THINK of it as an antidote to the electronic era. For 12 continuous hours last spring, 60 students and teachers at Hamilton College in upstate New York read aloud from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” which spans a dozen volumes.
“Most of us became interested in reading because of being read to,” says Margaret Thickstun, a professor of English at Hamilton, who will orchestrate another “Milton Marathon” in February. She hopes to condense this one to 10 uninterrupted hours. “These readings revive the notion that poetry is not a private, silent thing you do in a room with a piece of paper,” she says, “but something you actually speak.”
The marathon, or long, read is giving new life to a centuries-old oral tradition. St. Olaf College and the University of Arizona have similarly hosted readings of epic works, start to finish.
In November, the Russian department at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, read aloud all 1,358 pages of “War and Peace” on the 100th year of Tolstoy’s death. It took 24 hours. Kathleen Macfie, a professor of Russian who organized the reading, describes it as a lesson in slowing down: “It’s not part of their generational experience, to share something in real time, face-to-face, in a group.” —via NYTimes.com.