Classics and the Western Canon discussion

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message 1: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine Utopia, by Thomas More
On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft


message 2: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Peregrine wrote: "Utopia, by Thomas More
On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft"


Feel free to post these to the booklist -- any member can post books to the list (be sure to put on the "to be read" bookshelf, not the "read" bookshelf). Or would you prefer me to add them for you?




message 3: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine If you would, please. I can't immediately see how to add books. Thanks.


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Peregrine wrote: "If you would, please. I can't immediately see how to add books. Thanks."

Will do, but it's quite easy -- maybe others would benefit from knowing how, also.

1. Click on the bookshelf option just above discussions. (If you want to keep these instructions available as you undergo the process, open it in a new tab; Firefox does this easily, and I assume IE would, also.)

2. In the upper left is a box that says "add books." Enter your book information in the box and click search.

3. Identify your book, and click "add to group."

4. Very important: In the box that opens, click on "choose shelves." (Otherwise, it will go onto the shelf of books we've already read and I'll have to go in and change that!) Select "to read" and click in "suggested future readings." Then click "close."

5. Click on "Save Group Book." That's it -- the book is added.

It takes much less time to do than to describe.

If you want to add another book, the "add books" box is still there, so just do it again for your next book.

I don't mind doing it -- it's easy enough -- but learning new skills is a way to keep your mind young and healthy! [vbg:]


message 5: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine Thanks. I will try it myself next time.


message 6: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments


An American Tragedy- Theodore Dreiser
An American Tragedy (Signet Classics) by Theodore Dreiser


Atlas Shrugged- Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Alias Reader wrote: "
An American Tragedy- Theodore Dreiser
Atlas Shrugged- Ayn Rand


Hmmm. Do these books raise the question what works are or should be included in the definition of "Classics and the Western Canon"?


message 8: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments I thought they fit the Classics description.

If you don't think so, just disregard.


message 9: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments My thinking would put An American Tragedy into a Classics category---albeit perhaps more of an American classic than a Western classic. I took an intense English Lit class in college in which we read Dreiser's Sister Carrie. My personal thinking is that An American Tregedy is actually a better book. I've read it a couple of times since then.


message 10: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Alias Reader wrote: "I thought they fit the Classics description.

If you don't think so, just disregard. "


I don't consider it just up to me. While I am moderator, I'm not dictator; the interests of the members of the group are also important.

The questions I basically use to ask what books are part of the Western Canon is, have they become established as part of the "Great Conversation" Hutchins talks about, and have they stood the test of time, which for me personally means being of substantive value to at least three generations of readers. But I'm aware that those are subjective tests, and intelligent minds can differ.

One thing I do object to is the concept of an "instant classic," or "this [newly published:] book is destined to become a classic." Classics become classics because they are read and valued over the decades and centuries, not because somebody today thinks they will be classics.

But back to the point, it's a matter of what this group wants to read. Keeping in mind at there are hundreds of other groups here on Goodreads, so books that aren't read here may well be read elsewhere (though of course not with anything like as good a group of participants :) ), so we don't need or want to be all things to all people. (Ayn Rand, for example, might well be read in the Philosophy group or the Classical (Laissez-Faire) Liberalism group.) But nor do I want to make the focus of this group so narrow that it doesn't meet the needs of those serious about reading and discussing these books.

So my question wasn't intended to be a criticism, but a question really about what we are all about here.




message 11: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Hi, Everyman. I read your post over a couple of times, and you've convinced me. There ARE a number of places one can read more recent works---and I do read them there; there are very few places---maybe only here---in which one can read "Classic Classics."

(I had to google Hutchins and "Great Conversation. ;)
Thanks for furthering my education. Adelle)


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Maybe the key here is "Western Canon?" So anything that wouldn't give Harold Bloom a heart attack = "classic." ;-)


message 13: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments everyman: So my question wasn't intended to be a criticism, but a question really about what we are all about here.
=-=--=-=-=-=-=-=-

I didn't take it as criticism. :) It's not a problem, I just saw the books on my TBR shelves and thought I would suggest them. I understand perfectly if they don't fit the Western Canon criteria of this group.



message 14: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Kathy wrote: "Maybe the key here is "Western Canon?" So anything that wouldn't give Harold Bloom a heart attack = "classic." ;-)"

LOL!!!




message 15: by Audrey (new)

Audrey | 199 comments I added Shaw's Man and Superman, Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, and Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury to the list. Since I've never added books before (and since they're all from the 20th century), I thought I'd run them by everybody.


message 16: by Everyman (last edited Nov 15, 2009 08:54PM) (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Interesting additions!

Personally, I'm a bit dubious about 20th century "classics" when there so many "classic classics" still unread here, but we'll see what people think.

And nicely done, to make sure they were on the "to read" list and not the "read" list -- the "read" list is only for books that we have already read here.


message 17: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine If you take the "three generations" guideline, anything from 1960 back would be up for our list. For my part, I'm good with 20th century as long as it doesn't dominate. I wouldn't want any century to dominate. There's more to talk about with a mix.


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Peregrine wrote: "If you take the "three generations" guideline, anything from 1960 back would be up for our list."

But I remember 1960 well. How can any book from a year I can remember be a classic? [g:]



message 19: by Peregrine (last edited Nov 16, 2009 09:24AM) (new)

Peregrine It'd be a classic to my 21-year-old nephew [grin back:]. He read The Great Gatsby; All Quiet on the Western Front; The Outsider, with fascination in high school, and was very eager to receive Crime and Punishment, and Anna Karenina, which I sent him for his last birthday. My own memories of 1960, such as they are, are from a truncated and horizontal position. Classics, for me, start somewhere in the 1920s or '30s.


message 20: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments Just my two cents. I consider The Great Gatsby, all Quiet on the Western front, Ethan Frome etc. to be classics. If I was forced to give an arbitrary cut off date I would say 1970 or even 1980. Maybe ones age has something to do with their opinion on this.

As for our book selections my preference is to select books that can be read reasonable in one month for most of our selections. I wouldn't mind say 1 or 2 longer reads such as we have done with Les Miz. But not the majority of our reads. Selecting books that can be read in a single month also will allow people who choose to skip a read not to lose touch with the group.


message 21: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Alias Reader wrote: "As for our book selections my preference is to select books that can be read reasonable in one month for most of our selections."

It turns out that many of the "classic classics," if that term makes sense, are longer works, for a variety of reasons. One was that there there were many fewer books published, so thee was no sense of a need to get through a book quickly to get to the next one. Another was that authors tended to write fewer and longer books -- compare Dickens's output, for example, with that of a modern popular author like Stephen King. Another was that there were fewer competing interests (no TV or movies or Internet!) so books could be more prominent on one's leisure time (up to about twenty years ago I had neither a TV or VCR nor a computer, and I did a lot more reading. Now it's rare for me to spend four hours each evening reading, which used to be normal. Of course, there's also that I now share a bed with a wonderful wife who I love like the dickens but who has put a kibosh on the hours I used to spend reading in bed).

The point being, to eventually get to it, that the reality is that most classics are longer than modern books, and are also more dense. (My mother in law lent me the most recent Parker/Spenser mystery and I polished it off in about two hours. Try that with Bleak House!)

So while I think you have a good point, unfortunately (or fortunately if you look at it another way) there are a lot of classics which really need more time for those with very busy lives and lots of competing interests.




message 22: by Audrey (new)

Audrey | 199 comments I agree that a month isn't nearly enough time to read most classics. At a guess, I'd say that a good half of the books on our current poll would have to be dispensed with if we were going to go by that. And it's not just how long it takes you to read the book, either. I read Anna Karenina in less than two weeks, but I think good discussion of it would take a lot longer than that. There's a lot to discuss in every section, and, in order to do justice to it, I think we'd need to spend time on each one.


message 23: by Audrey (last edited Nov 17, 2009 09:47PM) (new)

Audrey | 199 comments As to the discussion of what makes a classic, I'm wondering if it mightn't be simpler to decide that we're not interested in literature from the modern era, whether it's classic or not. It seems like everyone has a different idea of when books are old enough to be classics, and that tends to be the kind of idea that doesn't change easily. Personally, I have great difficulty wrapping my mind around the notion that To the Lighthouse, Ulysses, and Remembrance of Things Past aren't classics, but I would have equal difficulty granting classic status to a work outside my personal (and, as far as I can tell, random) cut-off date of c. 1935. So, for practical purposes, we might do better simply to come to a consensus of what time periods interest us as a group. The first world war, for instance, would make a logical guideline as to when the modern era began.


message 24: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine Audrey wrote: "As to the discussion of what makes a classic, I'm wondering if it mightn't be simpler to decide that we're not interested in literature from the modern era, whether it's classic or not. It seems l..."

The cutoff date would depend on how old one was, and rightly so, in my opinion. I don't know if I would have read Les Mis when it came out. It may have seemed too current, and I might have preferred classics. Yet my grandchildren would have seen it as a classic (and they all would have loved reading!) I am interested in modern classics. I don't think postmodernism has been around long enough to have generated classics; bestsellers, yes. If we were going to generate a cutoff date, I'd lobby to have it based on a set number of years back from the current year, and so to advance yearly. It's the interest of people younger than our own generation, whichever one that is, which creates classics and maintains their status.




message 25: by Audrey (last edited Nov 17, 2009 11:03PM) (new)

Audrey | 199 comments Peregrine: "I'd lobby to have it based on a set number of years back from the current year, and so to advance yearly. "

I would definitely agree with an automatically changing year. It's much too easy to get an idea of when the classics start and then never let it change. When this discussion started, I realized that my definition was exactly the same as it had been in 1999. It should have gone forward ten years, but it hadn't. I think I've been basing my definition on the lives of my grandparents. If they could remember the decade, it was too recent. Which probably would have kept my definition of classic perpetually in the 1920s.

One way to calculate a year might be to go on Everyman's three generation theory. If you calculate a generation as 20 years, that would put our time span at 60 years--1949. Of course, real generations are often longer than that, because most people aren't born when their parents are 20. We could also use 25 years, which would give us a 75 year span--1934. Personally, I'm inclined to think that's a little limiting. However, that's mainly because I can think of books my grandfather read in his 20s that are still around now and which wouldn't be encompassed by the 1934 cut-off year.


message 26: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Charlotte wrote: "Perhaps a distinction should be made between the concept of a 'classic' and an 'important' work. Many 'important' works have been written and are being written each year, but our perception of their importance changes with time. A 'classic' on the other hand is something that has been around long enough for the current generation to understand its place in literary history."

That's a good distinction.

I think the key is that there are a great many groups here on Goodreads, and while I certainly don't want to encourage people to go other places and leave here, OTOH we can't be all things to all people. This group is quite intentionally called both Classics and Western Canon -- books included should, IMO, be legitimately be considered BOTH classics AND part of the core Western Canon that has informed the development of Western intellectual thought (the Great Conversation discussed in the group introduction).

For my part, I like the idea somebody mentioned of this group sticking with "classic" classics. There are so many books that meet this criteria that don't get discussed in this depth anywhere else on Goodreads that I'm aware of.

At the same time, there's no point in scheduling a reading of Spinoza's Ethics, which is certainly a classic classic, if nobody is interested in joining the discussion of it.

There are a number of fairly good sources of "classic" classics around, and I would think that any book on these lists would be fair game for this group. Among these lists, by no means exhaustive,are
Clifton Fadiman's Lifetime Reading Plan.
The Harvard Classics Five Foot Shelf of Books and Shelf of Fiction
The Great Books of the Western World
Harold Bloom's The Western Canon, sections A, B, and C. (Section D he is "not so sure about" because he is trying to predict what books might become part of the Canon in future.)
Adler and VanDoren's classic How to Read a Book
The St. John's College Seminar Reading List.

I do note that most of these sources recommend that books be read generally in chronological order; that is, in order to fully appreciate the values of later classics and their place and role in the development of Western thought, knowledge of early works is of great value. We have not been at all strict about that here, although we did start out with the glorious Oedipus Rex, but it may be that in future we might want to look a bit further back rather than further forward (as this discussion seems to have been developing) for our selections.








message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Patrice wrote: "Fashions come and go but genius remains. "

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.




message 28: by Evalyn (new)

Evalyn (eviejoy) | 93 comments An easy way out in determining what is or is not on the list would be for someone to hotfoot it over to the nearest university English Dept. They all have a list of the "Western Canon" available and would be glad to supply it. But, that wouldn't list classics that we want to read that may not have made the list - so that would put us back at square one, wouldn't it?


message 29: by Audrey (last edited Nov 18, 2009 05:27PM) (new)

Audrey | 199 comments Everyman wrote: "There are a number of fairly good sources of "classic" classics around, and I would think that any book on these lists would be fair game for this group."

Even there, we run into the same difficulty. In following the links you posted, I discovered Beckett's Waiting for Godot (1952) on Great Books of the Western World, as well as Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and Faulkner's Go Down, Moses (1942) on the St. John's College Reading List. The Lifetime Reading Plan goes much more recent than I would really consider classic. It includes One Hundred Years of Solitude, which came out in 1967.

On another note, I think it might be interesting to try to go chronologically in, say, six month cycles. We could, for example, follow an order that went something along the lines of: antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, 18th century, 19th century. It wouldn't have quite the effect of reading several works from each period at once, but it might approximate the effect at least a bit, and I think it would be much more practical for an informal group.


message 30: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine I'm following this conversation with great interest. Something else to put out: This group is less than a year old. I think that, in addition to sorting gradually through reading guidelines/preferences for the group, we need time to develop together, for those who have languished for lack of conversation to take the edge off that need, for those who are new to classics or new to discussion to warm to their potential and enjoy themselves. I figure that a year, or two, of nominal structure, such as we have now, will help that process. I suggest that we need the books *and* the comfy chairs near the fire with the mug of something nice. A year or two is not long for classics readers, lol. Speaking only for myself now, I see how comfortable I've become from the last quarter of Don Quixote, when I joined, to now. There's *room* in this group, an expansiveness that perhaps comes from reading long books and deep thoughts from various centuries. One can settle down and let thoughts roam, and then come up and find others, to switch metaphors, picking berries from the bushes quite near. All this to say that I think group process can benefit at this stage from looser guidelines rather than stricter. It takes time to go deep. Appreciation of, and discussion of, classics is occurring with élan!


message 31: by Everyman (last edited Nov 18, 2009 06:51PM) (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Audrey wrote: "On another note, I think it might be interesting to try to go chronologically in, say, six month cycles. "

This is the general approach that the reading plan for the Great Books follows. It is a ten year plan, picking selections from the books, and each year runs roughly chronological over a broad theme or set of themes.

Here is a link to the ten year suggested reading schedule.
http://www.greatconversation.org/Ten_...

Hope it works. I don't have my linking template up because our power has been blinking on and off this evening (sustained winds at the weather buoy out front of our house are being measured over the last four hours at 45, 47, 48, and 49 mph, so still building, with much higher gusts. So I have the minimum open on my computer so when the power goes i can shut down quickly, since I only have a short window with my battery backup.



message 32: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I ran across this wonderful quote from Mortimer Adler while I was doing some browsing:

"The difference between great and good books is one of kind, not of degree. Good books are not "almost great" or "less than great" books. Great books are relevant to human problems in every century, not just germane to current twentieth-century problems. A great book requires to be read over and over, and has many meanings; a good book needs to have no more than one meaning, and it need be read no more than once."


message 33: by Selina (last edited Nov 19, 2009 07:17AM) (new)

Selina (selinatng) | 62 comments It didn't work for me.
Perhaps it's the URL below ?
https://grahamschool.uchicago.edu/pro...





message 34: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Selina wrote: "Perhaps this is the URL Patrice is referring to ?
https://grahamschool.uchicago.edu/php...
"


That looks like it. Thanks!


message 35: by Frances (new)

Frances | 36 comments A lot of the books suggested here are quite recent, as Everyman Says--when I think of Western Canon, I do think much older. Greeks, Romans, up to the Renaissance, perhaps through Dickens & Hugo. One reason I joined this group is I hoped to be spurred to read "classics" (perhaps "classic classics"?) I missed in college because my school didn't mandate Western Civilization classics, and I didn't realize their importance at the time. I never got to the end of the Iliad, for example (except in the movies!). That list you suggest on 'great conversations' is great, thank you--I see lots of classics that might be accessible, perhaps Faust, Dante, Voltaire (he westernized Catherine the Great, how much more influential can you get?).


message 36: by Philip (new)

Philip | 7 comments I tend to think of the older, classic-classics as more appropriate...but I think the three generations guideline is a fine one, to a point. I also think you have to calculate it differently: using 20 years rather than 25, as it's not birth generations but generations reaching adulthood and reading literature. That would make 1970-back. I think, though, that one has to put a thumb on the scale in favor of the older works, otherwise one misses the development of ideas over time, and won't catch as many of the allusions and references. Now we're definitely back to the 'it takes a lifetime' point, which nicely highlights the greatness behind the idea of classics discussion groups, as we can fill in the background bits for one another.

Now to throw another log on the fire...what about books that belong properly to the 'western' canon of classics, but escape compiled lists and most groups because they are unpopular or lose much in translation (to and from any language, it does go in every direction)? I'm not advocating any course of action at all, just curious what people think.


message 37: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Phil wrote: "Now to throw another log on the fire...what about books that belong properly to the 'western' canon of classics, but escape compiled lists and most groups because they are unpopular or lose much in translation (to and from any language, it does go in every direction)? I'm not advocating any course of action at all, just curious what people think. "

Classic books tend to come into and out of favor, but the reason those that remain classics is that they continue to resonate with and satisfy later generations, and those that don't tend to fall by the wayside. If we had time and world enough, it would be fun to explore some of those unpopular books, but it would have to be with a group that was really committed to keeping reading and talking about them.

For our purposes here, there are so many people, I think, who still want to engage with the recognized classics and so many others who know those classics but want engage more deeply with them in concert with other likeminded people, that we have tended, I think for good reason, to stick with the more traditional works in the canon. When one is spending two months reading and discussing a work, it needs to be something that we are fairly sure is worth that depth of discussion.


message 38: by Philip (new)

Philip | 7 comments Everyman wrote: "Phil wrote: "Now to throw another log on the fire...what about books that belong properly to the 'western' canon of classics, but escape compiled lists and most groups because they are unpopular or..."

I think I phrased what I meant poorly. I meant unpopular in translation, not merely unpopular. For example, Schiller, who tends to get a little ignored in the English-speaking world but in countries where he can be read in the original is considered a playwright on the level of Shakespeare. Granted, I've never read a good translation, either, so it's perhaps not feasible. Another example I've heard would be that Pushkin, translated into any other language, is basically pointless, but in the original is amazing (I wouldn't know, Russian I can't manage).

I guess my point was, to what extent do we allow availability of a palatable translation to influence our definition of what a classic work is? I get the feeling sometimes that even limited to the west, you get many works that would more than qualify as classics, or that even to this day influence entire cultures, but are inaccessible outside of their own culture and language.

So I guess really what I have to say belongs more to 'what makes a classic' rather than 'hey let's do something different.' That's why I'm not saying that anything different should be done, or pushing any work in particular. I just wonder if anyone else has ever thought if we skew, intentionally or not, our definition based on what we can read.


message 39: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Phil wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Phil wrote: "Now to throw another log on the fire...what about books that belong properly to the 'western' canon of classics, but escape compiled lists and most groups because they..."

I would certainly include both Schiller and Pushkin on a list of Western classics. Pushkin cannot be perfectly translated, but he can certainly be read and admired greatly in English--by me, for one. Eugene Onegin is one of my all-time favorite works. Schiller had tremendous influence. Dostoevsky uses him often, and I think Tolstoy does, too. And he certainly shows up in a lot of operas.


message 40: by Philip (new)

Philip | 7 comments See, now I agree with you about Schiller for sure, but note that of the lists above, he only shows up on two (Bloom's and the Harvard one), and neither of them pick the same works (or work, as the case may be...).

Granted, I'm picking German authors because that's the language I'm most comfortable in besides English, but here's another example. Kafka's Die Verwandlung (uhh, Metamorphosis? I'm not sure on the English title) shows up on none of those lists. There's a stylistic device Kafka uses that wholly changes the impact of many lines, that gets lost in the translation (unless you translate it really awkwardly), namely that the most informative verb of the sentence gets shifted to the end, so that you don't get the action until after all the description. I think it's kind of a 'known thing', but it also illustrates my point. I just think there's a connection, especially now in an age where the reader of classic literature just isn't in a position to read in multiple languages.


message 41: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I think you (Phil and Laurel) both have good points, but in the end, we can only read those works which a good number of group members will enjoy reading and find rewarding to discuss.


message 43: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Gundula wrote: "I have some German suggestions:

Faust, The Sorrows of Young Werther, Elective Affinities and Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship by [author:Johan..."


Good list, Gundula! I failed in my first attempt to read Faust, but I want to try again. I definitely plan to read The Sorrows of Young Werther soon (I love the opera). I've been wanting to read Schiller and Mann. And the Kafkas bear rereading. I've heard a lot about Lessing but have never read him. I haven't heard of the others, but I'd like to.


message 44: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Gundula wrote: "I have some German suggestions:

Faust, The Sorrows of Young Werther, Elective Affinities and Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship by [author:Johan..."


Good list. Are all of these available in good translations? I understand that the fairly recent Wood translation of The Magic Mountain, for example, which is the translation I read, is supposed to be significantly better than the earlier translation of, I believe, Porter. I have Buddenbrooks on my TBR shelf, but it's been there awhile, so . . .


message 45: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks I'll have to do some digging, but I think that "Faust" is supposedly a relatively new translation and a good one. As I speak German fluently, I have mostly read these works in German. I tried a really early translation of "Faust" once which was horrible, but the one I listed was described as being "excellent." I'll do a bit of research and let you know. By the way, Buddenbrooks is a great novel, much easier to read and approachable (in my opinion) than either The Magic Mountain or Doctor Faustus (actually, my favourites are usually Thomas Mann's short fiction, especially Death in Venice, Tonio Kröger, Tristan and Mario and the Magician).


message 46: by Manybooks (last edited Mar 16, 2010 06:10PM) (new)

Manybooks Laurele wrote: "Gundula wrote: "I have some German suggestions:

Faust, The Sorrows of Young Werther, Elective Affinities and Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship ..."


I believe that people make a mistake if they try to read the entire play (Faust) in one sitting. It took Goethe until almost the end of his life to finish the work, so one should not attempt to read the play (especially the second part) in one sitting. The first part is easily read and is actually a stand-alone play in itself, but the second part (we actually had an entire university course only on Faust, and even then, I think we just scratched the surface). The Sorrows of Young Werther is a great novel, although I really do not like Werther as a character (Goethe himself was flabbergasted how so many people not only really, really liked and admired Werther, but that certain individuals even committed suicide à la Werther), it's a very influential novel, but the main character has always made me angry.


message 47: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Gundula wrote: The Sorrows of Young Werther is a great novel, although I really do not like Werther as a character (Goethe himself was flabbergasted how so many people not only really, really liked and admired Werther, but that certain individuals even committed suicide à la Werther), it's a very influential novel, but the main character has always made me angry.

Warning to the young men amongst us: Do not read The Sorrows of Young Werther unless you are surrounded by a strong support system! An aside: In Anna Karenina, Kitty's mother, I think, warned Kitty about the young Werther kind of romance.


message 48: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Gundula wrote: "By the way, Buddenbrooks is a great novel, much easier to read and approachable (in my opinion) than either The Magic Mountain or Doctor Faustus (actually, my favourites are usually Thomas Mann's short fiction, especially Death in Venice, Tonio Kröger, Tristan and Mario and the Magician). "

I blush to admit that the Penguin Edition of Death in Venice and Other Tales (it includes Tonio Kroger and Tristan, but not Mario and the Magician unless under another title) is also on my TBR shelf. Both were added shortly after I read The Magic Mountain and wanted to read more of Mann, but haven't gotten to them yet.


message 49: by MadgeUK (last edited Apr 09, 2010 02:50AM) (new)

MadgeUK Great List Gundula! I think it can be said that Goethe, Mann and Kafka have entered the Western Canon. I am not so sure about Schiller (because of the translation difficulties) although I agree with Laurele about his influence overall. Death in Venice or Buddenbrooks by Mann and Metamorphosis or The Castle by Kafka might be good ones to start on here, as an introduction to German literature. There are IMO weaknesses in the Great Books lists and one of them is that too few non-English novels are listed and that insufficient attention was paid to the effect of Eastern literature on Western thought. The list was, after all, compiled in the 1920s and assessment of the influences upon western literature has moved on since then, not least because so many more of us, including academics, have travelled and are more international in our outlook. (There was also a cultural/political bias between the wars and the German contribution to literature was sidelined, just as black writers have been sidelined until quite recently.)

Nevertheless, a bookclub devoted to The Classics and The Western Canon, based on the Great Books Program and led by someone obviously well read in this field, is an excellent idea and we perhaps should not stray too far outside of this particular box.

Perhaps what is needed is another club devoted to European non-English literature or even one devoted to an Eastern Canon? Here are a few comments on the effect that multiculturalism is having on world literature:-

http://www.sindhtoday.net/news/2/1252...


message 50: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 393 comments It took me 2 1/2 years to read Faust and I still didn't get much out of it. I think I may get more out of it if I read the commentary from others in this group though. I sure hope we don't read it next though because one epic poem is enough for me for a while!

I suggest The Prince by Machiavelli


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