Balance of the English Reading Circle, the English reading club celebrates ten years

It is not unusual for a library to offer a reading club among its cultural entertainment activities, but it is peculiar that it develops on Anglo-Saxon readings in English and that the colloquium is held in that language. The fact that it was also started in 2005 and that it is still active ten years later allows us to say that our English Reading Circle (ERC) is a pioneering and unique activity.

One of the characteristics and strong point of our reading clubs (we currently have three running) is that we have a literature expert as moderator of the session (in the two in English they are also native Americans), who presents the work and facilitates where there may be interesting topics to discuss. This presentation and analysis of the works of the ERC is currently published on the Institute's website and sent as an advance to those registered for the session. Throughout these years, among the facilitators for the ERC there have been personnel from the Boston University program in Madrid such as Leah Berk or Grecia Álvarez, members of the Institute's Board such as Soledad Fox and professors from the Institute's English department such as Nancy Crews, Tracy Wood, Peter Saviano, Chiara Luis or Andrew Bennett. The latter has directed the activity for three years (supported by Chiara from time to time). The success in the selection of works, the ability to encourage participation and above all make them think and analyze beyond what have been common features of all of them.

The readings began as contemporary classics such as “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller or “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London and ended up being combined with more modern authors such as Nicole Krauss or Paul Auster (there are nine authors per course). At the beginning, Anglo-Saxon writers from different countries were combined, but we have ended up orienting the readings specifically towards American literature, which is rich enough and is the culture that the Institute wants to promote. This course includes a selection of American authors such as Alice Walker, Lorrie Moore, Leslie Marmon Silko, Kate Chopin, or Susan Glaspell.

The realization that it was becoming increasingly difficult for the participants to obtain the book and bring the reading of the completed novel (and as a consequence to carry out a more exhaustive and interesting colloquium on the work) encouraged us to change the readings for short stories in the course. 2009-2010. We began using the anthology of “The Best American Short Stories” from the publisher Houghton Mifflin, but in our desire to facilitate the participation of those interested, we decided the following year to use stories that were freely available through the Internet. The quality of many works in this genre is as great as that of good novels and the analysis can be more elaborate in a short work. With the arrival of short stories, we also incorporated the format of assigning analysis roles among the participants in the debate, so that the intervention was distributed.

The approach of the activities in English of the library, among which is the ERC, is that they serve as a playful approach to American culture through reading and/or literature but without the depth and follow-up that a course would have. The ease of being able to attend punctually makes the rotation of participants high and allows new people to join so that the group of interested parties continues to grow. Together with its new brother, the English Reading Circle on Poetry, we hope that time will continue to pass through this activity and that it can continue to enrich the lives of readers.