In Hugo at the Henry: The Senses in Reading and Writing, we’ll be reading from Death in Spring, by Mercè Rodoreda, a novel steeped in the senses and integrated into the exhibit Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E. Here’s an excerpt from the opening:
“I removed my clothes and dropped them at the foot of the hackberry tree, beside the madman’s rock. Before entering the river, I stopped to observe the color left behind by the sky. The sun-dappled light was different now that spring had arrived, reborn after living beneath the earth and within branches. I lowered myself gently into the water, hardly daring to breath [….] As soon as I had passed the stables and the horse enclosure, I realized I was being followed by a bee, as well as by the stench of manure and the honey scent of blooming wisteria.”
The novel’s gorgeous language, in part achieved by attention to the senses, is essential to its success as a literary work. The story is dark, with a disturbing violence on a mythological scale. The beauty of the prose makes reading the novel bearable, an important technique for any writer tackling difficult material.
Write about a time when you felt immersed in a natural landscape. Where were you? What were you doing? Fully indulge in the senses. What was the shape of the landscape? What fragrances were in the air? Was it humid or dry? What was the soundscape? What textures did you encounter? What thoughts and emotions do you associate with this experience?
IV. WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE CLASS:
Expect discussions about how we’re touched, emotionally and intellectually, in the give-and-take between reading and writing; prompts related to animals, clothing, and the sense of touch; and, of course, prompts inspired by Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E.
Students will receive guest passes for a return visit to the Henry and will have the opportunity to submit to the Henry’s blog short creative responses to their museum experience. All visitors may take one image of an animal from the exhibit and contribute a portrait to be included in the galleries. It would look something like this.