Book Club: English teacher Hannah Gould shares her liking for Russian literature


Daniel Lin

DSC_0003Among the vast selection of book genres — from historical fiction to technical reports — English Literature teacher Hannah Gould has a favorite: Russian literature. After taking two Russian literature classes in college, she developed a fondness of Russian writing and its authors. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vladimir Nabokov and Anton Chekhov are just a few of Gould’s beloved novelists.

“The Brothers Karamazov,” a 700-page novel by Dostoevsky, is one of Gould’s favorites. It’s is a mystery which follows a family, the Karamazov, trying to put together the pieces of a murder puzzle after their father is murdered. Beneath Dostoevsky’s delicately crafted plot, themes of the nature of guilt and freedom emerge in the reader’s quest to discover the killer.

Another one of Gould’s personal favorites is “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov. She describes the story as creepy (the plot follows a man who marries a widow to be near her nymphet daughter), but she appreciates the intricacies and attention to detail in Nabokov’s writing nevertheless.

“The reason why I like the book, “ Gould said, “ is because it has this very very detailed writing that shows all these different clues along the way, and as you’re reading it you can interpret the whole thing in two totally different ways.”

The prime reason why Gould has developed such a strong affection for these books is because she has read them so many times. According to Gould, readers don’t always fully grasp the author’s choices the first time they read a story. Reading the book several times often reveals underlying themes that were not identified the first time. Another reason why Gould has a fondness of Russian literature is that they often comprise of deep, under-the-surface themes and complexities.

“There’s just always something new to find,” Gould said, “and they’re always really challenging you.”

Recently, Gould has picked up a book by Nabokov, titled “The Gift.” The first time she read the story, Gould did not understand the story well, but after seeing an image on the street which reminded her of the book, Gould was inspired to give the book another shot.

Unsurprisingly, Gould has made an effort to incorporate aspects of her favorite novels into her curriculum. Though teaching the books, which are considered long and challenging reads, would prove to be challenging, Gould has given her students a glimpse at the world of Russian literature. For instance, she once brought in an essay by Nabokov to demonstrate reading literature and taking the time to notice details.

It is things like giving students a taste of teachers’ favorite aspects of their subject that add flavor to methodical curriculums. In espousing her passion for literature with students’ learning, Gould has given students the opportunity to expand their exposure to the vast world of reading.