Skip to comments.Great Literature
Posted on 02/17/2020 7:52:44 PM PST by Fester Chugabrew
Not that anybody is wondering, but if you asked me what books have been of the greatest influence on how and what I think, aside from the BIBLE, and the plays of Shakespeare, I'd answer:
Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy
Anonymous, The Quest of the Holy Grail
Dante, The Divine Comedy
Spenser, The Faerie Queene
Herbert, The Temple
Milton, Paradise Lost
Fielding, Tom Jones
Boswell, Life of Johnson
Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Manzoni, The Betrothed
Dickens, Bleak House
Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Marcel, Man Against Mass Society
Guardini, The End of the Modern World
Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture
Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Kirk, The Conservative Mind
Lasch, Culture of Narcissism
Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
For what it's worth...
As for my own reading, alas, I am a poor reader. Slow. Inattentive, but willing to slog through details and ask questions. Boswell's work I read in part decades ago, and it was truly great. Homer I have translated from the original language but fail to grasp.
Anyway, hope this sparks some hearty repartee, as we are all along for the ride.
Very good list. I think I have read about half, in whole or part.
No Tom Clancy?
If only more people still read classic literature.
The mind is a terrible thing to waste.
No Les Mis?
I would add Herodotus’s Pelopenisian Wars also many of the Greek Plays Lysistrata’s comes to mind (when the ladies cut of sex to the guys going to war:-)
A few hours ago Tony posted this as well . . .
Yesterday I posted a list of the works — besides the Bible and the plays of Shakespeare — that have most deeply influenced me over the years, shaping how I see the world and man’s place in it, in past cultures and in this whatever-it-is of ours.
Now, not one of the works I listed that were written before 1900 was particularly arcane. That is, they were the kinds of things that any educated person in 1900 might well have read, or in some cases would almost certainly have read. But it occurred to me that that is not true anymore, and not because the works in question were overrated at that time. In many ways, a few of them were UNDERRATED: scholarship dealing with the Middle Ages was much more thorough in 1970 than it was in 1870.
What’s strange is this. You can easily graduate with an advanced degree in English, and know next to nothing about the Bible or the plays of Shakespeare. And as for The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost, The Life of Johnson, Tom Jones, the poetry of Herbert, and Bleak House, I’d say that odds are next to zero that a PhD in English will have read all of them, and somewhere about even up that the PhD will have read NONE of them.
The Faerie Queene — the single greatest literary influence upon C. S. Lewis, and a poem of endless intellectual and poetical fascination, one that repays reading many times over — is almost wholly neglected now. I doubt that it is taught in its entirety at more than a handful of colleges across the country. Tom Jones, and this is no idiosyncratic opinion of mine, is an excellent choice for Greatest English Novel ever (with Moby-Dick, that epic poem in prose, and Bleak House being two close competitors), but I rarely meet anyone who has read it, and the 18th century always gets shorted in English departments.
Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed is generally regarded as the greatest of all Italian novels, and as an historical novel it is easily superior to anything that Victor Hugo or Walter Scott ever did in that vein; but outside of Italy it is not known. The Life of Johnson is the gold standard for biography, but what literature professors would want to get near that old Tory?
Nathanael Hawthorne used to read The Faerie Queene to his wife and daughters in the evening by the fireside. Tastes do change; but when entire ranges of literature disappear from the consciousness of people whose business it ostensibly is to study literature, then something very strange is going on. Or maybe it is not very strange. Maybe it is an old and familiar thing, called decay and death....
Oh and how about Plato’s Lives!
I had the pleasyre of knowing Russell Kirk during my years at Hillsdale adn subsequently, and I’m sure he would recommend adding Eliot to that list.
Lots missing, to be sure. I think this is meat and potatoes. Clancy is like dessert.
Other than having read Chesterton, Lewis and Dickens, this list is WAY above my Pay Grade.
Spencer? Of course! All of the ‘Spencer for Hire’ novels by the late, GREAT Robert B. Parker! ;)
I’m holding out for Bloomberg’s Short Stories before I render a final judgement..
Nice turn of phrase there.
The list is a challenge for this poor reader. If only I can rise to the occasion.
“No Les Mis?”
I’d put that at the top. Along with Atlas Shrugged and the 11 book The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant.
Do you mean T.S. Eliot?
Saw the complete works of Aristotle at Barnes & Noble. Daunting.
I used to hate to read. The first book that I enjoyed was Jack London’s The Seawolf.
It’s hard for me to imagine anyone looking back in 100 years and thinking to themselves that the advent of electronic screen media was this great invention and a really positive thing for society.
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