Why are you reading the classics?
There really isn't an easy answer to this question. One answer is that, being an English major, I am often surrounded by very literary people who have read seemingly every classic work of literature that exists in the Western canon. (And they talk like that, too. And despite all that, they're really very likable people...for the most part.) And frankly, I haven't. Yes, I am halfway through my college career of studying literature and yet, in the world of literary riches, I feel completely destitute. (Oh dear...I think I'm starting to talk like the rest of them...)
|One of my favorites.|
So yes. I have a reputation to uphold.
But it's more than that. Much, much more than that.
I love the classics. I would be lost without them. Without classics, I would just be a young, spoiled American girl who has never known hunger or loss or heartache. I'm not saying classics brought those things into my life--I mean, I am still that spoiled American girl, if I'm being downright honest--but they have made me more than that. They show me, through a peephole, a world beyond myself, where more than just myself exists.
Classics are a social miracle. They allow us to have relationships with people we would never have had otherwise. Right now I'm forging a relationship with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who lived two hundred years ago in a different country. I would never have known a single thing about this person--I would never have been aware of her existence--but now I am able to see into the deepest part of her mind, I can see all her mystery and her passion, through her classic novel Frankenstein.
Call it feminine silliness, but I believe that relationships matter much more than actions. That is, the effect of actions on relationships matters a lot more than their effect on anything else. Why does it matter which countries William the Conquerer conquered? It matters because of the way that people in Europe treat each other and view each other now. I personally believe that the only thing you can really take with you out of this life is your relationships with others; they last forever. I read the classics because they give me an opportunity to connect with people who lived hundreds of years ago, far away from me, in a different religion, in a different community.
Maybe I'm going too much into the philosophy of the thing. But I think you can learn a lot more about a person from what they wrote than you would even if you knew every detail of their life. I read classics because I want my eyes to be opened to a different life than my own.
Why do you read classics? Share in a comment!
Photo by truds09 on Flickr
I know that I find that over time rereading is one of my great pleasures. And nowadays, as it's so easy to find others who are reading books that I am reading (or have read) -- that makes it even more fun. You might be interested in connecting with some groups who are taking on similar reading challenges. There's one on goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/59349-reading-the-classicsReplyDelete
Thanks, Dr. Burton! I'll check it out! I'm really trying to connect with other people who are reading the same kind of books.Delete