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DLCL Reading Groups


DLCL Reading Groups

Apr 06, 2019

The robust calendar of DLCL Research Unit events has recently seen a boost thanks to the newly-formed Reading Groups. But unlike other DLCL Research Unit events, these Reading Groups are entirely student-led, grassroots efforts, founded by students who have identified a need within the DLCL’s research offerings. The result has been three groups with on very different topics, but with one main aim in common: to provide an informal and approachable forum to engage with material not being covered elsewhere. As the DLCL opens applications for Reading Groups for the 2019-2020 academic year, we wanted to profile our existing Reading Groups to highlight their innovative model and illustrate the different and exciting ways that graduate students are making this new format their own.
Romance Languages Reading Group
As the home of the Iberian and Latin American Cultures, French and Italian, and Comparative Literature departments, the halls and the classrooms of the DLCL are rich with Romance languages. But the Division was lacking a forum for the study of Romance language literatures outside the bounds of a seminar. Enter the Romance Languages Reading Group, a group designed to bring together anyone interested in increasing their exposure to literature across the Romance languages. Like the other two Reading Groups, the RLRG places great importance on its approachability and informality.

Its unique feature is the organizer’s decision to select a quarterly theme: each quarter the graduate student coordinators meet to discuss a list of themes, choosing a focus that will guide their selections for that quarter. Last quarter’s theme was senses and feelings, and this quarter has them working on crime fiction. While the theme helps narrow down the field, it still leaves plenty of breadth for an interesting variety of texts, a diversity that is reflected in the interdisciplinary backgrounds of the attendees that enriches their discussion and exchange.

MELS Reading group
The legacy of communism and socialism left many Western Slavic departments with curricula that heavily feature Soviet dissidents, without including the communist and socialist ideas those writers were working against. For students in the Slavic department, this begged the question: if you don’t understand the mainstream, how can you understand those people who were working against the mainstream? The MELS Reading Group hopes to provide the answer. The group’s focus is more ideological than literary, and studies a self-designed list of texts that will help boost their background knowledge of these important political and ideological movements.

The group’s organizers have tried to create an environment where everyone can feel free to speak up, and can enjoy the freedom to ask questions without pressure or judgment. Nora Murphy, one of the group’s coordinators this year, said, “In a Slavic department with so many people from the former Soviet Union, these things can seem obvious. But growing up on the other side of the Cold War, things that are obvious to people of that background are not obvious to us, so having the freedom to ask questions is very important.”

POEMS Reading Group
The POEMS group is about just that: poems. The group has a welcoming and no-frills approach to poetry: pick a poem you like, bring it and read it out loud, and talk about why you like it. The organizers hope this refreshingly simple structure will allow people to engage with poetry, regardless of their professional qualifications, and feel comfortable sharing thoughts and impressions that might not be fully-formed, without the pressures of a seminar.

The act of reading and hearing poetry aloud is fundamental for the group: several of its founders wanted a space where they could read and hear poetry that would bring the musicality and orality of poetry centerstage. Unlike the Poetics Research Group, POEMS focuses on the poems themselves, rather than poetic theory or scholarship. In this way, the group hopes to focus on enjoying the material, rather than having some serious academic engagement with it. POEMS invites anyone with a poem they love to share it - this has proven so popular they now have a waiting list of participants hoping to share and discuss poems with the group.

If starting a group like one of these sounds like something that might interest you, we encourage you to apply! All graduate students are welcome to submit a proposal for a Reading Group. Group proposals should address an aspect of literary study not otherwise covered by any current DLCL Research activity. Applications are due by DATE. The DLCL offers small grants to support the Reading Groups, which are usually used for refreshments. Questions should be directed to Jordan Chin (, Research and Media Administrator.