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The Great American Read Lecture Series: Literary Themes -- Villains & Monsters
Each episode of PBS's The Great American Read will explore one of five overarching literary themes. Join the discussion about why the books we read matter, why we're drawn to these themes and what they tell us about ourselves.
Dr. Rewa Burnham of Trinity Washington University will lead the discussion. This week's theme: Villians & Monsters. Ages 13 and up.
Villains & Monsters
We are drawn to stories of power, lust, revenge, and evil, with characters who haunt our sleep and torture our psyches. In fact, dear readers, you have chosen so many of these tales for your list of 100 best loved novels that it begs the question: what accounts for the attraction they exert? Where does this urge to enter the mind of a killer, or descend into another person’s madness, come from?
Perhaps we choose stories featuring villains and monsters because they allow us to experience our fears safely, and put them down again when we need to get away. Whatever form they take, our fears have much to teach us, and from Shelley to Rowling the experience of reading these books is cathartic, and quite often, wicked fun.
OVERARCHING QUESTION: What do our favorite books about villains, monsters, and evil forces tell us about ourselves and our darkest desires?
Rewa Burnham is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Trinity Washington University. She teaches African American literature, multicultural literature, and twentieth century American literature. Her research examines fugitive figures in contemporary African American literature and representations of the body in black women's autobiographical writing. She is currently working on a personal history that highlights similarities between the lives of black women across four generations.
Ph.D. and M.A., English Language and Literature, University of Maryland, College Park; B.A., English and Public Affairs, Trinity College