Monday Musings | Classic Literature

Literature Classics Penguin Classics Oxford Classics One More Page

As someone who studied literature a lot in school I’ve come across my fair share of classics, from Shakespeare to the Brontes to Kafka. And while I have had varying degrees of enjoyment (one day I will try to read Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend again…), the “Classics” categorization has always intrigued me. Over the years, these are the works that have been selected to represent “good” literature; they’ve stood the test of time and now are widely studied and, in most cases, admired. But how was this decided? Who decides what’s considered a classic?

I feel like I always pose impossible-to-answer questions in my Monday Musings posts but I’m always so fascinated by the responses that I just had to ask this one and see what you guys think! I think there are many reasons why a work can be considered classic – perhaps it’s an artifact of a past time, where ladies amused dinner guests around the pianoforte and parents discussed dowries and matchmaking; maybe it’s because its themes are still relatable and relevant in the present day; or, it could be that the stories are so ingrained in our culture that it’s been passed along from generation to generation, making it a “classic.” What do you think?

In the same train of thought, I always wonder which modern day books will be regarded as classics in 50 years or even 100 years. Will the prize winners become the classics that are studied in high schools and universities? Or are we not giving enough attention to a forward-thinking book that will later be revered?

What do you think? Why are some books considered classics and others not? Which books do you think will be considered classic in 100 years?

 

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12 thoughts on “Monday Musings | Classic Literature

  1. Amy Sachs says:

    This is a good question! I majored in English too, so I was always reading one classic or another but you’re right, the definitions of “classic” tend to vary. I think it was once for a top ten tuesday
    about classics, someone said their favorite classic was Harry Potter. I never would have thought to include it as classic, but in a sense it’s a modern classic, and definitely one that will be years from now.

    I think in general things that are considered classics are books that are/were ahead of their time, and delivered a message/lesson that others don’t!

    • kmn04books says:

      I agree that most classics seem to bear progressive thoughts and ideas – that would also explain why some “classics” weren’t actually that well-received in their day but eventually became “classic” over the years. I can definitely see Harry Potter as a classic! In fact, they’ve already started teaching it in university! I was so excited to re-read The Prisoner of Azkaban for my Children’s Lit class 🙂

  2. Nish says:

    I am always confused about this too especially those that are considered modern classics. It’s pretty hard to judge what will be well-read almost 50-100 years later.

  3. The Paperback Princess says:

    I gotta tap out on this one Karen! I have NO IDEA. I love reading classics but I’ve never been able to figure out what makes one a classic and others forgotten by time. I’m excited to come back and read more comments to see what the consensus is though!

    • kmn04books says:

      Haha I’m worried that this week’s musing is just too difficult to answer! I think maybe a lot of it has to do with luck…?! I honestly can’t wait to find out which recently-published books will be seen as classics in 50 years!

  4. Leah says:

    This is a great question! I think a classic says important things about the time it was written and also stands the test of time, but I don’t know how a book “becomes” a classic!

    That said, I think Harry Potter will definitely be a classic 🙂

  5. DoingDewey says:

    I feel like a lot of the classics are books which say something about human nature and I think that’s a big part of why we still read them today. A book I read recently which I think will become a classic is White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

    • kmn04books says:

      I agree. A lot of classics touch upon human nature and that makes it relatable to us even if the book was written hundreds of years ago! I’ve never read White Teeth but it does seem to be classed as a modern classic; I’ll have to look into it! Did you enjoy it?

  6. Ruby @ Feed Me Books Now says:

    Ooh this is such an interesting discussion! I feel that a classic is, like you said, “an artifact of a past time”. But the idea of them being “stories are so ingrained in our culture” is also so true. Even books like 1984, which talk about the future, are a commentary on the past, given the state that the world was in for Orwell to write such a nightmarish prediction of the future.

    To me, a book has to break some kind of boundary – talk about something never before discussed – to be labelled a “classic”. Following this trail of thought, I think a good selection of Kazuo Ishiguro and Margaret Atwood novels with be deemed classics in the not-so-far future.

    In one of the comments above, Harry Potter was mentioned, which I’m sure will become a children’s classic (if it’s not already considered one). Perhaps it doesn’t break boundaries in the same way Ishiguro and Atwood’s do in terms of themes, but it has certainly touched an entire generation. And for that, it has surely earned the status.

    • kmn04books says:

      Coincidentally, I’m reading my first Ishiguro novel (The Remains of the Day) right now! I agree that Atwood breaks boundaries. The Handmaid’s Tale left me chilled and it’s still so relevant (and scary) today!

      I’m so impressed by the reach Harry Potter has had. I really don’t know that many people who haven’t either read the books or watched the movies. I know even fewer people who don’t at least like the books. I definitely agree that this series has staying power!

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