“Ransom,” David Malouf’s retelling of “The Iliad,” was selected as the Ithaca College First-Year Reading Initiative book for the class of 2015.
“Ransom” tells the story of one of the oldest recorded wars in human history from a fresh perspective. The novel describes the battle of two great warriors, Achilles and Hector, and the determination of Priam to recover the body of his son. The book was written in 2009.
The selection differs from previous selections like “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau and President Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father,” because it puts an old story into a contemporary context. The reading initiative was instituted at the college in 2007.
President Tom Rochon said he thinks “Ransom” will interest students and ignite discussions in the classroom.
“I’m excited about this First-Year’s reading selection, which I think will deeply engage incoming freshmen to think about important questions about the world we live in and our place in it,” he said.
Bruce Henderson, First-Year Reading Committee member and professor of communication studies, said the committee chose “Ransom” because it will do a good job of introducing students to reading at the college level.
“The novel is written quite well, so it gives students a very strong artistic experience while raising issues that stand back to the start of Western civilization that are relevant today,” he said.
Bashar Hanna, associate provost for academic programs and initiatives, said the committee received suggestions for the reading selection from faculty and other members of the college community before choosing 12 books to read and discuss. The committee then narrowed its selection down to six books Rochon considered and ultimately chose from.
David Garcia, executive associate dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, said the committee debated the pros and cons of several books, but “Ransom” was always the front-runner.
“We were focused on books that would provide a breadth of discussion … for a variety of disciplinary conversations and things about which there could be some kind of disagreement,” he said.
Hanna said the book will be introduced to incoming students online and during welcome week. Networking devices like IC Peers and myHome enable the college to encourage discussions about the book among students before they come to campus in the fall, he said.
“The thought is to have our facilitators, the faculty and staff, who will facilitate discussions during welcome week, start engaging with the incoming class in the late spring and early summer,” Hanna said.
Garcia said the committee wanted a book that would encourage classroom discussion and could be easily integrated into a variety of different courses.
“We asked ourselves how well the book would lend itself to first-year programming, the session that all first year students go to and beyond that,” he said. “We wanted it to figure into things that we might do for all students and also what individual faculty might do for their individual classes.”
Hanna said he favored the book because it discussed the conflict of war in a way that opens itself up to critical analysis.
“It introduces our students to an incredibly well written book, and it should resonate with them as they begin life’s journey on how to critically assess writing,” Hanna said.