English Department Offers Caulfield, Conversation, Candor



Marielle Alexander

Approximately 90 freshmen gathered to hear Villanova professor Kamran Javadizadeh and English department students read from and analyze J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” in the second floor common room of Good Counsel Hall on Oct. 7 during the department’s biennial Wildcat in the Rye discussion.

The event, organized by Javadizadeh and ACS approved, aimed to interest students in the English major and to demonstrate the new perspectives on often familiar writing that the department provides in its many course offerings.

“The English department at Villanova sees itself as a home for students who love books—students who want to talk and write about them, who want to discover new books to read, and who want to reread familiar books in new ways,” Javadizadeh said. “I think that when we can see an old favorite (like “The Catcher in the Rye”) with new eyes, we learn just as much about ourselves as we do about the book in question. Events like Wildcat in the Rye are meant to extend those experiences of discovery—which happen all the time in English classes—into the everyday spaces of student life. If that leads curious first-year students into our classes, so much the better.”

The students in attendance relaxed in chairs, lounged on the carpeted floor, leaned against the room’s red brick walls and even perched on the balcony above. Despite the chaos and concerns of midterm week, they appeared eager to discover or, in some cases, revisit Salinger’s career-defining novel.

Held at 7 p.m., the event also provided pizza and cookies to the students.

Javadizadeh started the conversation by speaking briefly about the English department, his plan for the evening and his own reactions rereading the novel several times.

“Certain passages have stuck with me and have been important to me,” Javadizadeh said. “The words stay the same, but the reading experience is different because I’m different and reading in different settings.”

A combination of six undergraduate and graduate English students then read aloud from the novel’s evocative thirteenth chapter, in which Holden Caulfield interacts with a prostitute in unforeseen ways.

Following the reading, English majors formed and led small discussion groups to examine specific themes, characterizations and concepts presented in the chapter.

Freshman biology major Sophia Hernandez, who has never read “The Catcher in the Rye,” appreciated that the event included those with no prior knowledge of the novel in these groups.

“If I had read the book, I would have been able to offer more insight,” Hernandez said. “But Professor Javadizadeh gave an excellent summary, and the chapter we read was intriguing. I’m actually going to buy the book because it’s very interesting, and I definitely would come to an event like this again. I’m glad it’s open to students from all majors.”

The English students leading the discussion groups described similarly positive experiences.

“I got a lot of participation from non-English majors, and it was very valuable,” graduate student Laura Tscherry said. “I’m glad so many non-English majors came to the event.”

Wildcat in the Rye is one of several English department events throughout the year open to both majors and non-majors. The department will host its semiannual pre-registration reception on Friday, Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. in the Speakers’ Corner of Falvey Memorial Library. The event will provide information about the department and its spring course offerings and will offer lunch as well as a raffle of literary items.