Summer Reading – Part 1

Over the years, there have been a number of reading lists prepared by Davidson faculty. The first list appears in the 1902 catalog under the Freshman Entrance Requirements, later lists offer suggestions from faculty for summer reading. We’ll start with the early lists and look at the more recent one next week.


Class of 1903What should an aspiring Davidson student have read in 1903 before entering college? The catalog lists:

Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Julius Caesar
The Sir Roger de Coverley Papers in The Spectator
Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield
Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner
Scott’s Ivanhoe
Carlyle’s Essay on Burns
Tennyson’s Princess

Illustration with writing saying, "Days with Sir Roger de Coverley"Lowell’s Vision of Sir Launfal
George Eliot’s Silas Marner
and the first 3 books of Xenophon’s Anabasis.

I’ll confess that Sir Roger and Sir Launfal were unknown to me. Happily the Davidson library has both in its collections and I have learned a little about Sir Roger and that Lowell’s poem is a favorite of Maxine Kumin, who was a McGee Professor Writing at Davidson in 1997.

1928 reading list titled, "List of Books for 1926-1928"The required reading list lasted until 1928. Students were given 2 lists: one for reading “with a measure of thoroughness appropriate for immature minds” and one for more detailed study.  Students could pick ten books from the reading list and four from the study section.

Five works remained from the 1902 list: Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, Silas Marner, Sir Roger, and the Ancient Mariner. New to the list were American authors Cooper (Last of the Mohicans), Hawthorne (House of the Seven Gables), Irving (The Sketchbook) Ben Franklin (Autobiography) and Emerson (Self Reliance and Manners).

Also new was an option for a modern novel, contemporary verse, 150 pages of prose writings on matters of current interest or a selection of modern plays.

In 1948, the Alumni Journal asked English professors Henry Lilly and G. R. Wood to come up with reading lists for contemporary drama and for those of a more historical bent the English Renaissance 1350-1660.

Reversing the pattern, the Senior Class of 1949 was presented with a post-college reading list. The Honorary Fraternity Council asked the faculty to provide the list and then printed a booklet. It is divided into subject groups — Philosophy, History, Economics, Politics, Music and Fine Arts, etc.  Titles suggested include:

The Republic of Plato (Cornford translation)
This Age of Conflict (Chambers, Grant & Bayley)
The Economics of John Maynard Keynes (Dillard)
Technics and Civilization (Mumford)
Cubism and Abstract Art (Museum of Modern Art)
Gulliver’s Travels (Swift)
Atoms in Action (Harrison). To see the full list, click on the link below.

Fields of Reading” for 1949 is the only issue we have, if anyone knows if there were similar reading lists for other classes, we’d love to know about in the archives (and of course, would love to have copies!)

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