Classic - it's a word that we have all heard when it comes to literature. If you pin that label to a book, I instantly feel a reluctance to touch it, let alone read it. I realize this, embrace it, and then fight against it. I force myself to read so many a year in exchange for a reread of one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy novels. But honestly, what defines a book as a classic? Popularity? Critical reception? A bunch of old, white guys in a tiny room? *shrugs* Who knows? I like how Esther Lombardi breaks it down on About.Com.
- A classic usually expresses some artistic quality--an expression of life, truth, and beauty.
- A classic stands the test of time. The work is usually considered to be a representation of the period in which it was written; and the work merits lasting recognition. In other words, if the book was published in the recent past, the work is not a classic.
- A classic has a certain universal appeal. Great works of literature touch us to our very core beings--partly because they integrate themes that are understood by readers from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. Themes of love, hate, death, life, and faith touch upon some of our most basic emotional responses.
- A classic makes connections. You can study a classic and discover influences from other writers and other great works of literature. Of course, this is partly related to the universal appeal of a classic. But, the classic also is informed by the history of ideas and literature--whether unconsciously or specifically worked into the plot of the text.
I'm sure that you have figured out by now that I absolutely must share some books that I enjoyed thoroughly that I consider to be "classic". (i.e. I was wanting to read some L. E. Modesitt, Jr. or David Eddings and forced myself to read something that my brain has been trained to "close read" or something I actually enjoyed once upon a time.)
1984 by George Orwell
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Various Works by William Blake
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Sure, I am probably missing something awesome. Maybe I'll think of it later and kick myself. Would you like to help me along? What are some of your favorites in classic literature? Is there anything that you think will be considered "classic" in the future?