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Disrupting Literary Cannon Through AudioBooks

Going into this project, I couldn’t help but feel slightly insecure by the classes experience and knowledge with this type of literature. During my initial read, prior to this group project, I found the language and usage of words difficult to comprehend, which affected my ability to immerse myself with the text.

In thinking of one of my favorite librarian scholars, Pura Belpre, I constantly kept thinking of her words on how vital representation and seeing oneself in literature is so important to the immersive and imaginative experience of reading. As a librarian and archivist, it was her mission to provide books that reflected the experiences of Puerto Rican and LatinX children of the Bronx. When there weren’t any, she created them and made it her life’s work to change the perception of how language can he used to influence and inspire readers outside of the typical Westernized literary cannon. When I reflect on the Benjamin piece my heart goes back to writers like Belpre, who reach outside of the cannon to recover lost pieces of history and indigenous practices of visual knowledge in her work rather than compare the novel’s and audiobook’s origins in a Eurocentric linear perspective.

As a reader for our group, my insecurity persisted as I wondered how I would engage my own voice (and frankly enthusiasm) into a group of characters I in no way could identify with across the spectrum of race and gender. It was interesting to feminize these characters, and quickly I found myself enjoying what felt like a “disruption” of the common flow of the story. Somehow I had infiltrated the expectations of the demeanor and voices of these traditional characters, and I relished in the idea of being able to re-frame a story in a completely different context. The constant repetition that recording an audiobook requires also enabled me to immerse myself with the text in a way I wasn’t able to before. The thoughtfulness to the emphasis on each word alleviated the confusion I had in understanding many of the correspondences happening between the characters in what initially felt like a world with language that did not belong to me. It was influential scholars like Belpre that paved the way for me to gain these skills in deciphering literature across many genres, all starting with her classic stories such as Juan Bobo, a collection of folk- Taino tales which painted an illustrative literary experience I carry with me forever.

By the end of my recording, I had gained a new appreciation for Bartleby, and find myself making new connections to how the story connects with many social themes we could relate to today. I empathize with the narrator in many ways, and have had moments I feel myself unraveling under the constant “respectable” expectations of what is considered intellectual and respectable in an academic setting. The unspoken assumptions of etiquette, and expectation to perform under a specific cannon of knowledge. This assignment overall has helped me re-think what can be possible in engaging different audiences to texts through the use of collaborative audiobooks, and using this platform as a way to re-appropriate literature in the academic cannon.

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