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.
Break the Algorithmic Chains with Dr R’s Summer Suggestions!
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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?
- Read a Shakespeare sonnet. Or read more than one!
- 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.
- Read an extract from a sacred text of a non-Christian religion. Perhaps the Bhagavad-Gita or key passages from The Quran?
- 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.
- Read one of the Norse (Viking) sagas. Perhaps “The Saga of Erik the Red” from The Vinland Sagas?
- Listen to some jazz, perhaps some Duke Ellington? And listen to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.
- Visit an art gallery with your friends.
- Seek out the sublime in nature.
- Ignore this list and make your own, if you prefer.