Scrooge in the Library in Amersfoort
It is that time of the year: the jolly season, the season of holly and ivy. A season to open our hearts to one another.
It was in that mood that members of the English workgroup and members of English Senia reading groups met at the magnificent Amersfoort library on Sunday December 17th, to be once more regaled on a lively rendering of events from Charles Dickens' famous tale: A Christmas Carol, by Mr Wim Tigges who was able to fill in all the parts from Scrooge, via the ghosts to the glorious ending in which, to our mutual relief, Tiny Tim once more does not die.
Marlowe was dead, dead as a doornail, but our English reading groups are alive and kicking........and thriving.
Cees van den Akker (17 December 2017)
About the English Literature Working Group
As a result of the appeal to the participants of the reading groups three new members have joined the group, so luckily we are "fully staffed" again.
These are the members at the moment (from left to right):
Francine Kruyt - Henny de Boer - Hans van der Weiden - Cees van den Akker - Leo Stolk - Christa de Jager - Els de Wit. Unfortunately Elise Kleuskens was absent due to illness.
On 22 November we discussed the long list for next season. We reviewed dozens of books and already chose a few titles. In the months to come all members are going to read each other's proposals or even new books. At the end of January the result of all this work will come together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to form the list for next season.
Interesting essay about the role of reading communities
Esmé van den Boom is the student who wrote the reader’s guide for Possession last year. Recently she has written an essay on “The role of reading communities in the canonization of authors of colour: a case study of Senia’s English reading groups” for the master course on Book History (Master Writing, Editing and Mediating).
The number of racially diverse books on the list of titles and the way they were selected is investigated in this essay. One of the conclusions of Esmé's research is “that Senia’s choice of titles leaves room for improvement concerning diversity.”
Although the English Workgroup undertakes to offer a variety of books, taking into account a.o. countries of origin, gender, year of publications etc., the most important – yet subjective - criterium is that the books should be first-rate and suitable for discussion in the reading groups.
Popular books 2017/2018
30 groups are going to discuss The Dark Flood Rises, Margaret Drabble.24 groups have chosen Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift.
21 groups have chosen Nutshell by Ian McEwan, and The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien.
The other new titles on the list have also been chosen in smaller numbers.
Many reading groups also chose a few books from previous years’ lists, such as The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
How we work
In the period September to November, we meet once or twice to discuss and decide on plans for the coming season. Each member of the group brings a list of novels they have read and would like to propose. With different backgrounds and tastes, these lists comprise a wide range of subject matter, style and story. A potential longlist of books suitable for reading groups is put together, a mixture of new and older publications. We discuss these books and all books chosen for the longlist are then read by at least two or three members of the working group.
Then we meet again in February to select 10 to 15 books from the longlist. When we make this final selection, the most important criteria is whether they are suitable to be discussed by members of a reading group.
We try to offer a wide variety of books:
- authors from various English-speaking countries;
- different periods, subjects and settings;
- different genres: we have chosen not only novels, but also novellas, collections of short stories, thrillers and an epistolary novel, for example.
Writing the reader's guidesThe majority of the guides are written by members of the English Literature Working Group with four guides written by students of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen: The Heart Goes Last, The Girls, The Little Red Chairs and Nutshell.
Cooperation with Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
On the university website you can read (in Dutch) more about the cooperation between Senia and the university. Here you can also find an interesting research dissertation on ‘Communication in English Reading Groups’.