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  1. Sandy Banks
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    Sandy Banks Member

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    Pre 20th Century Novels

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Sandy Banks, Jun 17, 2008.

    I have ready a few pre twentieth century novels and have had a hard time with them all. I have read "Clarrissa" by Samual Richardson, "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens, "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoyevsky, Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo, and "Don Quixote" by Cevantes.

    I find that pre twentieth century novels are too long and laborious. You can tell that reading was the main past time before television and radio were invented, and therefor the novels are full of minute detail, in order to keep the readers occupied. Perhaps with the invention of quicker and more direct forms of entertainment in the twentieth century, such as cinema, radio, and tv, attention spans have been shortened, and literature has reacted to this.

    Most of my faveourate books tend to be no more than three hundred pages long, were written in the twentieth century, and are more often than not from the USA. To be fair i did enjoy "Les Miserables" and "Crime and Punishment". "Great Expectations" had a few nice moments, but "Clarissa" and "Don Quixote" i found almost unreadable. Do you think that times have changed to make pre twentieth century novels obsolete? Do you think radio and TV have had a good or bad effect on the development of literature? Do you think i am just to dumb to understand older, longer novels?
     
  2. LibbyAnn
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    LibbyAnn Contributing Member

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    Hmm...I like my classics :)

    I really enjoyed Don Quixote, Great Expectations, Crime and Punishment, and Les Miserables...I haven't read Clarissa, but I may go check that out!

    I don't think radion and TV have had a bad effect on the development of literature - there is GREAT stuff out there for reading. I do think that you have to have an appreciation of classics in order to enjoy them, though. The style of writing was different at that time; people enjoyed different things than they do today. You have to approach reading these novels with that kind of understanding...if you expect them to be jam-packed full of action and dialog, you're going to miss out on the little details that make them unique.
     
  3. Becca D
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    Becca D Member

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    I think it just depends on the novel - I personally have never finished Les Miserables (although I really liked what I read, it was just that it was due at the library) or Great Expectations (it was boring to me; I just couldn't get into it). But I really like such pre-20th century authors like Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, and Charlotte Bronte. And there are tons of pre-1900's books that I like: The Count of Monte Christo, Robinson Crusoe, and The Prince and the Pauper to name a few.

    But I find that the same principle applies to modern books, too: some are just boring. But that doesn't mean that the whole literature collection of the 20th and 21st centuries are the same. :)
     
  4. Adelaide
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    Adelaide Member

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    Sandy, I tend to agree with you. Though I understand why a lot of those books are classics, and enjoy them to some extent, it is difficult to get through many of them, especially when I know at least thirty pages could be chopped off and the book wouldn't be any worse for it. I do have to say Wuthering Heights was one of my favorites of that genre, probably because it was a little less frivolous and kept the drama up. Crime and Punishment had its exciting parts too, but it was very long and it's hard to stay rooting for a protagonist who is an arrogant, self-absorbed homicidal maniac.
     
  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Surely the Modern Prometheus should be discussed here too.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Frankenstein?
     
  7. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    As it is more commonly known, yes.
    I just like to call it 'The Modern Prometheus.'
     
  8. Fitz
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    Fitz New Member

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    First of all I think you shouldn't think you HAVE to like reading the masterpieces of old, like the ones you mentioned. I didn't like Great Expectations at all, and any book by Dostoyevski is a hard nut to crack. Literature or History of Literature students have a tendency to make you feel inferior just because you didn't like swamping your way through such books. But let's face it, it isn't much fun for the average reader to do so.
    Which doesn't mean you should not read them. There's a reason why these books are of good repute. Not only that, if a book is 200 years old, it must be good to have survived all that time. If it would've been rubbish, people would've forgotten about it long ago.

    Personally, I find reading these books can be very rewarding, but only if you know the background. If you know something about the life of the writer, and about the time in which it was written, you recognise more elements in the book which gives you something to hang on to when you feel the book is becoming stuffy or long-winded. Not only does this make the reading itself easier, you'll also understand the thematics and the deeper meaning of it and thus appreciating it more.
     
  9. silverfrost
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    silverfrost Member

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    No way. Liking more contemporary novels doesn't say much about your intelligence, just that you have a preference for newer works. It could be the older style or the individual authors of these "classics" (maybe you just don't enjoy Dickens, Austen, etc.).

    By the way, I can't believe how many people dislike Great Expectations. It's one of my all-time favorites--perhaps even in my top 5. Again, though, that's my opinion. :]
     
  10. Darkthought
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    Darkthought Active Member

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    Definitely your opinion. I couldn't stand it. Pip is a prick. Most of the protagonists in Dickens' works are pricks. Maybe that is why I didn't like it. I tend more towards other Romantics like Shelley and Byron and Coleridge anywho.
     
  11. Sandy Banks
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    Sandy Banks Member

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    Oh yea i forgot "Frankenstein". I have read that and unfortunately again i would say i wasnt paticulary a fan of it. Another one i've read is "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wild. This was released right at the end of the 19th century (1895). I did actually really like this one. Its themes and style are much more modern. Deeper, more exitential emotions, a more artistic syle of writing, and more 3 dimensional characters. Perhaps a case could be made that "The Picture of Dorian Gray" was the first truely 20th century novel. Although that is another thread entirely.

    I find with the classics that they all concern simple themes of romance or heroics. The plot lines are often unrealistic and you have to give alot of artistic licence to the author, which can spoil it for me. The chracters are often upper class and don't display very complex emotions, and often you end up not caring about them. (although one exception would be the lead character of "Crime and Punishment") They are also very long, although when you read the introductions to these books they say how they were released in installments over a peoriod of a few years. So they are not really designed to be read in one chunk. Perhaps in smaller installments these novels would be much more manageable.

    In conclusion i would say, as somebody has already said, that it depends on the novel. There are 1900 years of human history before the twentieth century and it would be ludicrous to write of every single book written in that period. Also i would say, as someone else has said, that alot depends on context. I think the reason i prefer more modern books is because i can relate more to them. They talk about a post industrial, urban, mass media age that has been the age we have been living in since at least the 1950's, if not before. The are also contemporary in terms of ideas, such as womens writes, and ethnic writes, which some classics tend not to be. Alll of this makes me relate to contemporary novels more so. I must be someone who can only really enjoy art if it relates to my life in some way.
     
  12. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm currently reading Vanity Fair which unlike a lot of classics I have read isn't too heavy going. I have read and loved many classics pre-C20 such as has been mentioned, Picture of Dorian Gray (although only just pre-C20), The Scarlet Letter for its heavy symbolism, Gatsby for its exhuberance, less so Last of the Mohicans because I found it quite labouring. And many more besides. My point is that Vanity Fair is different to any of the greats I've read because of its style. The gossipy fascination with character rather than action is appealing to the reader. Style has changed over the years to suit the changing audience but variation has always been present.
     
  13. wildflower
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    wildflower Member

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    I love the classics.

    I completely agree with you about the 20th century impacting on literature. I think books lack a certain symbolism that you can really only get with reading the classics (in my opinion).

    Don't get me wrong, I enjoy many books by contemporary writers but I feel a lot of them lack the substance there is in the classics. There shorter and faster paced than classics and purely for entertainment. I think older novels were supposed to have moral messages and what not.

    I believe Anne Radcliffe was one of the early writers who scribbled out what would be classed as a 'modern' novel
     
  14. wildflower
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    wildflower Member

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    One of the things I love about the classics are that the female protagonists go against convention quite often.

    Jayne Eyre could easily have slipped away with Rochester when she found out his secret, but she chose to leave him and find herself and be independent before returning to marry him properly

    Helen Graham in the Tenant of Wildfell Hall took a stand against domestic abuse and supported herself through selling her art work

    Elizabeth Bennett would not marry her cousin Mr Collins because his principles conflicted with her own beliefs. Despite the grief she received from her mother, she decided to remain single - even if it meant she would be a spinster. Unlike her friend who married purely for security.

    Just a few examples - I'm sure there are thousands more
     
  15. MarcG
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    MarcG Contributing Member

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    Jane Eyre also stumbled madly through a township, crying for bread after not having eaten in an incredible 10 hours. ;)

    As my old English teacher said, "people had nothing better to do back then." It's a kind of justification for alot of the long, laborious books that were written. Like Jane Eyre or Tess of the D'Urbervilles. :p
     
  16. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    I didn't mind Dracula.
     
  17. flashgordon
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    flashgordon Contributing Member

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    How odd, the reasons most people seem to not like the old classics is because of their thick description and heavy psychological nature. Those are what draws me to them. I can't stand today's pop based novels - they seem to lack real development and human characters. I guess I'm an old/young salt.
     
  18. wildflower
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    wildflower Member

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    I agree they seem to rely too much on sex (not tension, like with the classics) or violence.

    I was put off the crime novel genre completely - too much sexual sadism for my liking. It's kind of like all these 'gorno' films that everyone loves these days. Makes you wonder about people...
     
  19. Sandy Banks
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    Sandy Banks Member

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    When i say i prefer contemporary novels im talking about novels that are still probably regarded as high quality, not cheap popular trash. The Novels i love are the beat novels such as "On The Road" by Kerouac and "Naked Lunch" by Burroughs. I love "Catcher In The Rye". Dylan Thomas's stuff is great. I like "Down and Out In Paris and London" by Orwell, "In Cold Blood" by Capote, "The Atrocity Exhibition" by JG Ballard, and i also love Jean Paul Satre, mainly "The Age of Reason. Oh and "Lord Of The Flies" of course. I wouldnt say that these novels lack real development or human characters. And i also wouldnt say that they lack substance and are purely for entertainment. I just enjoyed these 20th century novels infinately more so than i did any of the pre 20th century classics. I can't help but feel that they are far superior.
     
  20. sfr
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    sfr Contributing Member

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    Out of all the books you've mentioned I've only read through part one of crime and punishment. It was exciting in an anxious sort of way. More nerve racking than anything. After getting through the murder scene and begining on part II, I decided not to read on. I figured I didn't want to spend time filling my mind with such things. Although I will say I did apericate the first dream sequence invovling the horse. Other older books I have enjoyed are Sorrows of a young werther by Goethe. He is a great writer although his writing can be dense in my opinion, but flows seemlessly. His description of a dance under thunderstroms in sorrows of a young werther, and the firworks by the lake in elective affinities are probably the best pieces of writing I have ever read. I do apericate the older style for what it worth, a slower more detailed pace. I think it's good to get an idea of where writing has come from, so I think it's good to read the older stuff. Although the new stuff is on the cutting edge because it has had the opportunity to learn from everything preceeding it. I think today's heavily tv influenced culture is reflected in much writing which is sort of sad in a lot of ways, but it is the way it is.
     

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