Midday Musings: English department’s new literary hours

Lindsay Maxie, Staff

The department of English at the University of New Orleans hosted its first “Midday Musings” this past Thursday in the Liberal Arts Building. Undergraduate student Leo Castell, graduate student Patrice Jones, and English Professor Earle Bryant formed a panel to discuss books that have impacted and changed their lives.

The English department began this event in 2011; back then it was called “Third Wednesday Talks.” Although the name and time of the event has changed, it still serves its original purpose: to continue to provide a safe environment for students to obtain knowledge in an informal setting, outside of the classroom.

“The English department started the Third Wednesday Talks in the fall of 2011 to provide an opportunity for English majors to hear and participate more informally outside the classroom in discussions about literature, writing, jobs, internships, and other topics of interest to them. This year, we are changing the format a bit, having the talks at midday on Wednesdays and Thursdays instead of at 2 o’clock on Wednesdays,” said Undergraduate Coordinator and English Professor Patricia Roger.

Midday Musings is not simply filled with facts about famous literary works; the trio also discuss common struggles that English majors face as writers. When referring to Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Leo Castell said, “For a while, I struggled with my voice as a writer…I’m kind of childish, and that comes across in my writing. For a while, I was really insecure about that.” Castell went on to say that Harper Lee’s childish prose gave him renewed confidence in his own voice.

The panel members also discussed their personal responses to certain books and how their lives have been forever impacted by their readings. When discussing Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” Jones said, “This book changed my life because it made me realize that racism was more than someone treating you different because of the way you look. I learned that it is part of a system and that it is ingrained into the infrastructure of our country. It was after reading this book that I made my life mission to break down the institution”.

Midday Musings offers a place for students to gather and learn from each other while sharing their passion for literature. “It gave me a new insight to what I want to read,” said liberal arts major Janai Lange.

Patricia Roger said, “I encourage English majors and other students interested in literature and writing to come to the talks, which are interesting and offer students a variety of perspectives on a variety of topics, as well as the opportunity to ask questions and participate in the discussion. In addition, students can visit with other English majors, graduate students, and faculty.”