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All art is quite useless – Oscar Wilde

Classic Literature

What constitutes classic literature? When the words are spoken, the majority will conjure up thoughts of Dickens, Joyce, Homer, Tolstoy, Eliot, Conrad and the list continues, first of all, what actually is literature? Then we will worry about the classic sub category. The Oxford dictionary describes  literature as:

 1) written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit: a great work of literature


2) books and writings published on a particular subject: the literature on environmental epidemiology


3) leaflets and other printed matter used to advertise products or give advice: advertising and promotional literature

The first definition would certainly be the one that fits my view of the classics. The complexity that these ‘great works of literature’ (classics) are based on is immense. If you understand such books as James Joyce’s Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita or Goethe’s Faust upon first reading, then you’d be well advised to take another look. The multitude of levels that can be deciphered is overwhelming at times. Take Ulysses for example. James Joyce writes with the stream of consciousness technique, there by, the book has erratic changes in pace and thought. One moment your following the adventure of characters such as Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, and the next you’re deed inside their conscious thought, being bombarded with their opinions and views in a sequence that can only be described as poetic fluidity.

Not all classic literature is complex, and you should by no means be put off by the possibility of profound allegories, difficult enigmas, or elusive dialogue. An example of simplistic classic literature is the writing of Ernest Hemingway. His simple words and lack of abbreviations makes for an incredibly easy read. He wrote how he spoke, very slow, clear and unambiguous.

Classic literature is prodigiously important, there is a reason these works are labeled ‘classics’, that’s because they’re timeless, effortless, full of rich vivid words put together in exactly the right order so to create majestic images in the readers mind. Those who take the time to read some classic literature will be handsomely rewarded.

Some recommendations on classic literature:

Charles Dickens – The Tale of Two Cities

Homer – The Odyssey

James Joyce – Ulysses

Shakespeare – Hamlet

Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

Albert Camus – The Outsider (also know as The Stranger)

Vladimir Nabokov – The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


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