NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

TTC: Classic Novels, Lecture 1

Meeting The Challenge of Great Literature

"[O]ur aim is to illuminate some of the most influential works of fiction in Western literature, yet works that challenge our sense of what a novel is, what it does, and why we have it." Professor Arnold Weinstein

The opening lecture of this course had even my husband ready to crack open a classic novel and start reading! :-) Most of the time was spent introducing Professor Weinstein's definitions of "classic", "literature", etc., and giving a broad overview of the books we will be reading and why he chose them. I won't talk about everything the professor covers in these lectures, but I will choose a point or two in each that I found particularly meaningful for me.

One of the questions presented today was: Why do we read novels? What do they do for us? I just had this discussion this past weekend with a friend of mine, a non-reader, who was mystified as to why I choose some of the books that I read. Why would I want to read a book that describes the horrors of slavery in the south? Prejudice in pre-Civil Rights America? Child soldiers in Sudan? A WWII concentration camp? The education of a suicide bomber? I told him it was because it took me out of my comfortable white suburban life and showed me a world completely unlike mine. It shook me out of my emotional and intellectual lethargy and made me think about something beside myself, to consider the wider world beyond my personal experience. It made me think about my daily actions and if they are in line with my true beliefs, and if they are, is that a good thing?

In the words of Alanis Morrisette, "You read, you learn."

Professor Weinstein had this to say: "Reading these books is akin to visiting the storehouse of culture to take nourishment from it. We might think of reading as similar to ancient cannibalism or modern medicine. We 'ingest' the books we read in order to take their magical powers or healing potency into ourselves." (Course Guidebook, pp. 6-7) I loved the cannibal comparison, consuming the remains of the wise ones and powerful warriors to absorb their knowledge and strength. I know it's a little sick, but I can't argue the truth of it!

So, what about you? Why do you read?


Shelley said...

I definitely read for medicinal purposes. It's a lot cheaper than therapy!

Lezlie said...

Shelly ~ Isn't it though? I can keep my medical costs down just by going to the library! :-)


joanna said...

I read for so many reasons! Partly to take myself out of my comfortable life, like you. Partly to experience things and places that I could never experience otherwise. I like classics because aside from being good books they also show social history, which is an interest of mine. :-)

Lezlie said...

Joanna ~ There are so many reasons to read, aren't there? The way I answered the question this weekend specifically applied to some books my friend just couldn't figure out why on earth I would read. In addition to the reasons you've listed, just plain good old escapism and entertainment is good, too! :-)


Ladytink_534 said...

I read to learn, be entertained, escape, be inspired, and to just plan enjoy it lol.

Michele said...

I'm an escapist reader for certain....I've always read to lose myself in another time and place and for just a little while, if the book is really good, I'm someone else.

Of course learning about other cultures and places, as well as developing excellent vocabulary and (usually) spelling skills, is a fantastic by-product.

Lezlie said...

Ladytink ~ I like "just plain enjoy". I think sometimes readers get too serious and forget that part, dismissing our "fluff" as not worthy of reading.

Michele ~ Yeah, that spelling thing. If only more of it would stick with me! I'm very good friends with Merriam Webster. :-)


Jeane said...

I read to satisfy my curiosity about many things, to broaden my horizons, to see how other people experience the world, to savor artistic use of language, and to enjoy a good story.

Lezlie said...

Jeane ~ "To savor the artistic use of language". Lovely! That's another one we lose track of sometimes as we try to pack all the reading we can into busy lives. When I find one that makes me sit up and take notice, it's a beautiful moment indeed!