Saturday, November 3, 2012

Classics Club November Meme Question #4

What classic piece of literature most intimidates you, and why? (Or, are you intimidated by the classics, and why? And has your view changed at all since you joined our club?)

Once upon a time I was intimidated by the classics, which is why I started Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind.  Since January, I have been reading one classic after another according to Bauer’s list and, beginning with Don Quixote, have thus far completed twelve, this last one being Anna Karenina.  I am happy to report, thanks to her instruction, I am no longer intimidated by the classics as far as fiction is concerned.

However, there are a few authors I am intimidated by, but I am hopeful that using Bauer’s suggestions I am going to overcome this as well.  Gratefully enough, some of these authors are on her list, and I must face them eventually:

  • 1.   Plutarch
  • 2.   Herodotus
  • 3.   Aristotle
  • 4.   Virgil
  • 5.   Thucydides
  • 6.   Plato
I suppose it also will help depending on the translation of the aforementioned, but I am expecting that their work may be difficult to keep my interest or attention. 

Also there is:
  • 1.   Mein Kampf by Hitler, which rumor has it is boring and dry. 
  • 2.   The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin have you seen how fat this book is?
  • 4.   And finally, anything from the poetry section, including: The Epic of Gilgamesh and Beowulf, which I am already familiar with and love, but again, these are children's versions; anything by Shakespeare in its original form – I really like those abridged picture book versions for kids; and Homer and Dante, which are most intimidating of all.  Basically, poetry is like a foreign language.  It is no wonder Bauer placed poetry at the end.



Lemon Tree said...

I understand that Greek and Roman authors are intimidating. I also find Dante a bit intimidating (or let's say, scary). But after reading Shakespeare and Homer, I find out they are not that scary at all. But we have to get used to them first.

I cheer for your project. :D

Jean said...

I too was afraid of the Ben Franklin autobiography for years, but lo, my fears were unfounded and it was not hard at all! Now you can reassure me about Anna Karenina.

I can't say I'd want to read Mein Kampf though. Can we even call that a classic? (Says the gal who counted The Communist Manifesto earlier this year) There should be a special category for historically important but definitely not classic books...

Ruth said...

True, we do have to become accustomed to these works. I am looking forward to conquering Shakespeare in its true form.

Ruth said...

I read the Constance Garnett translation of AK, and I found it wonderful and beautiful. And yet, I heard there is another translation that readers love even more. (I cannot remember who it is.)

The reason I included Mein Kampf is b/c Bauer has a list of histories to read, so I just went through the list to see who I was intimidated by. And btw, Communist Manifesto is on there, too.

I believe Bauer included these histories as classics b/c she chose books that have been influential to mankind, good or bad, and have been essential to understanding Western Civilization.

Jean said...

Oh, I agree. (And I'm another SWB fan...she's my guru :) ) I just wish there was a word different than 'classic' to describe them!

I'll have to look into the AK translation question. The copy I have cost me a quarter and probably doesn't really fit the bill...that new edition with the hydrangeas bugs me though, between the weird front cover (knees??) and apparently the translator uses American nicknames like Steve. Steve?

Ruth said...

I have to see the cover. Knees, huh? Who is the publisher and translator? Also, this copy I read was pretty close to American names like Dolly and Kitty, but kept others like Levin, Sergey, and Stiva.

Maybe you can see if your library has a Garnett copy, and see how you like it. And, always has used copies for sale for cheap. You could check there, too.

Good luck!

Paula said...

I'm glad you're not intimidated by the classics anymore - which makes me consider buying The Well Educated Mind to help me in my own readings. I love Shakespeare and hope you don't give up on him. But poetry is really difficult to me as well, even though I really liked it.

Anyway, just to let you know that I'm sending The One Lovely Blog Award your way - you can check the details on my blog -( if you wish to accept it. Thanks, Paula xx

Fanda said...

And thanks to you, I'm now having a good time with WEM (just finished my first book: The Scarlet Letter).
Dante is on my list too (for intimidating classics), but think he is less intimidating than Shakespeare (I have browsed the first page of Inferno). And for Shakespeare, right now I'm delving into his works (using WEM guidance too), so hopefully I can conquer it by the end of next year!

Ruth said...

Good for you, Fanda. I'm so excited to hear this. You can do it! I look forward to reading your reviews.

Risa said...

I have a problem with epic verse too! But I'm working at getting over it starting with Dante. :)

Anonymous said...

"The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – have you seen how fat this book is?" You must be thinking of a different book. Franklin's Autobiography is short (150) and quick to read. You could probably read it in one evening. Parts of it are amusing, funny and certainly peculiar. This is the beginning of American motivational and Do-it-yourself literature and certainly a classic.

Ruth said...

Super! I hope I am wrong, then, b/c autobiographies are my absolute favorite to read, and I have wanted to read this. I once (thought) I took out this same title from the library, and it was huge! So I sent it back. I must have picked up something else. I will have to look at it again.

Ruth said...

Thank you for considering me. I will have to check this out. This was very kind of you.
P.S. Yes, I do want to read Shakespeare in its truest form. But I am so glad TWEM has poetry at the very end. It wil give me years of maturing in my literary comprehension.
Thank you, again,

o said...

I'm reding Aristotle this eveing :) It is very hard, but it's not terribly scary. And Virgil - I was at how much I loved The Aeneid!

Jeremy @ Beltwayliterature said...

I've tackled three of the authors on your list, Thucydides, Aristotle, and Plato. Out of the three, I find Aristotle to be the most difficult to read. Regarding Thucydides, it takes some time to get used to the writing style, and some of that most likely will be determined on the translation you get. I do enjoy reading ancient literature though! I'm definitely looking forward to tackling The Aeneid!

Ruth said...

Thanks, o. I love the story of the Aeneid, too, but obviously I have not read it in its original form. That's what makes me leery.

Ruth said...

I agree: it matters who the translator is in many cases. Thanks for your input.

Ruth said...

After reading other answers to the intimidating question, I am finding classic poetry, prose, or epic verse as a repeated answer. But there is a reason why b/c it does involve more literary comprehension, which is like one of those really long algebra problems that take up an entire page. You really have to study it.

Risa said...

You're absolutely right! I never thought of that, although I'm keenly aware of the 'studying' part of it since I'm doing research while reading Dante's Inferno.'re right.

Unknown said...

Haha! I'm intimidated by all of those as well! :)

My November Meme is here