James Madison College students read '1984' for 11 hours
Some Saturdays are “for the boys” but for the James Madison College, March 25 was for the books. Participants gathered together this weekend to read what much of the nation considers a paramount novel, cover to cover, for the 14th annual Marathon Read event.
James Madison associate professor Rod Phillips has been with the event from its beginning.
“Since it is a spoken word exercise, the text comes across differently,” Phillips said. “You notice parts of it being funny that didn’t seem funny before. The dialogue is more meaningful, I think. It’s more like seeing a play than reading a novel.”
The binge-style read aloud has remained consistent in attendance each year. It instills a different type of feeling among the audience the entirety of a novel is read in one sitting.
“There’s also something about the state of, and this may sound kind of weird, but there’s something about the state of exhaustion or fatigue that sets in especially near the end of these longer books,” Phillips said. “It’s almost hallucinatory, the state that people get into.”
This year, students and faculty members read George Orwell’s “1984.” In light of the current administration and political climate, social relations and policy junior Zoe Bommarito said she has observed an increased interest in the novel from fellow students.
“I definitely think that people are interested in seeing the similarities between this dystopian fiction novel and what’s going on with President (Donald) Trump,” Bommarito said.
Despite being published in 1949, the novel has secured its place atop the Amazon Best Sellers list and sales have skyrocketed this year.
Phillips theorized the book’s theme of a totalitarian regime that wants to manipulate the truth and what is perceived to be fact keys into why the novel has grown in popularity since the presidential election.
Reading commenced at 9 a.m. and the final page was turned at 8 p.m.
Of the roughly 50 participants, political theory and constitutional democracy freshman Owen Purdue said he was exceptionally excited for this year’s book choice.
“It’s a very easy book to really lose yourself in,” he said.
Having read the book previously, Purdue said he thought this selection was exceptionally relevant.
“We have something that’s very, I think ‘Orwellian,’ in the form of ‘fake news’ and how you have manipulation of public opinion on a very large scale by fake news producers and writers,” Purdue said. “People don’t know what to believe anymore. That’s one of the dangers that George Orwell was talking about when he wrote ‘1984.’”