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What is a Classic?


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#1 goldenecho

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 10:14 PM

Lots of people here want their children to read  "classic" literature.   So, how do you define classic?   

 

 

(Edited to say "read" in stead of study).


Edited by goldenecho, 16 July 2017 - 07:58 PM.


#2 Bluegoat

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 11:30 PM

I think of it as being of enduring quality.  In some ways, the opposite of ephemeral.

 

 


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#3 serendipitous journey

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 09:24 AM

Lots of people here want to study "classic" literature.   So, how do you define classic?

 

Just wondering ... how do you? 

 

I think of myself as wanting to engage classic, and classical (from the classical cultures) works, but not so much "study" them per se.  And, particularly for the children, developing the capacity to engage great works and to be able to call on them as a source of joy, sustenance, truth is important to me.

 

Not all classics are hard or inaccessible, thank goodness, especially for children ... Bluegoat's definition above nicely catches the essence of my intuition for classics.  There are books written today that are excellent books, extraordinary even, that speak to us today, that may be incredibly important for us to read today, but that will not speak to folks generations down the line.  So: not classic. 

 

To me.  :)


Edited by serendipitous journey, 16 July 2017 - 07:40 PM.


#4 Tanaqui

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 12:23 PM

I believe Mark Twain said it best. (He always does.)

 

 “A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”

 

And there you have it.

 

Less snarkily, a classic is a book that everybody has to know something about. You have to know that Moby Dick is about Ahab chasing a whale, and that the first line is "Call me Ishmael". You have to know that Romeo and Juliet is about star-crossed young lovers, and that it's a tragedy. You have to know that Les Miserables involves a man who is clapped in prison and chased for years because he stole a bit of bread when he was hungry.

 

And really, you should read some of these books, or at least watch the film. However - and this is important - they aren't all worth your attention just because they're "classics". They might have spoken to everybody in your parents' and grandparents' generations, but still have nothing to say to you. And that's okay. There's so many classics that nobody could possibly read all of them! (Other classics just became enshrined as such because it was really cheap to buy copies for high school classes, and there were no dirty bits that had to be taken out. They never really were great literature. It's all a big scam. Figuring out which so-called classics fall into this category is an exercise best left to the reader.)


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#5 Targhee

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 03:34 PM

I think of a classic as a work which reflects on the human condition so well that it survives outside its on time, is worth experiencing and contemplating more than once, and points towards truth (or in some cases provides the needed antithesis) and beauty. I use the term "work" because it may be literature, or art, or music, or architecture, or theater, or essay, or film.
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#6 EKT

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 05:18 PM

I think of a classic as a work which reflects on the human condition so well that it survives outside its on time, is worth experiencing and contemplating more than once, and points towards truth (or in some cases provides the needed antithesis) and beauty. I use the term "work" because it may be literature, or art, or music, or architecture, or theater, or essay, or film.

 

I like this definition! Also, in practical terms, a classic is a book that is kept in print by publishers. (If you go into Barnes and Noble right now, you will be able to find a copy of Pride and Prejudice on the shelves.) Books that don't cut it won't stay in print. 



#7 Crimson Wife

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 05:44 PM

Cultural literacy is a big reason why we homeschool. I want my kids to be able to understand allusions. If someone comments that taking a particular action would "open Pandora's Box", I want my kids to know what that person means by the allusion.

 

While I do strive to introduce my children to literature from non-Western cultures, I'm not going to throw out literary classics simply because they reflect un-P.C. attitudes from their authors' time period. To me, excluding them would be tossing the baby out with the bathwater. I do make sure to discuss problematic language/scenes.

 


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#8 Targhee

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 06:58 PM

Cultural literacy is a big reason why we homeschool. I want my kids to be able to understand allusions. If someone comments that taking a particular action would "open Pandora's Box", I want my kids to know what that person means by the allusion.

While I do strive to introduce my children to literature from non-Western cultures, I'm not going to throw out literary classics simply because they reflect un-P.C. attitudes from their authors' time period. To me, excluding them would be tossing the baby out with the bathwater. I do make sure to discuss problematic language/scenes.

Yes, there's a difference between a work which is contemporary with society at the time (i.e. Used racial slurs or depicts other cultures with gross characterization, etc) and a work which incites and preaches hate. Similarly I don't avoid mythology even though I don't agree with their "carnal" exploits. If it was just erotic or just about s*x we wouldn't wasting our time with it. But it is about cultural literacy, and folly and virtue and all the other human experiences.

#9 goldenecho

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 08:01 PM

Just wondering ... how do you? 

 

....

 

I don't really worry about whether something is a classic.  I consider whether has quality and depth (hard terms to define too, really), and that's enough for me.  But because people often ask for suggestions of "classic" literature on these and other forums I wanted to get a general sense of what they meant by that. 

 


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#10 serendipitous journey

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 08:40 AM

I don't really worry about whether something is a classic.  I consider whether has quality and depth (hard terms to define too, really), and that's enough for me.  But because people often ask for suggestions of "classic" literature on these and other forums I wanted to get a general sense of what they meant by that. 

 

Oh, that makes sense!  :)