As we continue to look at Leland Ryken’s recent publication A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we are ready to move into chapter 5, where Ryken begins to answer the question, How should we read the classics of literature?
In this chapter, “How Not to Read a Classic”, you will see that he answers this negatively first of all. He makes his point under six (6) headings, which we will simply list today:
- Bad Practice #1: Treat the reading of a classic as a solemn duty – something that you are required to do instead of desire to do.
- Bad Practice #2: Read the classics primarily for their ideas.
- Bad Practice #3: Assume that the classics are totally different from other literature.
- Bad Practice #4: View the classics as being sacred and beyond criticism.
- Bad Practice #5: Read only Christian classics.
- Bad Practice #6: Resolve to see only what the author and original audience saw in a classic.
We may examine some of these in more detail in a later post, but for now let’s benefit from an experience of author Flannery O’Conner Ryken includes in a sidebar in connection with #2 above:
Fiction writer Flannery O’Conner wrote a very helpful book of Christian literary theory titled Mystery and Manners. On the subject of not allowing ideas to supersede our enjoyment of literature, she wrote, ‘Last fall I received a letter from a student who said she would be “graciously appreciative” if I would tell her “just what enlightenment” I expected her to get from each of my stories…. I wrote her back to forget about enlightenment and just try to enjoy them.
So, yes, by all means read a classic this summer! And do so for the pure enjoyment of it! 🙂
Need a place to find free classics online? Try this link.