Thursday, December 28, 2006

Medicine for the Soul



I recently returned to classes at NEU and I was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor of the three part "English Literature" series. This was my first real exposure to classic English Literature and I was a bit apprehensive about the class. I knew that we would cover, among other stories, "Beowulf", "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", and "Canterbury Tales" and I was plagued by the following thoughts:
  • Would I like it?
  • What could I get out of these stories?
  • Why is there air?
I shouldn't have worried. I loved this class.

"Beowulf" is one of the finest works that I have ever read, made even more so because of the ability to discuss the text with my peers. We discussed at length how a society that could refer to Grendel as "born of Adam's tribe" (an evidence of their Christianity) could still believe in dragons, evil spirits and things that go bump in the night. We discussed the importance of heroism in this age, the role of women in their society and the effect that "Beowulf" had on English society as a whole.

In the past 5 years I have expanded my reading list beyond Sci-Fi and Sword & Sorcery to include autobigraphies (Benjamin Franklin, for one), historical novels ("1491") classics ("To Kill a Mockingbird") and so much more. The world exists in books and the written word can "...free you from the limitations of your age, of your country, of your personal experiences; they give you access to all ages, to all countries, to all experience. They take you out of the rut of life in the town you live in and make you a citizen of the world. They offer you the companionship of the most interesting and influential men and women who have ever lived; they make it possible for you to travel without leaving home, and to have vacations without taking time from your work. They offer you—if you will only accept their gifts— friends, travel, the knowledge of life; they offer you education, the means of making your life what you want it to be." -from "The Harvard Classics"
Thanks to Lisa (Thanks, Hootie!) I was recently introduced to The Harvard Classics and The Shelf of Fiction which was selected by Charles W. Eliot, LLD. This is "The most comprehensive and well-researched anthology of all time (and) comprises both the 50-volume "5-foot shelf of books" and the the 20-volume Shelf of Fiction. Together they cover every major literary figure, philosopher, religion, folklore and historical subject through the twentieth century."
Eliot wrote in his introduction to the Harvard Classics, "In my opinion, a five-foot shelf would hold books enough to give a liberal education to any one who would read them with devotion, even if he could spare but fifteen minutes a day for reading."
Harvard has put together the daily 15 minute schedule and has made the works accessible to everyone who seeks them out. I choose to seek them out. Therefore, I am making a New Year's Resolution and I am letting you all in on it.

I resolve to follow the 15 minute a day plan as outlined here. I will read these works each day and hopefully at the end of 2007 I will have a better understanding of the great minds who have stimulated and inspired mankind down through the ages. If even one session opens my mind to new thoughts and ideas then I will consider the excercise a success.

As I have witnessed first-hand, the experience of reading and understanding great prose is made that much richer when shared with like-minded individuals. Therefore, I invite any and all of you to join me on this literary quest. We can discuss the words that we have read as a group (or one on one) so that we may better understand what we have read and hopefully become more intelligent, ambitious, and persistent readers.

The world is at our fingertips; I choose to explore it.


3 Comments:

Blogger FoxInDetox said...

Hey! Don't you know that reading is fundemental? Good stuff friend!

Happy New Year to you and yours. I hope your New Year is magic!

2:50 PM, January 02, 2007  
Blogger FoxInDetox said...

This post is from December 28th of 2006... It is now January 11th of 2007...

OH MY GOD! Will you frigging write something already?!

3:10 PM, January 11, 2007  
Blogger FoxInDetox said...

Ha! I just yelled at you!

3:10 PM, January 11, 2007  

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