of the hol­i­days. The Poet­ry Foun­da­tion is a good place to start for poems of all kinds. Instead of doom scrolling pan­dem­ic news, why not read a poem for each week (or day!) of the sum­mer break?
  1. Instead of 50 hours of one series on Net­flix, why not 25 great films from every time and place over the last cen­tu­ry? Start with two black and white films (and at least one from the silent era). Ger­man Expres­sion­ism is a good era to explore. Try The Cab­i­net of Dr Cali­gari, Nos­fer­atu, or Metrop­o­lis to wit­ness the birth of hor­ror and sci-fi cin­e­ma. If you are inter­est­ed in com­e­dy, try some­thing from Char­lie Chap­lin or Buster Keaton (per­haps The Gen­er­al???) or Jacques Tati. Many old films are in HD on Youtube for free.  

  2. Watch at least one film in an Asian lan­guage. There is an archive of Kore­an film for free on Youtube and many new­er Kore­an films on Net­flix. If Japan­ese cin­e­ma intrigues you, try Aki­ra Kuro­sawa. Star Wars is based direct­ly on Kurosawa’s The Hid­den Fortress, but his great­est film is arguably The Sev­en Samu­rai. Kuro­sawa also direct­ed a stun­ning Japan­ese adap­ta­tion of Mac­beth called Throne of Blood. Add some­thing in an African lan­guage and a film from South Amer­i­ca to your playlist.

  3. Watch at least one film in a Euro­pean lan­guage. Instead of Amelie, con­sid­er some­thing from the French New Wave (per­haps a film direct­ed by Agnes Var­da, Jean-Luc Godard, or François Truffaut). 

  4. Watch an Aus­tralian film fea­tur­ing ele­ments of Indige­nous cul­ture. There are some excel­lent choic­es on Net­flix and Stan, per­haps Ten Canoes or Sam­son and Delilah?

  5. Read a Shake­speare son­net. Or read more than one! 

  6. Read two books of The Bible: one from the Old Tes­ta­ment (Gen­e­sis or Jon­ah per­haps), one of the Four Gospels (Mark or John per­haps), plus some Psalms. Try read­ing these in the Autho­rised Ver­sion (King James’ Bible) trans­la­tion of 1611. This ver­sion influ­enced the mod­ern Eng­lish lan­guage even more than Shake­speare.
  7. Read an extract from a sacred text of a non-Chris­t­ian reli­gion. Per­haps the Bha­gavad-Gita or key pas­sages from The Quran?
  8. Read some Greek and Roman myths. Robert Graves’ col­lec­tion from 1955 is won­drous, but — if you want to go all out — why not read Emi­ly Wilson’s recent trans­la­tion of The Odyssey? This is the first pub­lished Eng­lish trans­la­tion of The Odyssey by a woman and offers pow­er­ful new insights into the clas­sic tale.

  9. Read one of the Norse (Viking) sagas. Per­haps “The Saga of Erik the Red” from The Vin­land Sagas?

  10. Lis­ten to some jazz, per­haps some Duke Elling­ton? And lis­ten to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

  11. Vis­it an art gallery with your friends.

  12. Seek out the sub­lime in nature.

  13. Sleep.

  14. Ignore this list and make your own, if you prefer.

“Moon­rise by Sea,” Cas­par David Friedrich (1822)