Thoughts on “Classic Literature”

I may have mentioned before about my… love-hate relationship with “classic” literature. It’s not that I object to the works – many of the stories are awesome. I have also reached a point in life where I can distance myself from the style that I see on the page, and know that things just aren’t written that way anymore. [That’s part of the problem of starting as a younger writer – we are usually given a lot of “classic” literature, which is put on such a pedestal that proclaims “This is good work” which suggests “If you want to write good work, you must write like this” – which is often in a style 50-100 years out of use.]

Wil Wheaton mentions another reason why I get twitchy when considering “classics,” and it’s this:

English teachers who forced me to find symbolism and meaning in books make assigned reading in high school absolutely miserable. It was bad enough that I couldn’t just enjoy the story and spend time with the characters, but they also made me go on some kind of treasure hunt where I had to find something the teacher/school/board of education/someone-who-was-not-me decided was the “correct” thing to find.

This is why I still avoid Pride & Prejudice [9th grade]. Heart of Darkness [12th grade] still makes me twitchy. The Fountainhead [12th grade]… meh, I think Anthem is better (and several hundred pages shorter) [and I read Anthem on my own, not for school].

Come to think about it, I had some similar experiences in college as well when discussing works and writers from the accepted “Great Literature Canon.” Probably why it took me so long to get around to reading “Literature” (aka – mainstream regular fiction, not genre).

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