What is the reason for learning classic literature today?
There is no simple way to explain why one should read classical literature. Indeed, the knowledge of classical literature is useful in more ways than one. Here are a couple of points worth pondering.
First of all, we have to make a distinction between classical literature and the so called classics, the former pertaining to ancient Greek and Roman literature in all its forms and later literature such as, for example, 18th and 19th century world literature.
Let us assume that the question concerns European heritage. So in the following, we refer with classical literature refers mainly to the great masterpieces of the Greek and Roman civilizations. However, we have to remember that both Greeks and Romans owed much to the preceding Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations.
Along with the Bible, classical literature has moulded our conception and understanding of morality and ethics and our sense of decency. It has been said that human being has not changed since the dawn of time, but arguably the set of circumstances have changed from one era to another, from times of war and conflict, to times of relative peace and prosperity. Communities large and small have reacted differently under the prevailing conditions. It is reasonable to suggest that the legal system in the west, by and large owes much to both Biblical and classical literature and philosophy.
Also, by reading classical literature, we can learn to appreciate the beauty of written language, the cadences and the melody of poetry in addition to the topics discussed. It can greatly enhance our vocabulary. Indeed, Greek and Latin have left an enormous number of words found in one form or another in all major European languages.
Furthermore, classical literature is an abundant source of ancient legends and mythology alluded to by many later authors throughout the ages. In a word, reading classical literature is one of the cornerstones in understanding the past and therefore giving us a better understanding of our own times, and perhaps even allowing us better to appreciate and anticipate the manifold problems and challenges we may face in the future.
Hopefully the following websites will be of inspiration concerning the classical literature:
Jung, C. G: Man and his Symbols. London : Pan Books, 1978.
Propp, Vladimir: Morphology of the Folktale. Austin : University of Texas Press, 1971.
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