Dystopian read-a-thon explores George Orwell’s classic ‘1984’

The Baldwin Wallace Department of English will host their annual read-a-thon on Oct. 29.  As a part of the Ritter Library’s exhibition, Dystopias: Prophecies, Predictions, and Paranoia, this year’s book selection is George Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984.” Over an eight-hour period, any member of the BW community can participate in a cover-to-cover reading of “1984.”

“Starting last year [with] the read-a-thon, we decided to work with the festival that Ritter Library is having. So, whenever we can, we think it’s great to choose a book that works with the festival theme,” said Denise Kohn, chair of the English Department.

Kohn also considered “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, “The Handmaid’s Tale”, and “The Hunger Games” prior to settling on “1984.”

“‘1984’ is an important novel in dystopic literature, it is an earlier novel that helped to really popularize the genre,” Kohn said.

Ritter Librarian’s John Curtis and Keith Peppers, the minds behind this fall’s Dystopias Exhibit, as well as last fall’s Frankenstein Festival, believe “1984” “radically changed the genre.”

The book introduced the idea of a dystopia that focuses on the political divide between the government and citizens.

Curtis linked the novel’s “double-think” to today’s rise in “alternative facts.” Curtis noted that after the inauguration of President Trump, the sales for “1984” spiked.

“I think that, right now in the United States, [dystopian novels] speak to a lot of cultural and political angst that people are experiencing,” said Kohn.

Kohn also thinks “1984” parallels a lot of what is going on in our current contemporary culture. It brings up the idea of being watched by technology and other political conspiracies.

“This is a novel that speaks to those sorts of ideas,” Kohn said.

Kohn said in the past, the read-a-thon was incredibly popular with a turnout of around 150 listeners and over 70 readers.

Baldwin Wallace President Robert Helmer is known to be the first reader.

Two years ago, Baldwin Wallace hosted their first read-a-thon for the bicentennial birthday of Henry David Thoreau and read “Walden.”

Last year was the first time the read-a-thon fit into the Ritter Library’s exhibitions with the 200 anniversary of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

The English Department was planning on reading Frankenstein when Kohn had a chance conversation with Peppers, who was planning a festival on the book.

Kohn said, “These two things needed to be part of the same larger festival, and that worked out beautifully.”

The read-a-thon begins at 12 p.m. on Oct 29 in the Grindstone room of Strosacker Hall, and will move to the second floor of Ritter library at 2 p.m.

There will be pizza and snacks. Participants will receive a certificate of participation and be entered into a raffle where they could win copies of the book or gift cards.

To sign up in advance, email the English Department secretary, Lee Ann Jindra at ljindra@bw.edu. Walk-in readers are welcome.