Reading And Discussion With Shawn Mullin

By Buyana Ulzii (Mongolia)

George Orwell and John Steinbeck. Do these names cling to your ears? Do they come with a certain familiarity, yet don’t make you nostalgic? As much as they are world-renowned authors, they were definitely not on my list of favorites when we first started literature class at the International Center.

But who knew that “Animal Farm” and “Of Mice and Men” would became so engaging and moving under the closely examining eyes of international lenses. Members of ICNY, coming from many different countries and thus representing various viewpoints and maintaining rich perspectives, are turned into true experts and historians when they are interlinked and connected. With Shawn Mullin’s structured class, “Reading and Discussing Literature”, in Spring 2010, the members were not only encouraged to read English literature at an advanced level, we were powered up through interesting discussions. This class led me to read other books like “84 Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff and “The Element” by Ken Robinson. But I realized that book reading is much tastier when your thoughts are shared with the group; you discover more from your fellow readers.

We felt awed by Orwell and Steinbeck and their style and approach to the stories. They talk simply, yet there is so much behind it. “Animal Farm” is a classic and satirical fairy tale. The story relates to the doctrine of communism and Stalin-era oppression, but it is relevant to any regime and to propaganda of any kind. At some points it is depressing and disgusting… but it reveals the true nature of humans, from which we can learn how to be better people. “Of Mice and Men” is a story from the Great Depression. It reminds us of the hard times in history. And with its eloquent flow of unexpected happenings, it somehow scrapes deep into our feelings toward the economic recession today. The writing is so picturesque and vivid in its descriptions.

I could not resist its taste: sour like coffee and acidic like sorrow. I would recommend both books for anyone who is interested in literature. Or better yet – come join our discussion at the International Center!


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