Being a Better Writer: “High-Class” Literature and Shakespeare

This post was originally written and posted June 2nd, 2014, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

Today’s topic is a little different. And a little late (for which I apologize, but I was wrapped up finishing reading a book, which I’m sure most of you can understand). Today’s topic is more on the philosophy of not just writing, but reading as well. I’m going to talk about the semi-divide between what’s often called “high-class literature” and what’s written for entertainment.

Sound a little confusing? Bear with me.

Remember those English classes you had in high school? Or maybe you’re still having them. Crud, you might be waiting for them to arrive. Well, I had those just like most people. And one of the defining memories I have of those days is of my teacher and the┬áchoices of literature they made.

You see, to my teacher, unless the work had been rubber-stamped by a faceless, indiscriminate board somewhere with the term “classic,” then it wasn’t worth reading. No joke. Our class actively debated this with our teacher on several occasions, because there were plenty of us who were active readers and enjoyed thumbing through a good book. The conflict was, however, that we “weren’t really reading,” at least, that was how we saw our teacher’s stance. We were told that Tolkien was garbage, that Harry Potter was trash, all because whatever high-class group our teach took their opinion from had disdained to give those books their stamp of approval. Instead, we were given books to read like Ethan Frome or The Catcher in the Rye. The first I absolutely despise to this day for its complete dryness and lack of real depth, and the second I could replicate my feelings for simply by browsing livejournal for a few hours until I’ve had my fill of teenage angst.

As you can tell, I wasn’t fond of either of them. But we had to read them anyway, because in our teacher’s words, they were what we were supposed to be reading. They were classics. All that other stuff we enjoyed? A waste of time. Not real literature.

Bottom line? If it didn’t have the classic stamp on it somewhere, we shouldn’t have been reading it.

Continue reading