You Aren’t Reading Enough Classical Literature

You Aren’t Reading Enough Classical Literature

Benefits of reading the greats
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Lately, I’ve interacted with multiple individuals who have told me the same, unsettling truth.

“I never really read classical literature.”

At first, I thought my initial shock was only because I can devour books whole and have read obsessively since I was three or four years old (a Mom-verified fact). Not everyone had the same, nerdy homeschool-setting exposure to the sheer volume of classical literature that I did, after all.

But then I came to realize that not only did these individuals never read classical literature in their early years, but that this trend continued throughout their time in high school and college. The avoidance of these works was a choice. If it wasn’t required for class, these people found no reason to read the classics. The most Shakespeare any of them have read is Romeo and Juliet, and at the mere mention of the play, they all cringe.

As a writer, this was awful enough. Upon thinking it over, however, I realized my reaction didn’t come from my writer side at all. When my tongue blurted out the first thing that came to mind, “What do you mean, you’ve never read that?” it drew from my most basic appreciation for literature and nothing else.

It took me a while to figure out why this bothered me so much. Sure, not everyone loves to read. Some people are even bad at reading, and will tell you straight-up that they find it grueling. I can understand it in the same manner that I find mathematics grueling. Everyone is different.

But here’s the thing: even though I’m terrible at math, I took courses up through pre-calculus. My education in math, torturous as it was, taught me the basics of arithmetic and numbers required for a person to function in normal society. I can reduce fractions for recipes and calculate time/travel equations well enough not to be late. For my role in society, this is all I need.

Now another thing: people rarely hold mathematics and literature in the same regard. One does not require the knowledge that Victor Frankenstein and the Creature, toward the end of "Frankenstein", both deliver monologues which unveil the depths of their character development. Right? It doesn’t affect normal life in any way.

Except it does.

Literature is a unique medium which communicates the intricacies of human nature in a way no other thing can. Words hold incredible power, and the written word even more so. Books epitomize human creativity because not only do they capture the message of the writer, but they also harness the imaginative capabilities of the reader.

For instance, when Victor and the Creature give their last words, Mary Shelley lays bare Victor’s realization of his self-centered follies, and the Creature’s remorse for his once-presumed-righteous actions. Not only do the readers get to enjoy a thrilling tale of adventure, murder and revenge, but they simultaneously experience the moral extremes Shelley presents—allowing them to weigh the meaning of humanity with its own shortcomings. In "Frankenstein" is a warning against the dangers of extreme pride, thoughtless curiosity and an unwillingness to face ethical responsibilities.
"In life and art both… we are always trying to catch in our net of successive moments something that is not successive…. But I think it is something done—or very nearly done—in stories. I believe the effort to be well worth making." - C.S. Lewis

This is not something you can learn from an algebra equation. It is the examination of a major quality of the human race. While people can find these themes in real life, the involvement of reading them in literature is unequivocal. Classical novels like "Frankenstein" may heighten readers’ understanding of life. They can explain unfamiliar emotions and situations. They can create empathy and move people to action over a just cause. Literature’s influence on minds and cultures has shaped countless movements and brought new consciousness to human existence.

In other words: books are not to be sneezed at.

Of course, classical novels are not the only literature that can accomplish these things. But contrast the popular fiction of today with the early forms of the novel and literature in general, and you’ll see a stark difference. Historical study is essential to understanding the world, and reading the classics is just as essential to understanding literature.

The “flash fiction” of today—as my Literature professor calls it—tends to gloss over the details classic novels study in-depth. Modern novels are more tailored toward a reader with a short attention span. The discipline of reading a piece of classical literature can improve not only your own writing (if you’re a writer), but your grasp on the fundamentals of human nature and the exploration of life’s major events.

Besides, once you get into it, the classics are just plain good stories. Lose yourself in the romantic tension of Austen and Bronte novels. Ride the high seas with Melville or Forester. Struggle against injustice with Shelley. And all the while, enjoy an exploration of the beauty and depth of the human condition.

Here’s your challenge for the New Year: read more classical literature.

Cover Image Credit: Stocksnap.io

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
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Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.


Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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How Art Can Help You Take Care Of Yourself

It's time to go on a date with yourself.

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Art is a quintessential part of the human experience: it has something that has been present in human culture beginning from prehistoric times, from when human consciousness first entered the world. It is also something that transcends definition and intertwines with our play of life and the meaning of humanity. Art is an expression of feeling in its most ethereal meaning and "for fun" at its most basic.

Personally, as an Art History minor, art has been a dimension of life for me that I have explored deeply and holds a lot of meaning. Painting is a huge outlet and way to deal with stress for me, and appreciating fine art teaches me about the aspect of history and how all of history is tied together throughout paintings, sculptures, and photographs. It helps me center myself and remind me of the place I hold in this world and the curious aspect personal experience of history. However, art doesn't need to be the stereotypical idea of art: it can be expressed through dance, the learning of a new language, or the coloring of mandalas to ease stress.

The exploration of art and the artistic side of human nature is something that everyone has in them: it's written in our psychology. We have an entire side of our brain that is inclined toward feeling and abstract interpretation, so it's natural to assume that emotion and expression of art are intrinsically intertwined. Thus, experiencing art is a way to personally develop yourself, and can be an unfound way of finding out things about yourself.

Different ways to explore your artistic side can be very easy: as easy as 3rd-grade coloring books, coloring mandalas, or finger-painting. Recently, I participated in a lantern festival and being able to paint a small lantern was an amazing outlet from a stress-filled week and allowed me to express myself through something besides just communication. Writing is also another good way to express emotion and create art: many books are just art pieces, and can be another way to further develop yourself. Additionally, other small fun things like carving pumpkins (spooky season!) or even curating the perfect Instagram profile can be another way to express yourself.

Appreciating the small things in your life as art and self-expression help put you more in touch with yourself, which is easy to lose throughout the mundane cycles of college, work, and life in general. Keeping yourself in harmony and balance might seem like an earthy-crunchy concept, but self-care and self-love are vital in keeping the rest of your life ordered. Being mindful of yourself and your goals is something that I have always have had difficulty with, but working toward learning more about yourself is taking the first step.

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