So today’s Top Ten Tuesday is about ten books that I would teach on a syllabus. Now I am an English literature major and I come across a lot of pieces of literature that I cannot stand. A lot of these pieces pop up in my classics classes, such as, romantic literature, Victorian literature, etc. What I’ve decided to do with this Top Ten Tuesday is make a classics syllabus that I think people would actually enjoy instead of simply putting something on there because it is considered a classic. Just because it’s a “classic” doesn’t mean it’s all that great.
In this list you will find ten pieces of classic literature, that is not necessarily a full novel, that I find interesting and worth teaching to other people. I am also not picking ten full novels because that would be an INSANE amount of work for one semester’s syllabus!! If you haven’t read all of these then I would definitely pick up every single one of these pieces because they have something significant to offer. Not just the title of a “classic.”
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
This novella is one of my favourites. In the edition that I have I believe it is approximately 100 pages, maybe a little bit more so it isn’t very long. I was really excited to study this in my classes because I remember seeing the Looney Tunes version of this story when I was a kid. Ever since watching a cartoon version I have always wanted to read the really story. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. It take place in the late 1800s in Victorian England, more specifically London. We follow the perspective of Mr. Utterson as he tries to uncover the mysterious happenings of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I would place it in the Gothic genre and it definitely keeps you reading.
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
This novel is actually in my list of favourites on my Home Sweet Home page. I have read and studied it many times. I always learn or catch some new detail that I didn’t notice the previous time. I know that some people think that Jane Eyre is overrated, however, I would disagree. It is an amazing novel for it’s time. To have a young woman want to progress in her career without the help of man is something that was very unheard of. She over came loss, discrimination, etc, all by herself since she did not have any family to help support her. Jane is one of the most powerful characters I have read and therefore feel it deserves the “classic” title.
3. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
I didn’t read this novel until only a few months ago even though it is one of Canada’s most beloved books. Shame on me! This novel lives up to it’s reputation of being amazing and extremely relatable to almost any young girl or woman. It is even cooler when you read novels that came after Anne of Green Gables because you get to see her grow up, but the original is one worth teaching.
4. Diana of Dobson’s by Cicely Hamilton
This is actually a play not a novel. It is a modern drama about a woman who has no money and is working in a department store. She comes into a lot of money and spends it on a wonderful holiday where she pretends to be an extremely wealthy widow. I mean come on, how many times have you fantasized about having more money and being able to see how the wealthy live their lives. This is the story of someone getting to do that. It holds a really nice moral at the end of it as well.
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I believe I have talked about The Great Gatsby in one of my Throwback Thursday posts. I could rave about this novel over and over again. That’s the thing, when a professor is teaching something they need to be passionate. Even if the material isn’t all that interesting as long as the professor is passionate about it then the students will listen. So I would have no issues talking about this novel for one or two classes.
6. Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
This piece is actually a poem, some people even say it is an epic poem. For those of you who are not all that familiar with poetry (which is totally fine) en epic poem should not be mistaken for meaning a “great” poem, it is a certain genre of poetry. There is a hero who must go on a journey in order to fulfill something or obtain an item. There is a lot more to the genre but that is the bare bones of it. This poem is about a woman looking back on when she had to move in with her aunt after her father had passed away (her mother had previously died) and now her aunt is trying to mold her into the proper young woman that she should be. BUT Aurora doesn’t want to listen to her aunt because she does not think that her aunt has truly lived her life and Aurora wants adventure and discovery, which her aunt never had. Aurora is a very strong and interesting character. I really enjoyed studying her and have used this poem as parts of many essays throughout the years.
7. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
This novel was written in 1852 as an anti-slavery novel in America. It was one of the first of its kind because the facts were all nearly true. Stowe would travel around the southern states researching slavery and came up with this novel. It was extremely influential and is said to have a hand in inspiring the abolitionist cause in the later 1850s. This is of course difficult to read as it is not sugar coated in any way. If you have read 12 Years A Slave you will understand what I mean when I say that this is very comparable in its content. Uncle Tom is so inspirational in this novel. This is a longer novel BUT still worth a read!
8. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I think this one is a very obvious choice to be added to a list of great classic pieces of literature. I have studied this novel a few times and love it every time. It can be related to our society today in the sense that the monster is simply trying to find his place in the world but unfortunately there is no one like him. That is very similar to a lot of people’s loneliness today. That is why Frankenstein will always be a popular classic because it is relatable and timeless. An obvious part of the literary canon.
9. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder by James De Mille
This is a Canadian novel that I fell in love with a long time ago. It tells the story of a man who drifts through a hole in the mountains and comes to a land where there are mystical creatures and a society that is more advanced than 19th century Britain. We follow Adam More as he falls in love with a woman who lives there and discovers that the people have a terrible secret. It is an amazing read! My edition is bright orange… how cool is that!?!?
10. The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
This novel was published in 1961 and has a direct line to my childhood. I have read this novel many times but have actually never studied it. Perhaps it is not considered a classic to most people or valued enough to be taught BUT I would disagree. I think this novel offers interesting insight into the mind of an animal. There is nearly no talking in this novel since you are simply inside the minds of these three animals as they go on their journey. I would definitely be able to pick apart valuable information in this novel. Such a great piece!
So did anyone notice that there was NO Shakespeare, no Moby Dick, etc. Those are just a couple of examples of things that I would NEVER put on a syllabus of my choosing. Not that I don’t think these pieces have value BUT I think that they are over-taught. I avoid Shakespeare now like the plague because I just can’t study it anymore and I will never understand why it is studied to such an extent. I believe there are other things that could take its place.
Anyways, no offense to people who like Shakespeare and Moby Dick. It’s not that I hate them I just don’t enjoy them… so how could I get other people to enjoy them. So these ten pieces are ones that I really like and have studied. I enjoyed studying them and therefore think that other people would too. If you haven’t read some of these I would highly recommend them 🙂
Inspired by The Broke and the Bookish