Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Armchair BEA: my take on Classic Literature
I study English Literature, so obviously I've read a bunch of them. To be honest though my department leans toward English lit rather than American one, so I've never read anything by William Faulkner, no Scarlet Letter, no To Kill A Mockingbird. I've read Gatsby but to be honest I was kinda underwhelmed. It was after my first year though so if I re-read it now I might like it better. American authors I've read and liked are E.A. Poe, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Paul Auster, Emily Dickinson, Stephen Crane, and William Carlos Williams.
I'm also a big poetry fan (my American author list might have tipped you off). Some of my favorites are John Keats, Sir Philip Sidney, Shakespeare, Milton, Alexander Pope, and Robert Browning, or T.S. Eliot. I think poetry is really underrated and I've been mulling over ideas for a poetry feature here for a while!
As for novels, I adore Jane Eyre. I'd take Mr Rochester over Darcy any time. Don't hit me, Jane Austen fans! I also like Wilkie Collins' books a lot, for instance The Woman in White. Other favorites are The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde is a genius!) or Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy (most random book ever!), or Orlando by Virginia Woolf. My favorite play that I think I even prefer to Shakespeare is Tom Stoppard's Arcadia.
Why do I like the Classics? I really like history, so I enjoy getting to know about what life was like in the past and learning more about that society and culture, also when I research secondary sources for papers and seminars etc. Furthermore, some of these texts are still being referenced and quoted in more modern books (even YA ones) and I love picking up on these intertextual bits! It's about tropes and images that are repeated over and over, a whole tradition of imagery I wouldn't be aware of without reading the Classics. Also, texts that have become Classics are often more aware of their language - you can dig deeper, find more layers and meanings than there are in some more contemporary books. I love both though and wouldn't want to live without either one!
What can I recommend to people who usually don't like Classics?
Jane Eyre. The Catcher in the Rye. Stay away from Thomas Hardy - way too depressing. Oscar Wilde is wonderfully sarcastic, Shakespeare's comedies are a lot of fun (Twelfth Night, As You Like It), and if you like detective fiction you should check out Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone (first ever detective novel) or some of the Sherlock Holmes stories. As for poetry, Byron is fun and Robert Browning's dramatic monologues are quite readable because they're written the way people would talk.
I don't know what to say though - give the books a try and also try to understand them out of the time when they were written. But if you don't like them you don't like them - to everyone their own :)
Do you guys read the Classics? What are some of your favorites / most detested ones?