Back on Sept.6 we started to examine chap.6 of Leland Ryken’s recent book (A Christian Guide to the Classics; Crossway, 2015), “How to Read a Classic.” We listed the six ways he tells us to to this and gave his summary of the chapter.
For the sake of review, let’s put those six positive ways in front of us again:
- Good Practice #1: Read a classic with respect for the momentousness of what you are doing.
- Good Practice #2: Understand the nature of the reading situation.
- Good Practice #3: Apply what you know about literature generally.
- Good Practice #4: Maintain a keen eye for the obvious.
- Good Practice #5: Be aware that the classics did not escape the effects of the fall.
- Good Practice #6: Be yourself as a Christian reader.
For today, we listen to what Ryken has to say about good practice #1 – read a classic with respect for the momentousness of what you are doing.
Throughout this book I stress the elite class to which a literary work belongs if it is a classic. The classics are the best of the best. …The classics represent literature on its best behavior, and as readers of them we should aspire to meet the same standard.
When we know that a piece of literature is a classic, we should begin with a vote of confidence for the work. This does not mean that we should be indiscriminate in our assessment of it. It means rather that we begin with an awareness that the world at large has regarded the work as a great work. Greatness deserves to be respected and honored.
The liberal establishment today attempts to instill an automatic bias against the classics. We need to reject that attempted coercion. Every work of literature is on trial, but at the end of the day we can virtually depend on it that a classic will give us more truth, wisdom, and beauty than lesser literature (and certainly more than the propagandistic literature of the “politically correct” movement), p.52.