WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?
Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.
HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?
Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!
You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.
(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)
THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:
Is there a period of literature that you think gets overlooked when classics are discussed? Why or why not?
My initial answer to this question is (predictably, if you know me) is:
Half the time when I mention medieval literature to people, they don’t even know what time period I am referring to. A lot of people are under the impression that Shakespeare counts as medieval literature and/or that his plays are written in Old English. I told a friend I’d written my thesis on a “medieval romance,” and she genuinely thought I meant something like a Julia Quinn novel. If someone does get the time period correct, they are likely to mention one of only three things: Chaucer, King Arthur, or Robin Hood. Suffice to say, I think medieval literature could grow a bit in popularity among people who aren’t actually medievalists.
And I’ve already written a couple posts about that:
So I’d like to offer a second time period I think is overlooked:
The 17th century!
Seriously, when is the last time you heard someone say they were reading something written in the 17th century. Or that they ever had? (As a full disclaimer, I don’t exactly go around reading texts from this period that frequently myself.)
However, this century offers us some great authors, including:
- John Milton
- Alexander Pope
- Jonathan Swift
- John Dryden
And some Shakespeare.
What do you think? What are some books you’ve read from the Middle Ages or from the 17th century?
9 thoughts on “What Periods of Classic Literature Get a Bit Overlooked? (Classic Remarks)”
I agree completely! I seldom see people talking about medieval literature, and usually Shakespeare is the one name most general readers could probably pull from the 17th century. I also think the 18th century is overlooked, but I admit I myself am struggling to think of much I enjoy from that period!
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I totally agree that medieval literature is a period that is completely overlooked! I have literally met no one who even talked about it until your posts on medieval recommendations!
Same! Any time I bring it up in real life, I seriously get people talking about Shakespeare, and then it’s awkward.
Two of my all-time favoritest books are from the Middle Ages, The Decameron and The Divine Comedy. I first heard a Decameron story in my tenth grade English 11H class, when a fellow classmate gave a presentation on it, but I didn’t read it myself till I was 22-23. That really ignited my love of Medieval literature. You do want to get a good, modern translation, though. A lot of older editions squeamishly use euphemisms for all the great dirty puns and double entendres. I practically know several Decameron stories by heart.
I always mean to read the Decameron and never get around to it! I think I do own a copy somewhere, though I’m not sure which translation offhand. And my coblogger is obsessed with The Divine Comedy!
I think if you asked people to name their favourite classic, the majority would pick a book from the period between the late 18th to early 20th century (or anything Shakespeare haha). I don’t really know why that it but I guess it has to do with the fact that schools/media keep promoting books from that time (eg. Austin, Bronte, Dickens, Twain, you name it). I recently read a post on the penguin homepage about 100 must-read classics and it pretty much proves my point.
*of course I mean Austen (sorry Jane haha)
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I completely agree! Classic definitely seems to mean 19th century to a lot of people, with some expansion to Austen and then more modern classics like Steinbeck or whatever. I’m interested to check out that Penguin post now!
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I saw your Twitter poll and I’m pretty sure I voted for 17th century for the reason you mention – I rarely see it mentioned. I don’t usually think of medieval literature as part of the ‘classics’ though… for me, that’s pre-classic. But that doesn’t really make any sense; that’s just how I think of it, haha.