The Role of Classic Literature in Modern Education

We reach some point in our lives when we come across classic literature. Most of us never welcome it with open arms and enthusiasm. I, for one am guilty of that. If not for my teacher in high school, I would have never learned to appreciate it. She possessed a forceful personality, knew how to express words eloquently and transported you to old worlds with fascination.

I know it is hard to teach classic literature but I’ve met instructors, like my high school teacher, who remain devoted to teaching it. Upon hearing the subject “classic literature”, your first thought would be, “boring and long lectures”. Nowadays, I still get the same impression from students, muttering “Do I have to?”, when classic literature is included in the school curriculum. I always tell them not to feel gloomy and open their minds, for it’s a window through which we can get a glimpse of ancient civilization’s thoughts.

Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and Babylonia produced some of the best authors, philosophers and poets. To name a few, there was Homer for Iliad and the Odyssey, Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Virgil’s Aeneid. They wrote about topics of love and honor, heroes and tragedy, also mythological transformations. Their works had great impact on art and literature throughout the ages.

Classic literature also influenced many of the great authors we know. William Shakespeare, one of the most celebrated poet and playwright , was influenced by Virgil’s work. Not only him but also Dante Alighieri, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton. Dante’s work in an epic poem, The Divine Comedy, showed traces of compositions by Homer and Virgil.

Classicists have closely studied the lives of these ancient authors and also the era they’ve come from. They try to unearth evidences of different cultures and civilization trough ancient literature and artifacts. Unfortunately, some are lost to them and original compositions are never found. It was a time when copies of great works were made by hand and a lot of passages were lost in translation.

Learning classic literature lends understanding of how men continued to progress or how they manage to survive amidst changing times. Even if they lived in an ancient world, their voices carry the same emotions of love, hatred, survival, defeat, trust, jealousy, honor, and betrayal. We can glean words of wisdom from their experiences. So that’s why classic literature still plays an essential role in modern education. Maybe next time we hear “classic literature”, “interesting and fascinating” will come to mind.