Do professors, busy with their academic duties – teaching, writing, and researching in their respective fields – make time for leisurely reading? I was curious and asked, and thought I would share a few of their responses. While reading about the origins of the “sliced German sausage, drenched with ketchup, and sprinkled with curry” may not suit everyone’s taste, Assistant Professor of English Irina Dumitrescu assures readers that Die Entdeckung der Currywurst or The Invention of Curried Sausage by German novelist Uwe Timm is an “intellectually seductive story, albeit disturbing.”
According to Prof. Dumitrescu, while Timm’s novel tells of the creation of the curried sausage, a popular German street food, and includes interviews with Lena Brücker, the self-proclaimed inventor of currywurst, “it’s also about a last chance at love, and a way of imagining the past and mythologizing it.” An English translation by Leila Vennewitz is available for non-German speakers.
Assistant Professor Dan Moss prefers classic travel narratives, specifically the letters of the 18th-century English aristocrat and writer Lady Mary Montagu, describing life—in particular the lives of women— in the Ottoman Empire. In her letters, Montagu reveals her deep-seated desires as she seeks familiarity with an exotic, mysterious culture. Prof. Moss explains that while the surprising attitudes and utterly passionless calculations of other classic travel narratives may still alarm or entertain us, Montagu’s writing uniquely stimulates our imagination of a wider world and forces us to examine our own processes of making sense of the unfamiliar. Montagu’s travel narrative is available through the Penguin Great Journeys Series, available online and in bookstores.
The recommendations of Andrea Luttrell Keeth, an English PhD student with an interest in feminist literary criticism, and Joan Arbery, Visiting Lecturer, reflect their varied passions. Luttrell Keeth recently completed Because They Wanted To by Mary Gaitskill. This collection of short stories explores the darker side of relationships between mothers and daughters and husbands and wives. Luttrell Keeth recommends this book because its pop writing style reflects “a different type of ‘chick literature’ and shows a whole new area in which women can write.”
Arbery, whose interests span a range from Irish, French, and Urban Studies, recommends Halldor Laxness’ Independent People, a Nobel Prize-winning novel set in early 20th century Iceland. Laxness tells a moving and poignant story of a peasant and his family’s struggles. Arbery professes that while she is enamored of urban novels, this country novel is intricate and complicated, and “one of the most original novels I’ve ever read.”
-Ruby Kim, Soph. English Major