Literary House hosts first “Silent Reading” in over two decades

By Sophie Kerr

Professional Silent Reader

On Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at 7 p.m., the Rose O’Neill Literary House hosted a “silent reading,” open to all students and staff at Washington College to attend.  

The last time the event was held was March 21, 1997, exactly 26 years ago, and current WC students rallied for the event to be held again. Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Associate Professor of English Dr. James Hall pitched the idea in the first place, casually bringing it up to a few students before many were in a frenzy about the event.  

“I was perusing old copies of The Morning Wood when I came across the story about the silent reading,” Dr. Hall said. “And I thought to myself, ‘we absolutely have to do this.’” 

The silent reading used to be a WC tradition at the Literary House, until 1998, when the event was canceled under mysterious circumstances. Presenters at the silent reading, rather than performing to the crowd, instead read their selection silently to themselves in their own head.

This year, the Literary House was packed, with every chair taken, and students having to sit on the floor. Some attendees even flooded out of each entrance to the building and had to find seats outside.  

“At the end of the night, my butt was so numb, but it was so worth it,” sophomore CJ Dunker said.  

Various famous pieces of literature were read at the reading, including a gentle and silent rendition of Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dunker.  

Senior Jonah Nicholson read a poem they wrote in the second grade, entitled “Unicorns.” 

“Unicorns, unicorns, unicorns,” Nicholson read in their head. “Oh, how I love unicorns.” 

One attendee of the 1997 silent reading came back to read over 20 years later. Stephen Spotswood ’99 is now a professor at WC, teaching classes such as the theater course “Introduction to Playwriting.”  

Spotswood read the same book that he did in 1997, Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace is Every Step.” This time, however, Spotswood chose to read a different excerpt to himself. 

“Every breath we take, every step we take,” Spotswood started, The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” playing in the background, “can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.” 

Two students, sophomores Morgan Carlson and Noelle Punte read their pieces together, with Carlson presenting a PowerPoint about the history of oil paintings and Punte reading “Capital: Critique of Political Economy” by Karl Marx, both at the same time.

Attendees questioned whether the two had a telepathic connection, or if they just had very good timing.

The final reading of the night was done by Dr. Hall himself, who read the back of a tea bag package found on the floor next to a trash can in the Literary House kitchen.  

“Steep for three to four minutes,” Dr. Hall read. “Enjoy. Smiley face.” 

Dr. Hall’s piece did not take very long. For the remainder of the reading, they sat and contemplated.

The ghost of WC legend Toni Morrison was invited back to the Literary House for the silent reading. However, she did not respond to the invitation.  

As far as future reading events go, the Literary House and those who work there have been silent. 

Speakers who were too loud were enthusiastically booed in attendees’ heads

Photo Caption: Rumor has it that the ghost of George Washington himself wanted to read, but he was a bit too shy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *