BiblioFiles Episode #24: What Makes a Classic?

It's getting to be a hot topic these days, and after receiving a particularly thoughtful question from one of the students in our Online Academy, we decided to bring the issue to the BiblioFiles table. Are the classics the only books worthy of study? If so, what makes a classic? Is it age, quality, or content? And how can we tell which books written today will become classics? Or should we only stick to the old books? Such are the concerns of this episode, alternatively titled "In Which the CenterForLit Clan Has Strong Opinions." We hope you enjoy the conversation and that you'll join in on the discussion!

Referenced Materials:

Teaching the Classics: Second Edition

2017 Launch Party: Free Webinar

The Great Books Set (Encyclopedia Britannica)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Divorce and 'Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

Home by Marilynne Robinson

The Memory of Old Jack and Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

"What makes them part of the great conversation is something so deep as to be elusive. It has to do with the impalpable medium of thought and sensibility in which our raw daily experience floats. The great conversationalists of the Western past are, as we have said, the architects of our mental habitat. That habitat is our real mother country and we are its citizens. As citizens we are all equal, but imaginative writers are more equal than the rest of us. They react to our common home in a special way, responding more intensely, interpreting it, extracting from it symbols, emblematic characters, images, webs of evocative language, epiphanies of human awareness. All these emerge from a view of life pervaded by the great ideas even though the dramatist, the novelist, the poet may never explicitly cite them. They form the bed on which these creators rest, dreaming the dream that will become Death in Venice or Waiting for Godot. This is the case even when a great idea is disowned or assailed. In A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway describes a mood in which "abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene." Here he may be addressing, however indirectly, the author of The Iliad..." -Clifton Fadiman

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