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Thread: What makes a classic novel?

  1. #1

    What makes a classic novel?

    Can anyone help me? I am trying to find out the general criteria for a classic novel? Who decides what becomes classic and how do they do it? Does a book have to have lasted a certain period of time before it is even considered?

    Any comments or answers gratefully received. 8)

  2. #2

    Re

    That's a good question. When the use of language is poetic enough, I guess, a book is kind of classic. I mean, realistic kinds of stories (by Stephen King, R. L. Stine) are definitely not classical. And also maybe the time thing. Maybe in 2300 the books written today can be classic.

  3. #3
    smeghead
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    I think a classic book is one that outlasts time-people today can still read Jane Austen and enjoy it because they relate to the characters, or read Dumas because they enjoy the development of plot and characterisation. That's what makes it really classic, but I guess the term tends to be used on books that have just managed to survive being around for a while too. Say a century maybe?
    Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.
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  4. #4

    Smile a classic novel

    to be labeled a classic novel it has to achieve many things.

    Morality - a classic novel should say something of value, drawing attention to human problems, condemn or applaud certain points of view. it should make a statement that is more significant than the "Chocolate cake is the world's best dessert" kind of comment. But we don't have to agree with the authors statement, it just has to be there.

    Effective language - the language used should be forceful, fresh and not hackneyed, and suitable to the purposes of the statement/message.

    Truthfulness - Is the work credible? Does the author make us believe what is being said? Such a standard cannot, of course, be applied literally. We do not believe in the literal truth of Gulliver's Travels or Candide, but we understand that the authors are using fantasy and exaggeration to communicate basic truths about humanity. Moreover, a good novel, story, or drama should give us the feeling that what happened to the characters was inevitable; that, given their temperaments and the situation in which they were placed, the outcome could not have been otherwise. Everything we know about Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman, for instance, makes his suicide inevitable. A different ending would have been disappointing and untrue.

    Universality - Regardless of when it was written, the work should hold meaning still in the western world, and should still hold that meaning in the future. Huckleberry Finn, for example, although it has been called the first truly American novel, deals with a universal theme, the loss of innocence.

    Timelessness - The work should be of lasting interest. The comments the author makes about people, about the pressure, rewards, and problems of life should still be relevant. The theme of the work should be as pertinent now as it was at the time it was written.

    hope it helps.... if its still need

  5. #5
    Registered User
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    What makes a classic novel is the same that makes a classic haiku or a classic anything : A work which quality is such that his influence is spread in time and space - meaning since the work first showed other works keep being under its influence. Just it.

  6. #6
    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    The essential quality is universality.

  7. #7
    Generally a book that remains in print, and that has a lasting readership long after it was written, is a classic. (in my humble opinion) And the reason, I believe, that it reaches this status, is what Searcher101 said. Usually these books remain popular because they are great examples of the style of the time (or they could be very unique examples of writing from that time), they have relevance to people (and people feel they can still find meaning in it), people relate to it, and it covers universal themes that defy the boundaries of the time in which they were written.
    Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months- Oscar Wilde

  8. #8
    Registered User Silvia's Avatar
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    I agree with those who said that unuversality makes a classic novel.
    Someone said (maybe Umberto Eco, but I'm not sure about that), anyway, he said that a classic novel is an open one. It must suits your time and be open to modern interpretation.

  9. #9
    Registered User Silvia's Avatar
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    I agree with those who said that unuversality makes a classic novel.
    Someone said (maybe Umberto Eco, but I'm not sure about that), anyway, he said that a classic novel is an open one. It must suit your time and be open to modern interpretation.

  10. #10
    Well a classic book should last - stand the test of time. It may not always be in print though and may be unacknowleged by the writer's contemporaries. So I guess we can tell what IS classic (though they are not all equal) but we are not sure what MAY BECOME classic. If we take genre into account then the question becomes more complex. King is a classic horror writer but will he stand the crucial test of time; I wont say as I don't know. It is also the case that a text in a minor language may be classic but may have few readers if it is not translated into a major language. Conferring classic status on text A does not mean that it is better than text B.Tens of thousands of women have read and enjoyed novels by Holt/Plaidy and she is undoubtedly a writer of classic historical/romance novels. Is she better than the Joyce of 'Finnegan's Wake'. Well she's a dashed sight more enjoyable! If Joyce had not written 'Dubliners' and 'Ulysses' who would remember 'Finnegan's Wake' but a few ideosyncratic literature profs.

  11. #11
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    Classic have nothing to do with number of people reading, popularity, genre (and King is not a classic yet, even of Horror). People may stop reading a classic - this will not change his status. Be in the print is irrelevant. Who prints Shappho and she is a classic notheless.
    The Classic must remain alive as influence, not as reading. If people read a book and it cause no effect, it can not be a classic. (For Classic is before anything a model).
    Universaility is interesting but irrelevant since the reader will do anything he wants to a book and transform a particular manifestation (Like for example, the Bible, in an universal book).

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by searcher101 View Post
    Universality - Regardless of when it was written, the work should hold meaning still in the western world, and should still hold that meaning in the future. Huckleberry Finn, for example, although it has been called the first truly American novel, deals with a universal theme, the loss of innocence.
    I would argue that you are incorrect. Although Huckleberry Finn is a universal work, the loss of innocence is not one of its themes.

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    Critics

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    A tradition deems them worthwhile - that is a classic. Which tradition deems them, depends on what type of classic.

    There are for instance 4 (really 5) Great Classic Novels of China, which have and will continue to be held up as THE classic Chinese novels, but I think many Western readers would prefer them in much shorter versions, or not like the works. Similarly, I do not like much German fiction, yet that tradition will still hold up its classics. Generally it all has to do with the tradition's valuing at any given time, but the central point is it has to have passed beyond a certain point.

    I like to think 2 or more generations after the author's original audience are dead - a generation being at least 18 or so years. King has still some time to go.

  15. #15
    Im curious. What are these 5 classic novels from China?
    "bruised reed" Isaiah 42:3

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