The Classics: To be or not to be?

The Classics of literature: think Austen, Dickens, the Brontës. They were highly influential in what we know English Literature to be today. But how relevant are they in today’s world? Should be perpetuate the study and perusal of what some may consider to be archaic texts?

Literature has a lot of influence over how we perceive the world, and societal ideas also impacts what writers decide to put down on paper. In today’s society, in a world of progression, surely it makes sense to endorse ourselves in literature that is more pertinent, more up to date with today’s way of living. However, an appreciation for what are considered the ‘classics’ could actually have the same effect, in the sense that these are the roots of modern literature, thus without them we would not have the modern literature we enjoy today: there would be no ‘Twilight’ series without ‘Pride and Prejudice’ which laid the foundations of what we now consider to be the enemies to lovers’ trope. However, some believe that such texts should be disregarded, and are encouraging archaic societal ideologies, reinforcing Patriarchal norms and stereotypical roles. It could be said that these texts are somewhat regressive, that reading and studying such texts would be almost an insult to the hard work we as a society have made to reach a point where we are generally inclusive and accepting. It is important, however, to remember that these text were written in a time of Patriarchal suppression, and that a lot of them were seen as progressive for their time. For example, the headstrong nature of Jane in Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ would have been discerned as rather delusional and outrageous in the time it was published.

From this, we can clearly see that Literature moves with the times, and how it is perceives in terms of its ideogy depends on the majority societal view on a particular topic at the time of its reading, which may be different to that of its publication time. 

Perhaps, if we remain aware of the faults in the ideologies these Classics bestow in our reading of them, then we can appreciate the construction of description and plot, which laid the foundations for todays literature.