You SHOULD…Play: Horizon Zero Dawn

“You should immerse yourself in new, strange, and sometime dystopian worlds through playing video games such as:


Horizon Zero Dawn by Guerrilla Games


Any of the Fallout Series by Bethesda Game Studios


I recommend playing any of these recent action/role-playing games as a way to experience multiple types of creative output at the same time: graphics, design, narrative and character development, music, and movement. It is an awe-some and brain-tingling, anticipatory experience to tear the plastic wrap off a new game, pop it into my console, and awake in a new environment having to suss out what are the rules and boundaries that govern this particular world or universe. I have learned my ethical and moral compass is strong because I can’t play a bad guy and sleep well afterwards. I appreciate the truly visceral realness of the experience, so much so that my mind conjures up what it would smell like walking through this landscape or that. Many of the latest games are so beautiful that I like to take pictures of my cats as they walk in front of the monitor with the game world as their backdrop.”


Anne Langley
Dean of the UConn Library

You SHOULD…Read: Frankenstein and Black Skin, White Masks

“I recommend reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) and Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1952) together.  Shelley was an anti-colonialist who was also concerned with the great question of what it means to be a human being, especially as posed by the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  The novel raises the problem of taking responsibility for what one creates and the damage that occurs from failing to do so.  She raises, as well, the perspective of the created, the Creature, whose existential struggle against his monstrosity is epic.  Fanon examines a similar question from the perspective of those created from colonialism, enslavement, and its accompanying racism.  Written when he was 25 years old, it places him in conversation with the precocious Shelley, who wrote her great work when she was 19.  These books offer the prescience and intellectual capacity of youth and the importance of speaking to the human condition across the ages.   As both show, maturity requires not imitation but realizing the question one must pose for subsequent generations.   Failure to do such leaves little recourse but to burn in the cleansing force of fire or collapse in the despair of tears.  And what might such question be but the creation of conditions for living embodiments of freedom?”


-Lewis Gordon,
Professor of Philosophy
University of Connecticut

You SHOULD…Read: “The Fifth Season”

“You should read …

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. To identify this book as “fantasy” or “post-apocalyptic,” while accurate, would also be wholly inadequate. At its core, The Fifth Season is a novel about power, oppression, and the costs—physical, emotional, and psychological—of living in a world that denies your humanity so thoroughly that you cannot even recognize it in yourself.

In brief, the story involves a tectonically unstable world in which one small group of people possess the power to sense and control these tectonic shifts. When a massive earthquake shakes this fragile land, it initiates a “fifth season” of ash and death, forcing characters to make difficult choices about how to survive. This summary makes the novel seem primarily environmental in its concerns, but Jemisin is after more than a warning about the dangers of massive ecosystem collapse. At its core, The Fifth Season is a study of fear as a method of social control, determining who is “us” and who is “other,” who is a person and who is merely a tool. Jemisin’s nuanced world-building is designed not to impress with its innovation, but rather to bring us into a deeper understanding of how histories are forgotten and rewritten over time and how caste systems are built over generations. Like all good fantasy, the allegory of own world is clear, but at the same time the fictional world offers us the opportunity to explore with new eyes, exposing our own biases and assumptions. Jemisin draws us into her characters with remarkable skill, vividly evoking the difficulties of loving and trusting when your life is marked by fear and abuse. In the end, we must ask which poses a greater threat to these characters’ survival: the land itself, unstable and deadly, or a society that asks nothing less than the sacrifice of our own humanity. ”


-Lindsay Cummings
Assistant Professor of Dramatic Arts
CRT Dramaturg
University of Connecticut

You SHOULD…Look At: The “Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage”

“You SHOULD…Look at the “Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World” from the New Bedford Whaling Museum


With the omnipresence of digital culture, we often tend to think of our society as a predominately visual culture. The 1848 “Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World,” a 1,275-foot-long painting performed as a giant moving scroll, reminds us that visual communication did not begin with the advent of projected photographic images in the late 19th century.


You can experience the entirety of this recently restored work online, at Now part of the collections of the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts, this work by Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington was performed across the United States in the latter half of the 19th century, part of a burgeoning and popular culture of panorama performance. The moving panorama is an aspect of global traditions of painting and performance with antecedents in Chinese, Indian, Javanese, Persian, and various European cultures. This dynamic, spirited means of telling the important stories of a community–religious, political, social, historical, personal–combines a succession of images with texts and music, allowing audiences to be reached by a multi-media experience.


Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, was said to have seen this panorama before he wrote his classic novel about whaling and American life. Like Melville’s book, the New Bedford panorama shows us an epic voyage on a whaling ship from New Bedford south to Cape Horn, and then into the whaling fields of the Pacific. Like Melville’s novel, the panorama is much more than an examination of a profitable extractive industry, showing us as well how Americans viewed the world, other peoples (in Latin America, the Pacific, and along the Northwest coast of North America), and how the United States might be beginning to think of its economic and political role in the modern world.


The “Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World” can give us a direct sense of what 19th-century Americans experienced when they attended one of the most popular performance forms of the time.”


-Dr. John Bell
Director, Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry
Associate Professor, Dramatic Arts Department

You SHOULD…Read: The Making of Black Lives Matter

“‘What you should read, see, and hear?’ You should read The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea (Oxford University Press, 2017) by political theorist, Christopher J. Lebron, because he reminds us that the philosophical underpinnings of the #BlackLivesMatter movement predate the contemporary movement.  Analyzing the treatment of “Black” people over time, Lebron submits a historical framing of Black political thinkers’, activists,’ and letterpersons’ understandings about Black people’s rights (and the lack, thereof) in American society.  This treatment, Lebron notes, prompted Black Americans’ rhetorical, oratorical, lettered, and physical activism to articulate and assert Black people’s equal humanity, rights, and protection in different eras of American political history. Thus, Lebron outlines the tradition of Black resistance oriented in the long-standing Black freedom struggle to contest racial discrimination and systemic inequality in various forms (in addition to contemporary struggles against police brutality).  Lebron elucidates this longitudinal activism by examining political thought and expressions of Black men and women, such as Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Audre Lorde, Anna Julia Cooper, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who establish foundational arguments about Black Americans’ humanity, (in)justice, and liberation for various iterations of “Black,” intersectional identities (class, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity, for example).”

-Shayla C. Nunnally
Department of Political Science & Africana Studies Institute
University of Connecticut


You SHOULD…Read: “The Black Jacobins”




“Reading C.L.R. James’s brilliant account of the Haitian Revolution could not come at a more appropriate time. Written in 1938, The Black Jacobins remains arguably the most powerful historical narration of a revolutionary struggle that continues fundamentally to affect us today. It traces the history of the army of rebellious slaves in the French colony of Saint Domingue (Haiti) as is defeated the imperial armies of France, England, and Spain, finally declaring the independent nation of Haiti in 1804.


In the late 18th century, Saint Domingue was the “Pearl of the Antilles,” the richest colony in the world, the centerpiece of France’s mercantile empire, and the greatest individual market for the transatlantic slave trade—all of this resting on the labor of half a million enslaved men, women, and children. In 1791, inspired by the French Revolution, they revolted under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture, who embodied the revolutionary fervor of his people and who forms the central tragic-heroic figure of James’s dramatic narrative. James’s riveting account tracks the tension between the empowering influence of the French Revolution’s call for “liberty, equality, brotherhood” on the slaves, and the slaves’ own agency in driving the Haitian Revolution forward against seemingly insurmountable odds.


James’s great insight in The Black Jacobins was to demonstrate the centrality of the Haitian Revolution to any understanding of the imperialist and racist bases of modern capitalism. By tracing how the slaves were first enthused by France’s revolutionary rhetoric, then came into conflict with its commercial and class underpinnings, James probes a structural dynamic of race and class, of freedom of commerce versus freedom of humanity, that continues to impact our own societies today.


James wrote The Black Jacobins on the eve of World War II as a defiant call to resisting racism, fascism, and all forms of oppression. Today, eighty years later, the history he recounts of a people who steadfastly claimed their humanity, and the form in which he recounts it, give us potent tools to do the same.”


-Robin Greenley,
Associate professor of Art History


You SHOULD…Read: “In the Heart of the Sea”

“You should read In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick


If you have ever read or even heard of the novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville; if you have ever had an inkling of interest in New England history; or if you have ever wondered about life at sea and what would happen if you were actually ship-wrecked, then you should read In the Heart of the Sea.


But why read an historical account of the 1820 whale attack on the whaleship Essex and everything that came afterwards when Melville’s Moby Dick is already a classic? Because, in the words of our very own Mark Twain “truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”  In the Heart of the Sea tells a story so fantastic, so sensational, that it can only be a work of non-fiction.


But that is not what will keep you turning the pages. What will keep you reading into the wee hours of the night is the way Philbrick describes the harrowing events of what followed for four more months after the Essex crew was shipwrecked. Philbrick provides not only a description of the events, but an account of how the sailors – most of whom eventually perished – physically and psychologically responded to their desperate circumstances, from the extreme thirst and hunger brought on by severe dehydration and starvation, to the crippling fear of knowing that the likelihood any of them being rescued was extremely remote.


Why read In the Heart of the Sea?  Because, quite simply, as a work of non-fiction, it can fill in the details that the classic novel never could.”

-Katrina Higgins,
Director of Advising

You SHOULD…Read: “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows”



“One of my Saturday afternoon pleasures is to browse the new fiction section at my local public library.  Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows beckoned even as I was skeptical of yet another immigrant narrative, albeit of a young Sikh woman in London.  But I was in for a hilarious surprise.  Nikki, a Sikh English woman, is a law school dropout and rebel, who tends bar at a dive with sexist Russian coworkers a racist regular, a white Briton.  But against her better judgment, when she visits the gurudwara (a Sikh temple) in Southall to post a matrimonial ad for her prim and obedient older sister that things take an interesting turn.  While there, she sees an ad seeking an English teacher for Punjabi widows at the temple and despite having no teaching experience applies for and gets the job.  Only to find out that the widows, who range from 45-65, have no interest in learning English but in telling explicit and detailed stories about their sexual desires and fantasies. The uproariously funny and poignant stories reveal the complexities and contradictions of gender, immigration, love, sex, age, and violence of both the Punjabi and English communities and the different forms of isolation they experience in each.  Something that many of us are feeling in the US right now.”

-Manisha Desai,
Head of Sociology and Asian and Asian American Studies

Balli Jaswal



You SHOULD…See: “In Between”

“You should see “In Between,” a film currently showing at Real Art Ways in Hartford. It’s a wonderful film about three very different Palestinian women sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv, and the film follows their challenges and triumphs to balance traditional life with modernity. One is a successful attorney, one is a lesbian who works at various jobs (DJ, bartender), and one is a traditional Muslim woman who is finishing her degree in Computer Science and engaged to be married. All of them struggle against patriarchal control, violence and abuse, and imposed limitation, one by her partner, one by her father, and one by her fiancé. The film does a terrific job of destroying the monolithic stereotypes of what it means to be a Palestinian woman (or any woman), showing the great diversity of possibility. And it draws the common lines between these women and women everywhere as we all grapple with the same issues. In the end, sisterhood is powerful, no matter who we are!”

-Davita Silfen Glasberg,
Interim Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Professor, Department of Sociology

You SHOULD…Read: “The Power”

“You should read Naomi Alderman’s The Power.


In which women suddenly develop the ability to overpower men by projecting electrical currents from their hands. This causes a revolution in gender relations and, eventually, world politics. Men are at first puzzled, then alarmed, and finally subjugated.


The bio-mechanics are easily understood – women develop a sheet of muscle across the collarbone, known as a skein, and the power comes from there. But no one can quite figure out what caused the skeins to grow. The best guess is it has something to do with chemical pollution, the detritus of mankind’s wars and industry, seeping into the water table.


Alderman’s fiction is a sort of inverted Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood mentored the writer), and asks some profound questions about human nature. The inhabitants of Alderman’s new world have little nostalgia for the old; they remember what it was like to live in the patriarchy. But her vision is bleak. She suggests that power has the same dynamics, regardless of who holds it. Why do powerful people do bad things, she asks? Because they can.”

-Stephen Dyson,
Associate Professor of Political Science,
Director, Humanities House