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Great Gatsby reading brings the green light to Duke

<p>The reading will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday with President Brodhead as the first reader.</p>

The reading will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday with President Brodhead as the first reader.

Students that walk past the Chapel Wednesday might feel as if they have been transported to West Egg, New York.

The English department is hosting a marathon reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel “The Great Gatsby” beginning at 10 a.m. President Richard Brodhead will be the first reader for the six-hour event, and 27 other readers—both students and faculty—will take turns to finish the book. The event, called the Great Gatsby Gabfest, is part of a series that aims to make notable works more accessible to the community and celebrate reading.

“We wanted to do something that held a special place in a lot of people’s memories of what they had read in college or high school and was a great work of art,” said Charlotte Sussman, director of undergraduate studies in the English department.

The reading will take place outside under a tent, but in the event of a thunderstorm, it will be moved inside the Allen Building.

The event will be open to all, and participants and students that stop by between classes to listen will receive a free t-shirt. Flapper costumes are not required. 

“It’s meant for people to go in and out,” said Michelle Dove, undergraduate studies assistant for the English department.

“The Great Gatsby” will be the third marathon reading that the English department has done. Last Fall, the department read John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” and in the Spring, there were events around campus dedicated to reading sonnets by William Shakespeare.

“We like to have [the readings] in a more central spot on campus, so then other people will see it and perhaps want to come listen for a little while,” Dove said.

The idea to read works aloud was inspired by a reading of “Paradise Lost” by Trinity College in Dublin, Sussman said.

“It was just amazing to hear a long poem like that,” Sussman said. “When it was first published in the 17th century, people read it out loud to each other, and it was really written to be experienced that way and to hear it that way all at once. It sounds really moving.”

Dove added that the department is considering reading Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” in the Spring.

“Reading is a very tangible thing that brings texts to life,” Dove said. “You can have plays and act them out live, but there’s also something to just having a dramatic reading of it in front of people where people can participate and bring the book back to life.”

Correction: John Milton wrote "Paradise Lost." The Chronicle regrets the error. 

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