Why is reading (Classical novels and Philosophical essays) important to students? Why is reading (Classical novels and Philosophical essays) important to students?

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The consensus in my class is that you can learn some of life's lessons "vicariously" without having to go through the school of hard knocks (that is to say, bitter experience)  to get the message.  Through literature, one can glean precious information concerning how both individuals and society as a whole function.

Of course, sometimes the information given is contradictory  - one may learn, for example, to trust others or to be on one's guard. Some proverbs are even antithetical in content: "Look before you leap" invokes prudence whereas "Opportunity knocks but once" encourages taking eventual risks to succeed. One must be selective in interpretation, and not everything in print can be considered "the gospel truth."

Literature can be a source of inspiration by introducing the reader to different thought patterns or ideas. This is particularly true of exposure to different cultural mind-frames and attitudes. This is a reason why second language acquisition is so important, too.

markchambers1966 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We read the classics because ultimately they are the most satisfying of meals! There is nothing wrong in trashing out on occasion with a McDonalds or a KFC but they won't do you great in the long term! The classics have reached the status of a 'classic' because they provoke deep universal truths and issues that can connect into people on many levels. There are of course modern classics as well as older works that we can enjoy and probably it is good to read a range of texts with an open mind, however a good grounding in the classic writers of the past enables us to see the difference between those who really can write and those who entertain us for a time as we sit on a train and let the words wash over us.

sharrons eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Why is reading (Classical novels and Philosophical essays) important to students? 

Why is reading (Classical novels and Philosophical essays) important to students?

As an English teacher, I have often struggle with trying to make the classics relevant.  However, the classics are classics because they tell a story that rings true regardless of time.  The focus on themes such as ambition (Macbeth), friendship (Of Mice and Men), and dreams (A Raisin in the Sun) that are timeless.  Every human can relate to these ideas.

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great question! Reading classical novels and other works, including philosophical essays, helps to develop your vocabulary and expand your outlook on life. The classics are called that for a reason--they deal with universal themes. Reading great works stimulates your intellect and makes you think. You begin to draw comparisons between what you read and what you see and experience, along with other things you read, hear, and view.

Reading classic works also helps you to develop your own writing style. Exposing yourself to great writers is an excellent way to learn writing techniques.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to the colleague's great answer I would as well include that Classical novels and Philosophical essays take us back in time and continuously remind us of how the human mentality has developed from the beginnings of history until now. It is like taking a trip and then come back to the present comparing and contrasting the differences that make us humans unique.

Lest we forget that by understanding our past and the way our mind develops and creates reality we can help prevent, or encourage, future decisions and we too create (or potentially could create) history.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To echo other editors on this one there is a definite sense in which reading such works "equip" us in life in terms of reading about other people or characters who, as humans, struggled with the same kind of issues that we did. We are allowed to read how they did or did not resolve those issues and this equips us and gives us resources by which we can steer in the journey of our lives.

zumba96 | Student

They show the recurring themes found in the modern age and the age of the classics back then. It helps us understand different types of struggles and hurdles that has happened throughout the ages. It also is a very important part of literature, and most often is read in school. Beside themes it shows us how a character become their own downfall or if it was an outside source, if we are taking about tragedies for example. 

kc4u | Student

'Classics' hold mirrors up to universal mankind. Take for example, the experiences of Sophocles's Oedipus or those of old fisherman Santiago in Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. In a 'classic', be it a play or a novel, the 'particular' becomes the 'universal'. Particular human experiences cut across all bounds of time and place to become a source of universal knowledge and truth.

Philosophical essays deal with the deeper and larger issues of life, issues and questions that relate to the sub/meta surface(s) of human history, for example, the essays of Shaw and Russell. These essays provide the students with proper perspectives to sort out & examine the problematics.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Classical novels qualify to be considered classic because they are good. If someone thinks any piece of writing from far in the past is good, then it is definitely a misconception. It is observed that all the writing from past that we come across are good, but that is because only the good ones are available to us today. So once it is settled that all classical novels are good, can there be two opinions about the value of reading them - by students or anyone else. Of course, classical essays of the past are likely to give better portrayal of the time they were written in. Advantages like these are just added advantages of classical essays, not the part of their core value.

When it comes to philosophical essays, the situation is drasically different. Some pholosophical essays can be very good reading for all the people - including students. But most of the philosophical essays are more suited for people who are really interested in those kind of things. Another problem of philosophical essays is the difficulty in separating grain from the chaff.

epollock | Student

I don't think anyone has to struggle to make classics relevant.  Just the fact they are alluded to so often is ddemonstration enough.

George Will, writer for the Washington Post, recently mentioned a "brooding Achilles in his tent after his concubine was taken away in one of his broadcasted speeches.

I simply remind students that they can be in on the joke or clueless, they can be in or they can be out, when the next reference to a Shakespeare play is mentioned.

Overall themes sometimes get lost in the average adolescent's world.


frizzyperm | Student

They are the sum of us as a species. They tell us where we are from, who we are, what we were and what we may be.

They are the distilled repository of the finest thoughts of the finest minds from human history. 

They are our consolation and our entertainment. Our warning and our comfort.

They were the worst of times, they were the best of times.