[ilds] [RG 2003]

James Gifford gifford at ualberta.ca
Fri Apr 6 11:52:10 PDT 2007

Dear Durrellians:

James Gifford and I would like to volunteer our time and
services in order to initiate a regular, coordinated, and
ongoing group reading of Lawrence Durrell's works on the
listserv.  This specialized reading group would take place
_within_ and _as a part_ of the larger Durrell Listserv.
The reading group's special contribution to the existing
listserv, we hope, would be to foster longer and more
detailed conversations about LD's texts.  Such extended
discussions, for the most part, have been too infrequent of
late, and we think that a reading group would help the
listserv realize its full potential as a dynamic scholarly
and critical medium.

Here is a brief outline of the way Jamie and I envision
such a reading group working.  Each week, a new section
could be designated to be read from one of LD's novels,
travel writing, or poems.  The members of the list could
respond as they wish, contributing thoughts and responding
to previous emails according to their various interests,
their respective strengths, and their pressing questions,
examining the selection according to close reading of the
prose and poetry and/or using critical lenses (historical /
biographical / postcolonial / gender emphases &c.), linking
the passages under discussion to works by LD and other
writers, &c. &c.

I've already mentioned to Jamie that I believe the listserv
reading group should start with _The Alexandria Quartet_.
The _Quartet_ seems to be the most approachable work; it
is, by far, the most available text for new readers;  and I
think that it would allow the reading group to develop a
communal discourse, a common vocabulary, including much of
the points made in the past about the _Quartet_ and new

But would it not be grand, following our reading of the
_Quartet_, to back up, taking in the whole broad
development of LD's _oeuvre_ from earliest available texts
to last, trekking variations on common themes and noting
LD's new developments and departures?  This approach would
not only give new (and old!) readers a lasting sense of the
LD chronology; it would also help to recover those "lost
works," many of which are too often neglected in the
critical discourse.

Jamie has also offered the brilliant suggestion of creating
a web archive, collecting together these reading group
responses.  Such an archive would be formatted with
"threads" to link topics of discussion.  And, because it
would be possible to scan and send out to the group short
(100 word) passages, this web archive will be crucial to
creating an online database of LD texts--or at least
fragments of LD texts to shore up against the day when more
texts come back into print, or permissions become freer, or
the copyright expires.

Here follows a sketch of what Jamie and I imagine our
responsibilities as the "initiators" of such a reading
group would be:

        1) giving an official announcement of the
        designated text, with the understanding that very
        good response postings on the passages will not be
        limited only to that text and naturally range far
        and wide through the literature.

        2) offering helpful reminders about (including page
        numbers /editions used) what section is currently
        the focus of the discussion, again with the
        understanding that good discussions will only use
        these reminders as a starting point.

        3) initiating discussions (and "jump-starting" slow
        or frozen discussions) by selecting passages of
        possible interest.

        4) maintaining an archive of the discussion--the
        task which I believe to be the most labor intensive
        and the one to which we must give the most
        thought--and, luckily, the task to which Jamie's
        natural talents and skills will be a great

        5) reminding contributors of the need for more
        helpful _titles_ giving specific indication of the
        contents of their postings, hopefully avoiding the
        unhelpful and repetitious series of "AlQ" "re:AlQ"

More information about the Lawrence Durrell Reading Group
will follow.   In the meantime, we would be most interested
to know your thoughts, suggestions, and criticisms
regarding such a project.

Thank you for your time and attention,

        Charles Sligh, University of Virginia

        James Gifford, University of Alberta

Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
University of Virginia
cls9k at virginia.edu

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