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Claire Ceriani's picture

What Is a Classic?

I was thinking more about what makes a book a classic, and think maybe there exist several different types of classics.  There are books like “The Jungle” that are significant because of the impact they made when they were first written.  (“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” would also fit this definition.)  I’ve read “The Jungle,” and I think I speak for a lot of modern readers when I say that it’s pretty awful.  The subject matter is unpleasant to read in the first place (I unintentionally became a vegetarian for several weeks), and I just don’t think it’s a very well-constructed work of literature.  But that was never the intent of the book; it was meant to be social commentary, and it was recognized as socially important.  I wouldn’t include it in a list of literary classics, but I think it deserves the place it has earned in history.  I think “Moby-Dick” also deserves to be considered a classic from an artistic perspective.  It may not have been popular when it was first published, but it has since made an impact on literature itself.  It broke a few rules and pushed literature in new directions.  There are also works that I believe deserve to be classics based on their entertainment popularity at the time they were published.  I may not be a big fan of Dickens myself, but many people were and are, and his body of work provides us with an example of what “good literature” was to people in the Victorian era, especially with the idea of the serialized novel being so popular.  For this reason, I think novels like the “Harry Potter” series can be considered future classics, because many years from now, JKR’s septet will be remembered as The Books of this decade.


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