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"A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say."

-Italo Calvino


"The test of real literature is that it will bear repetition. We read over the same pages again and again, and always with fresh delight."

-Samual McChord Crothers


"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it."

- James Bryce  




"Ah, this is a classic!" some may exclaim after reading a book. Classic by definition is a work that has high quality. Who doesn't want high quality reading?  Classic literature is based on a book's notability and quality of its contents. [5] Classic literature is loved by many because of the artistic value in the stories, the easy-to-connect-to themes, the historical background, and its ability to stand the test of time. Classic books are chock full of theme, symbolism, unique style, allusions, and good vocabulary. Having a few classic books under one's belt is certainly a useful tool for anybody, whether it be for school, everyday life, or for a career.


The "classics" encompass many genres such as mystery and romance. Classics also come in different forms, such as plays, poems, novels, novellas, and short stories. Shakespeare is a famous playwright who wrote classic plays. Charlotte Bronte wrote a classic gothic love story Jane Eyre. The good that can come out of reading classic literature is definitely worth a person's time.


The word classic actually came from a latin word classicus which means "belonging to the highest class of citizens."[1]  This implies a high caliber standing, control, and flawlessness.  Aulus Gellius was a second century Roman writer and the first one to be considered a Classic writer. [2]


There are four easy ways to know if a work is a classic:

1.  The work has some artistic quality. 

     Jane Eyre shows an artistic quality throughout the novel.  Jane stays true to herself and everything works out for the best.

2.  The work stands the test of time.

     Shakespeare most definitely is an example of a writer whose literature stands the test of time. Hamlet is believed to have been written in the late 16th century and is still used in classrooms today.[3]

3.  The work has a universal appeal.

     Jane Austen is an example of a universally known author.

4.  The work makes connections. [4]

     Joseph Heller makes connections to the war in his novel Catch- 22.

     Ralph Ellison makes connections to the communist party in his novel Invisible Man.


Western Canon


At English Literature's beginning is the Western Canon. The word "canon" originates from the Christian Church. The Church, in order to create a more condensed, authentic list of sacred texts, picked the ones that were truth and widely understood and accepted. In the 18th century, philologists, people that study language and literature, decided that it was necessary to create a canon for secular Greek and Roman literature. As time went by, scholars and writers added to the canon. In the 1800s, Francis Turner Palgrave published his book, Golden Treasury of English Verse, a kind of canon specifically for poetry. He believed that  he had the authority to distinguish which poems were most valuable to its readers. During the 1920s, due to the work of T.S. Eliot, F.R. Leavis, and Q.D. Leavis, we came closer to the modern canon of today. In his work Tradition and the Individual Talent, Eliot states that writers write based on their past or traditions. He reasons that we use a tradition based on what we have already read to pick which literature is worthy, hence, a canon.  

Essentially, studying the canon is what English courses are all about. The issues of the canon are what  affect the English courses and the examinations taken in education today. One of the most powerful and influential uses of the canon today is to evaluate the merit of new books and to decide if they are worthy of the canon.[6] Western Canon has spanned hundred and hundreds of years, yet it has changed little. [7]




Classic Writers

Jane Eyreby Charlotte Bronte, is a gothic love story about a woman named Jane. Jane grew up in a house of people that did not want her. However, she still held a flame in her heart and when cornered in the 'red' room began screaming and pouting, causing her to go sick. Due to this incident she went Lowry School, a strict school for daughters of low income families. Eventually she became a teacher at Lowry when she was older. Seeking adventure, she had to get out and find a new meaning to her life. Because of this Jane found herself at Thornfield estate, the home of Edward Rochester. Jane fell in love with Edward. Does the relationship work between these two? What about the beautiful heiress Blanche? The book is a good read for those who love romance and is chock full of good vocabulary to enhance one's pallet.


Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, takes place during World War II in and around Italy. It is an incredibly long and complicated book that is filled with over 61 characters. The book does not take place in any chronological order and so at times can be very confusing.The main character's name is Yossarian, a bombardier and captain for the 27th Air Force Squadron. Throughout the story Yossarian is trying to figure out ways to get out of the war and stop flying missions because Colonel Cathcart feels the need to keep raising the number of missions they need to complete before they can go home. Yossarian goes through an experience in the story that drives him crazy and allows him to see the value of his own life. He stands firm on the fact that everyone is out to kill him and runs to the hospital pretending to be sick whenever he can't handle it anymore. A mysterious term weaves through the book and its called "Catch-22". Whenever this term is mentioned it seems to bring out an almost frightened and angry reaction in the men. Basically its a catch in a situation. For example, the soldiers can go home whenever they finish their missions but Catch-22 says they have to follow the orders of their superiors and if they didn't say the soldiers had to go home then they can't leave even if they finish their missions. This book takes dedication and will power to finish. At some point you end up hating the book and then liking it, that's just the reaction you feel when you read this book. All in all, Catch-22 is a good book. It's unusual and definitly not your typical classic but it's well worth the strangeness.

L. Weber


The Dead is a short story by James Joyce from a collection called Dubliners. Gabriel is an Irish man who doesn't quite enjoy his heritage.Through the short story, the writer can see the many hypocrisies of Gabriel when he talks about Ireland. It is a direct contrast to what he actually thinks.  A good book to read for those who like to look deeper than just the plot. This story touches on several themes.

I have been reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This is a most delightful book. It is of an Old English setting. Mrs. Bennet is hunting for husbands for her five girls and hopes that they marry rich. The two eldest daughters, Jane and Elizabeth, are just looking for true love and satisfaction. The third in line is Mary who enjoys many things and always has her nose stuck in a book. Fourth is Kitty who likes having fun all the time. The youngest, Lydia, is on the hunt for a man, but one in uniform.  If you want to know what happens and if they are successful in finding themselves husbands, you should read Pride and Prejudice. I really recommend this book to the classic book lovers!

Ashley P.


1. "classic." Dictionary.com.2008. Dictionary.com, LLC. 5 Dec. 2008 <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/classic>.


2. "Classics." 23 Apr. 2009.  Wikipedia.  11 May 2009.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classics>


3.  "Hamlet." 11 May 2009. Wikipedia. 11 May 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet>


 4. Lombardi, Esther. Classic Literature. 2008. 11 May 2009. <http://classiclit.about.com/od/forbeginners/a/aa_whatisclass.htm>


5. "Classic Literature." The New Encyclopedia Brittanica. 15th ed. IL. Print.


6. "Chapter 5: Literature, Value, and the Canon." Doing English. N.p.: Taylor & Francis, 1999. 49-59. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 6 Dec. 2012.


7. Hoffman, Jeremy. "The Western Canon in Today's High Schools." Minnesota English Journal43 (2007): n. pag. Minnesota Council of Teachers of English. MCTE, 2007. Web. 6 Dec. 2012.




Comments (7)

Margaret Turner said

at 12:48 pm on Apr 27, 2009

The picture of Dorian Gray is a very philosophical classic that everyone should read!!!

Allyson Owens said

at 11:39 am on Dec 3, 2012

Wuthering heights by Emily Bronte and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen are also a very good classics to read!

nicoleharrell96@... said

at 2:03 pm on Nov 25, 2013

Crime and Punishment by Fyoder Dostoyevsky is a veryy good classics to read as well; I highly recommend it.

Charlotte Harrell said

at 10:56 am on Apr 28, 2015

The Great Gatsby is a wonderful classic that I would definitely recommend! F. Scotts Fitzgerald wrote the book beautifully. It really reflects that time period.

R. Wartian said

at 2:46 pm on Apr 28, 2015

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is a good classic if you need a good and quick read for a class.

Rachel Miller said

at 2:46 pm on Apr 28, 2015

One classic that can be considered obscure and challenging to an extent is The Stranger by Albert Camus. It is under the existentialistic style which can be difficult for some people to understand and is very philosophical but is completely worth reading.

Michelle Chamblee said

at 8:33 am on Apr 19, 2016

Classics are great. I personally like Catch-22, Invisible Man, and Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

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