In defence of classics- again!

thoughts orangutan

Prepare yourself, for I am about to say something *ground-breaking*, *momentous*, *lifechanging* even: classics are worthwhile and important. I know, I know, you can stop the applause now 😉 I’m pretty sure I’ve made my defences for classics before and talked about their upsides. Alas- this seems to be the perennial problem of our age that won’t go away. Every week or so, I still see people telling others not to bother reading classics. And I despair whenever I see someone using these horrible, terrible, NOT GOOD arguments. So, it’s about time to put down those swords, grab the much-mightier pen, and let’s break this down, shall we?

“They’re pretentious”- I hear many-a misled individual moan. Here’s the kicker- complex/beautiful/unusual language *is not* automatically pretentious. In fairness, I think there are multiple reasons for this misbelief, starting with the fact that they can be written in archaic language, which is less accessible to the modern reader. Now, where the mistake is being made is that using complex words and a style from 200 years ago DOES NOT mean the author’s intent was to impress upon you its importance in some hoity-toity way. Hard for the modern reader ≠ pretentious. A lot of classics were aimed at the “mass market” (as much as that existed) in the same way a popular paperback might be today. It is a truth universally acknowledged that poor people went to see Shakespeare back in the day 😉 This is not to say that there are no pretentious classics- BUT (and this will come as a shocker) classics are not all the same and come from a range of genres- as was brilliantly pointed out by Pages Unbound.

“There’s no benefit/it’s the same to just watch the movie”- erm no. I mean, I’m not sure I have to explain the difference between reading a book and watching a movie to a bunch of bookworms 😉 Let’s just say, I think we can all agree that there’s endless complexity when it comes to books, it stretches the brain and this is particularly important when it comes to children’s development. Because, yes, classics may provide more of a challenge, but that is really beneficial when it comes to education. You wouldn’t expect an athlete to get better only competing at the lowest level. The language of classics alone often makes a huge difference as well- you can’t just cheat the system by brushing up on sparknotes. There are so many literary devices that you miss if you don’t read it on the page. I’ve heard it said recently the difference is much like looking at a photo versus a painting- the depth is so much greater when you can see the layers for yourself.

“They’re elitist”- seems to be a very pervasive point of view at the moment. Unfortunately, it hurts the very people it pertains to help. Somehow, it’s supposed to help people from lower socio-economic backgrounds to tell them they don’t need to read classics- yet in truth this race to the bottom mentality stands in the way of self-improvement and stops poorer kids from levelling the playing field. Not only will it be impossible to out-compete people who have top-notch educations with this attitude, but it also means our societies will be less educated for it. In the words of headteacher and founder of the Michaela Community School, Katherine Birbalsingh “They are denying a decent education to black kids, because being able to understand Shakespeare is a right that my kids deserve and knowing who Mozart was and hearing his music is a right that they should be able to access.” We should be fighting for underprivileged kids to get good educations, not standing in their way! And on that note…

“They’re all written by old white men”- ahh the criticism that historically speaking Europeans were European. Aside from the what do you actually expect to come out of Europe? counterargument, I do think that there’s other problems with this outlook. One, you may need to re-examine the last few hundred years of the European literary canon; two, I will always advocate expanding your horizons and considering reading *outside* the Western canon. Go on, I dare you 😉 Though there are benefits of reading in the original language, which I’ve mentioned, you can still get access to the ideas and learn something new. But, even if we were to assume all classics were written by “old white men”, it doesn’t actually reduce their merit, make them less valuable or stop them being important for the reasons already stated.

“They put children off reading”- well, I wouldn’t say this is true for a lot of children, as Briana @Pages Unbound wrote about in: “Why I fell in love with reading because of old boring books”. I feel much the same way and many, many literature students will tell you the same thing. Unfortunately, I can’t say that every teacher will be brilliantly inspiring. Plus, there is always the matter of personal taste (although I will urge people put off by a few books not to throw out the baby with the bathwater). Now everything I’ve said so far might indicate that I want children reading classics, whilst playing the violin and sipping tea. Truth is though, I prefer to take the middle ground when it comes to the “what kids should be reading” debate. There should be a balance in children reading for pleasure and for educational purposes. As Krysta @Pages Unbound pointed out in her post “The Unacknowledged Nuances in the Argument for Choice in School Reading“, left to themselves, children will never pick up certain types of books and will nearly always go for the easy option. While it can seem quite prescriptive, the real trick with reading lists is to find a balance- a lot of teachers try to find a mix of well-written/enjoyable/imaginative reads etc. But they’ll also understand that there have to be progressively more challenging books. After all, in the words of George R R Martin:

a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone

Classics are the *ultimate* whetstone. And on that weird analogy, I’d like to ask you if you think classics have value? What other defences do you have? Let me know in the comments

The Classics Book Tag

Phew- I don’t know about you, but it’s been a busy week/weekend for me! Glad it’s Sunday- it won’t be long before the madness starts up again! Thank you so much to Charley @ Books and Bakes for tagging me to do this one! She runs a lovely and you guys should all check it out!! 

An overhyped classic you didn’t really like:

Hmmm, this is hard, cos I rarely think Classics are overhyped- usually with classics I can see the appeal, even if I didn’t like them. But I’m gonna be honest and say I do not like or get Pilgrim’s Progress. Just yeuch- I can totally live without it.

pilgrim's progress

Favourite time period to read about:

Hmm hard- I’d say, late Victorian, because it has everything from Wilde to Hardy! (and Dostoevsky if you go abroad).

Favourite fairy tale:

I *love* the Little Match girl by Hans Christian Anderson

match-girl

What is the most embarrassing classic you haven’t read? moby dick

Quite a few- I’m gonna steal books and Bakes answer here- it’s really quite embarrassing, but I haven’t read Moby Dick either.

Top 5 classics you’d like to read soon:

Ooh time for a guilty look at the classics that have been on my tbr forever *cracks knuckes*…

classics tbr.png

I have literally no idea why I haven’t read these yet!!

Favourite modern book/series based on a classic:

Hmm that’s a really hard questions! I tend to really hate adaptations of classics into modern settings (yeah, I’m that person). I can’t think of a single book I’m afraid.

Favourite movie version / TV series based on a classic:

I *love* the BBC versions of Bleak House and Pride and Prejudice.

classics tv adaptations.png

Worst classic to movie adaptation:

Wuthering_heights_2011

The Wuthering Heights 2011 movie was literally the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Partly cos it mostly focused on animal torture, partly cos it had child sex, but also oddly enough cos the person that made the film thought it’d be really “unique” to not include a soundtrack (I can’t remember where I heard this- probably my musician sister- but it kills a movie not to have music *somewhere*)

Favourite edition(s) you would like to collect more classics from:

I also love the penguin soft cloth!!

classics soft cover

An under-hyped classic you’d recommend to everyone:

armadale

What a great question! Armadale- it’s a really exciting, slightly twisted Wilkie Collins book- go read it!

I tag:

Emily @ Rose Read

Louise Loves Books

Lost Art of Reading

Briana & Krysta @ Pages Unbound

MiRakelBooks

And that’s all from me for today! Happy *all the things* that are going on today! (Spring/Easter/Pesach) And what is your favourite underrated classic? Let me know in the comments!

#SaveTheClassics

Hello all!! I’m back from my work trip and have the day off to catch up on sleep- so naturally here I am talking to you guys. While I was away, I was tagged by the lovely LibroLiv to join in the #SaveTheClassics conversation and I was really excited when I heard about it.

I wasn’t aware of the project until I read LibroLiv’s post– but the second I heard about it I knew it was right up my street. As LibroLiv said, Classics really don’t get enough attention these days. Personally, I think Classics bashing seems to be a bit in vogue right now- whether it is with people criticising the writing style or saying the subject matter is out of date. And that is a real shame for so many reasons. Not only are people missing out on all there is to learn from these great works of literature, they are also ignoring the great tradition from which all literature follows. For me, Classics aren’t just a way of looking back at literary history- they underscore everything that has been written since.

It is therefore a pleasure to find a post like this- thank you so much to LibroLiv for tagging me and making me aware of this project! I’m really looking forward to answering these questions- so without further ado…

The Rules

  1. Answer a few of the questions below. You don’t have to answer all of them if you don’t want)
  2. Link to the project: clickhere.
  3. Tag three bloggers/friends that might like this challenge and continue it.
  4. Use the hashtag #SaveTheClassics
  1. What is your favourite classic book?

daniel deronda

That is such a hard question! Let’s be honest, I have many favourites- but since I have to pick one, I’ll give Daniel Deronda a mention, since I don’t feel like I talk about it enough (okay, I may have given it a shout out a few dozen times before, but whatever)

  1. If your life was a classic, what would it be?

Alice's_Adventures_in_Wonderland

Haha oh dear that’s a hard one- I don’t know if I can actually answer that honestly- I guess there’s some similarities with Alice in Wonderland, cos my life can be weird and wacky and unpredictable.

  1. With which writer from the past would you like to have dinner?

oscar-wilde_featured

Oscar Wilde- can you imagine how much fun that would be? He was one of the funniest, most entertaining writers that ever lived and I bet he would he would make the best dinner party guest imaginable.

  1. Which classic literary character best describes you?

peter pan and wendy

I reckon I relate most to Peter Pan- because let’s be honest, I never want to grow up and I don’t expect I ever will.

  1. What’s the first classic that you read?

rebecca

I reckon it was Rebecca because it’s one of my mum’s favourite books and it was one of the first books she recommended to me.

  1. Which classic book could be the best gift?

aesop's-fables

Since I’ve had this as a gift and I know how happy it made me to get it, I reckon this is a great one to choose. Not only is it exquisite on the outside, but the illustrations on the inside are glorious too.

I tag:

Zezee

Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books

Jill @ Rant and Rave about Books

Donna @ Chocolatenwaffles Blog

Nicole @ Sorry I am Booked

Claire @ Art And Soul

Books and Bakes

Keira @ Signing On

Words and Lyrics

Hiraethforthepages

Hope you all have a great Friday! And there is still a few hours to enter my 500 followers giveaway- you can do so here.