How To | Classical Literature

classical literature

I think I am that person who has perhaps read quite a bit of classical literature and genuinely liked it (and I am really grateful for that). When I tell some friends that fact, they look at me blankly and just say something along the lines of: "...but how?" When I reply with something like: "I don't know, I just do,", they genuinely want to know the whole process of reading it, which I find to be... a bit weird, but for those people who are perhaps the same age as me, but know nothing or very little about classical literature, this is for you. My three tips for how to do classical literature.

First of all, what is classical literature? The school definition of that is "a piece of literature that will never lose its value and/or will be spoken about and current for a long time to come". To put it simply, people will always talk about classical literature, because it's relatable and because they can easily use all the lessons they learn from a book in everyday life and nobody will ever forget about it, because it's very high quality (i.e. the writing is amazing, the story flows and you can discuss it very well, the morals are clear etc.). It isn't a chronologically limited "genre" of literature (if we can call it that), so books from the 1960's and 1970's can still be considered a classic. But if there's one thing we can all hope to claim is that 50 Shades Of Grey will never be a classic (let's hope so).

Second of all, I thought I'd might just tell you some classical pieces of literature that I've read, so you know that I do know what I'm talking about or at least I have a vague clue of what's classical literature. I've read loads of classics for school, starting with Antigone and Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (I loved Antigone, because it's one of the first plays in history where the lead character is an female and a badass at that, but I wasn't too keen on Oedipus Rex), Hamlet by William Shakespeare (which loads of my friends thought was unbearable to read, but I could imagine everything so clearly and amazingly and I just loved it), the Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (I found it to be very entertaining and light-hearted for all the topics that they discussed), in my last SBC book update I mentioned the first part from the Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (which I also liked) and Northanger Abbey and Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (I loved Northanger Abbey, because it's a massive fuck you to cheap gothic horror novels and the other two are just classics), Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (and I need to give that a reread, because I forgot a lot about it and apparently, you need to read it at least twice because your outlook on it changes so much), A Room With A View by E.M. Forster (which might as well be one of my favourite books ever), The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and I'm currently going through For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (gotta love some of the lost generation).

Tips start here. 

As you can tell, I've got a bit of every period in literature (so, from the antique to renaissance to romantic to post-WWI). I think that the first thing you have to do if you want to read classical literature is have some prior knowledge to each era. I mean, it helped me a lot, knowing the living situation of people in the 1920's and their outlook on life, knowing about lots of diseases in the 15th, 16th century, something about absolutism, the position of women throughout history... because then, the little details make the book better for you to read and you can reflect on it and it makes everything easier. In my opinion, knowing the background of the book and the era makes you understand what the writer is trying to present to you.
If you're still in school (which you probably are), then you'll know the basics at the very least, either from history or your literature class (at least in Slovenia, we talk about them in both classes) and I think you're good to go.

If you know that you've got quite a short attention spam, take it easy. You definitely don't need to swallow the whole book in one go (which I did do multiple times, but everyone's different). You can either read one chapter at a time, a couple of pages, whatever you like, as long as you're reading every line and appreciating the book for what it is. A lot of my classmates said that they've read Hamlet in one sitting and then you ask them: "Oh you did? Then please, do tell me what Hamlet reflects on in his big to-be-or-not-to-be monologue?" and they haven't got a fucking clue on it. You can presume that they've either a) skipped the lines and basicaly just flicked through the pages or b) that they've genuinely read everything, but didn't quite comprehend it.
If something like that is assigned to you in school and you don't have a good attention spam, but still want to get something out of the book, then start reading early and read it one page/chapter/act/scene/whatever at a time. Then you can truly make up your mind on it and if you like it, good for you, keep reading!

I also think that doing loads of research and hearing other people's opinions really helps while trying to form your own opinion and I've only just realised how much that helps. I've recently watched a video of beckie0 on YouTube and she spoke about her dislike for The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (not really a classic, but good enough to demonstrate) and it made me think that she has some valid points and it made me reconsider my opinion on it (and can we just talk about the fact that people in the comments called her a hater and couldn't just accept her opinion. Are people really so fucking stupid or what?). It's going to take a lot to convince me that it's a bad book, but there were some "shaky" points of the story that can be a bit controversial and it did help a lot, so keep that in mind. It helps.

Of course, following these tips may not make you love classical literature, but it can make it easier if you're struggling with assigned reads at school and since school starts in a month (at least in Slovenia. Jesus fucking Christ, where's my life going?!), it will come in handy. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and I shall see you soon!
xxx Katherine


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