Saturday, 17 June 2017

Reading Classics


Before starting my Arts degree, the only ‘classic’ book I’d read was probably Pride and Prejudice (after seeing the brilliant 2005 adaption). I’d always felt a bit apprehensive about reading older books, assuming they would be too difficult to understand or incredibility boring, perhaps both.
However, studying English literature somewhat forces you to read older literature and, thankfully for an English major like myself, I discovered it’s not as difficult or as boring as I feared. In fact, older literature can be just as entertaining, moving and interesting as contemporary fiction.

Classics and other older books that have survived long enough that you can still borrow them from a normal library have done so for a reason, because they’re actually quite good. The novel has gone through various incarnations, but at a fundamental level, it’s stayed the same for hundreds of years. Realism is still the gold standard, as my lecturer put it, and Victorian (and I’d argue earlier) realism is actually quite similar to the current realist genre (normally just called ‘fiction’). Different eras preferenced different subgenres and styles, some of which can be confusing (post-modernism, for example), however that can also be part of the fun as it allows you to see what people enjoyed reading.

Reading older books can also be a great way to get a sense of how people lived and thought at a particular time and, especially with realism, an authentic view of the world as a particular writer saw it. Books are such a marvellous way of getting to understand a different way of seeing or thinking about the world and that’s what makes reading books of every and any age, but especially classics, so interesting.

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