Here are my three texts and why I chose them . . .
1. Virgina Woolf, A Room of One's Own: a magnificent, wide-ranging essay exploring gender dynamics for the past thousand years, but more specifically, why women write the way they do, and why so few women entered the pre 20th century canon. Also answers the pressing question, "Who was Judith Shakespeare?" Essential reading for an understanding of British literature, feminist theory, and modernism (I think). [Click here for a free online edition of the text; click here to buy a copy.]
2. Shakespeare, The Sonnets: as published in 1609, this collection of possibly the greatest and most dynamic sonnets ever written, explores the nature of love, lust, and betrayal, as well as the possibility of poetry to immortalize and extend love beyond the lives of either poet or object. When read as a series, a "story line" emerges of the poet pursuing a young man, having a brief affair, a bitter falling out, entertaining a "dark lady" who is sinister and seductive, and finally drowning in a destructive menage a trois that threatens to consume both poet and lover. These works show the incredible range of Shakespeare's verbal skills within the confined jacket of the sonnet, and are perhaps the best way to approach "the bard's" true genius as a poet and writer. You'll never read the plays the same way again! [Click here for a free online edition of the sonnets; click here to purchase a copy.]
3. V.S. Naipaul, In a Free State: A Novella with Two Supporting Narratives: this is a powerful introduction to postcolonialism, as the stories shift focuses from the colonizers (British citizens stranded in a revolutionary African country) to the colonized, who are heading back "home" to London and America. Picking up where Conrad left off, these are powerful, gritty, and often poetic stories and vignettes which help anyone (but especially English students) understand the issues of identity and power at the heart of the colonial institution, especially for those forced to speak in a foreign tongue when their dreams are of other lands and cultures. Won Britain's Booker Prize and was partially the basis for his winning the Nobel Prize in 2001.