I'm taking a world literature class. The first half of world literature, aka Ancient Literature. (Yes, the caps are necessary.)
I was going to try to post separately about the various works of literature I'm reading, like the Epic of Gilgamesh and Oedipus the King. Lovely stories. Only made more agreeable by the ripping off of limbs and gouging out of eyes. But truth be told, I have very little to say about these stories. In a classroom setting? I could go on for fifteen minutes about the significance of the text in a historical context and what it says about the culture and time period in which it was written. But honestly? I have no emotional connection to these texts.
Now, an emotional connection isn't really necessary in order to write a paper about it, but to say anything about a book here on the blog would be positively dull if I didn't have some sort of feeling attached to it. Love, hate, anger, whatever. Even just a vague enjoyment.
I was excited to take this class because I thought I would get to learn about mysterious other cultures and their secrets to the universe. Needless to say, this was quite naive. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Oedipus the King, and the Aeneid don't seem to have too many secrets to the universe. (Unless they go something like, "No matter what you do, the gods are going to run your life, so get over it.")
Most of the time, taking a class about something piques my interest in it, even if I don't expect it to. For instance, my 18th-century literature class. I never liked 18th-century literature and never expected to like it, but that class is just a rollicking load of fun (hopefully I'll be posting about that in the future). This class, on the other hand, doesn't seem to make any difference. And despite what you might think, my teacher is actually awesome and my classmates are also great. The class itself is interesting, but the literature bores me out of my mind. (Although things are seeming to get more interesting as we get further and further away from anything that has to do with Western society).
What I am about to say will be my own shame. Be aware that these are just my impressions of the literature, and I'm certainly not trying to pass judgment on the literature itself. But the truth is, this stuff just doesn't strike me as good literature. The characters are not real to me. The language is not beautiful (although I know its beauty is probably just getting lost in translation). The stories are not compelling to me. The only way I can appreciate these texts is in using them in context to understand ancient culture. They seem incredibly detached to me; no part of them has anything to do with me.
In other words, I'm not trying to say that these books are bad...they just seem bad. Which is probably my own problem.
So instead of sharing any inspired thoughts about ancient literature with you today, I'm going to plead with you to share your secrets of ancient-literature wisdom. What do you find compelling about these stories, or other ancient literature you've read? What fascinates you about ancient literature, and why?