Today is the second to last day of Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day in May challenge, and the topic of the day is all about inspiration. The obvious thing for me to do would be to talk about the artists that inspire me, but I’m considering a blog series along those lines, so instead I’m going to talk about my studies.
As you probably all know, I’m currently working on a Literature and Creative Writing degree with the Open University, and this year I’ve been studying AA316 (the nineteenth-century novel). Last summer when I was picking my courses I remember been torn between this one, ’20th century literature: texts and debates’ and ‘Shakespeare: text and performance’. What was the deciding factor, I hear you ask? Classics. I love ’em. I love reading books that take a bit of deciphering, that contain beautiful writing, not just an engaging plot. I love the total delusions of a lot of the characters. I love the quaintness of times gone by. I love the romance and the tragedy. Mostly, I love costume dramas.
One of the things that inspired me to do this module was sheer book envy. That feeling you get, when you’re convinced you should read something but just never seem to get to it… that’s what pushed me into the world of the nineteenth-century novel.
Working through my set books, I’ve come across some real gems. I’ve discovered some things I’ve LOVED and some things that are headed straight to the charity shop… even though I really did hate some of them, I’m glad I suffered through (because at least now I know A- who to avoid and B- that a lot of the time other people are WRONG).
So these are those infamous books I’ve had to read (linked to reviews) –
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
My first ever Austen… underwhelming at best.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
A book I’ve read many a time before, and will undoubtedly read many a time again.
Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
The book that changed my mind about Dickens! Despite my love for all BBC adaptations, my torturous experience of reading Hard Times really put me off… but I absolutely LOVED this one. Enough to download the rest onto my Kindle (thank God for Project Gutenberg!)
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
I enjoyed studying passages from this novel more than actually reading it- there’s some truly stunning prose, but the dialects really bug me…
Middlemarch by George Eliot
In a word… long. Came from a snobby hypocrite, but an enjoyable read.
Germinal by Emile Zola
Enjoyed it waaaay more than I thought I would, could never be described as ‘nice’ but I’d recommend giving it a read… I’m currently trying to track down the rest in the series (not as easy as you’d think!)
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
After a slight struggle with the first chapter I really got into this one only to be left a bit cold at the end, not one to read if you’re looking for a bit of action!
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Again, long. A lot of build-up for a kind of boring scandal… I guess times have changed…
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
A good classic to start off with… purely because it’s so short! I thought it was ok the first time I read it but have enjoyed it more and more as I’ve had to study it. An appreciation for symbolism is required for this one.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Enjoyable, if well-known, story. It’s just a shame about the insipid declarations, total chauvinism and two-dimensional characters.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Started to read and couldn’t get into it, then I realized I wasn’t going to get examined on this one so I’m leaving it for another time, and doing some revision instead!
I’ve definitely got a lot more classics on my ‘to read’ list that I’m hoping to get through…
So what do you think of classics? Do you read them because you enjoy them or because you just feel like you should? Do you just stay away altogether?