Lara asked:

I'm currently reading (and loving) this book, but I just wanted to ask a random question here for a second :') Can we consider Dante's "Inferno" to be a classic? Why or why not?

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Edward Yes, it's a classic.

It is not classical, because "classical" denotes a period of literary history associated with Ancient Greece and the early Roman Empire. Dante's work is inspired by and modeled upon key works from this period, hence Vergil's presence. But it is not, itself, classical.

Rather, it is a classic, which means that it is both of high quality, and also of enduring interest.

Explaining why it's a classic is like explaining how you know when something is obscene. It's hard to quantify, but if you've got some experience, you know it when you see it. Personally, I tend to feel like people are being a bit premature if they declare something "a classic" when it has only been published for a couple of decades. Joseph Heller's Catch-22 is really about the newest book that I personally consider a classic. Infinite Jest (and possibly the rest of David Foster Wallace's corpus) probably WILL be a classic, someday, but I don't think it is one yet. It's a work of genius, in my estimation, but it hasn't stood the test of time.

By comparison, Inferno surely is a classic. It was composed ca. 1400 A.D., and people are still translating it, reading it, and finding that it speaks powerfully to concerns that are with them in the present day.
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