A few weeks ago, I asked the question, What Is Young Adult, because it’s my favorite genre to read and write. In the comments, Ally R (@scribble_sprite) suggested ‘What is Classical Literature’ as the next step in the ‘What Is’ series, so I enlisted the help of my good friend – and classics aficionado – Mariella Hunt to explain why she loves older novels!
I’ve been called strange by friends when I tell them what my favorite books are. Very rarely will you hear me mention a modern-day book; no, if you want to start me on a fangirlish rant, it’s got to be about classical literature. I’m an old soul who craves writing styles that take me back in time. I want to see how people lived, what the culture was like–I want to hear about it first-hand.
Not long ago, Brett asked me to write a blog post about this strange obsession. When posed with the question What is classic literature? I hesitated. I can’t give you the answer of a literature major. I haven’t read textbooks on post-modernism or studied the wisdom of Plato. I just go to thrift stores and look for books you probably haven’t heard of, or books that are on your shelf and haven’t been read.
This phase began when I discovered classic novels were available for free on sites like ManyBooks.net or Gutenberg. Over time, I read dozens of books by authors long gone—and their style rubbed off on me. Some of my journal entries began sounding like Jane Austen. Not only did the classic novel grant me entry to a place long gone, it also left me a bit of its gold.
It gave me the gift of talent. It shaped my writing style, which people call eloquent and poetic. I’ll take their word for it, and the secret is this: Read classical literature.
It’s so heavy with meaning, yet some people won’t touch it. We have hundreds of years’ worth of words at our disposal, most of them for free. We have these portals into the past, frames through which we meet heroes who’ve been dead for centuries.
I know what classical literature means to me.
Classical literature is a portal. London today is different from what it was in the time of Charles Dickens, but his work will take you to those streets long gone. He paints a picture of those streets, even allowing you to walk beside the main character. His work allows us to visit London as it was then.
Classic literature is a second chance. It’s a belief of mine that authors only truly die when their work is forgotten. Each time you put away the contemporary novels to give a dead author a chance, you allow them to shine once more. You’re bringing them out of a dusty corner so they can use their voice again. It’s a beautiful thought, isn’t it? We’re responsible for keeping these gems alive.
Classical literature is a weapon. A great deal of it takes place during times of war and tension. A Tale of Two Cities, for example, plunges you straight into the French Revolution. And as we walk with the characters, we see the atrocities of that time, and learn never to do it again. Books written about our darkest times are weapons arming us so that we’ll never repeat them.
Classical literature is haunting. Some authors die before they can finish writing their book–such as my literary hero, Charles Dickens. He was unable to finish the ending before he breathed his last. The Mystery of Edwin Drood sits on our shelves and haunts us. Many other such books exist.
I understand that a classic book can seem intimidating. The novels are so thick, with such complicated words, that many people walk past without giving them a chance. But I daresay there’s more magic in classical books than contemporary. There’s a history you can dig into, sometimes centuries of it; you see the world in a different light.
This is, in the end, just my opinion—reasons why I love classical literature. You may disagree, of course, or have some reasons of your own. I would love to hear them!
For more of my thoughts on literature, including classical, I invite you to visit my blog and we can be friends! Thank you for reading!
Thanks so much Mariella for shedding light on the amazing world of Classical Literature! To my readers – do you like classics, and if so, what’s your favorite Classic? If you have suggestions for another ‘What Is’ blog post, please feel free to leave it, or another comment, below!
Thanks for reading!