Sunday, October 14, 2012

What to Read Before You Read the Classics

Classic Literature and the Bible

By Adriana
Welcome to the beginning of a very long series called "Classic Literature and the Bible". I could have already written a hundred posts on this subject with the short list of classic titles I've read in the last several months. I'm starting to see that the debt classic literature owes the Bible is massive.

Why is hardly anyone writing about this? Is it because little children no longer go to Sunday School and learn to chant their thees and thous? Perhaps. I think we can all agree that the Bible is fading from our cultural subconscious.

Abraham and three Angels - Marc Chagall
Abraham and Three Angels - Marc Chagall

If you are a college student reading this post, pay attention here: If you plan to study the Western canon of literature in school, start by reading the King James Bible from cover to cover. I promise you will have a major edge when it comes to understanding nuances, themes, symbols, references, characterization, and on and on and on. (I do confess: I am a Christian, so if you become converted along the way, I'm not going to be sad about that!)

Seriously. It should be required reading. Nearly every book I've read on this list of "History's Greatest Hits" has had one common thread: references to Scripture.
I came to the classics feeling very unworthy and unprepared. I'm still humbled by the great thoughts I absorb every day from some of the greatest minds in the world; however, I'm discovering I was more prepared than I thought I was.

When I was a child, my parents read the Bible to me every night in the King James Version. In hind sight, I can see that, other than learning to read, knowledge of the Bible has given me the best possible advantage in terms of comprehension.
The Jacob's Dream - Marc Chagall
The Jacob's Dream - Marc Chagall
I've researched this subject online and though I did not find much, the following two articles are well worth your time:

The New York Times Book Review (Just before Christmas 2011, the NY Times reviewed the Bible. Isn't that cute?), "The Book of Books: What Literature Owes the Bible", by Marilynne Robinson.
 The Bible is the model for and subject of more art and thought than those of us who live within its influence, consciously or unconsciously, will ever know.

National Geographic, "The Bible of King James", by Adam Nicolson. I have a hard copy of this article, which is also available at the website in it's entirety. After you read the article, don't forget to look at the photo gallery.

First printed 400 years ago, it molded the English language, buttressed the “powers that be”—one of its famous phrases—and yet enshrined a gospel of individual freedom. No other book has given more to the English-speaking world.

David - Marc Chagall
David - Marc Chagall

Classical Quest now publishes a "Classics and the Bible Sundays" post each Sunday right here. You can also find the same posts at the Classics and the Bible blog. Visit Classics and the Bible to search all archived posts in which I make a connection between the Bible and classic literature.

How well do you feel your education prior to reading the classics has served you?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Anna Karenina's Paper Knife

by Adriana

When it's quiet around the dinner table it usually means the meal is especially satisfying.

And so it's been quiet here on the blog  as I've been mowing through Leo Tolstoy's 923 page gem, Anna Karenina.

I thought I'd peak my head in today to let you in on something new --

I've started a collection!

Ever since I read The Happiness Project last summer, I've been thinking about taking Gretchin Rubin's advice to collect something. But what? (I'm not big on knick-knacks.)

On my Pinterest page you will find a board called "Quotes from my Quest". These are not merely random pithy quotes that I've found while roaming the internet, they are quotes I've found on my own while holding a #2 Ticonderoga pencil in my hand! A couple of the images on the board are pictures I've taken myself.

My collection is currently small, but you can be sure I'm keeping it in mind as I read. I love to make connections between great quotes and great images!

Here's a tip: My main source for images on this board is Wiki Paintings the Visual Arts Encyclopedia. I discovered it very recently and I'm enthralled. It is vast, well organized and the image quality is good. You can view many paintings by pretty much any famous artist. You can also choose to view an artist's work chronologically or alphabetically.

Currently I've been intrigued by Russian artist, Konstantin Makovsky. Born in Moscow; died in Saint Petersburg -- he painted a lot of portraits of Russian aristocracy during the time Tolstoy was writing his novels.

Would you like to know what led me to Makovsky?

It was Anna Karenina's paper knife.

I came upon this while pinning images --

P. Makovsky by Konstantin Makovsky    "...twisting the smooth paper knife in her little hands, she forced herself to read." Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy  via

At first glance, a scene from Anna Karenina came to mind.

Remember the part where Anna had just boarded the train to Saint Petersburg?
Still in the same anxious frame of mind as she had been all day...she took from her bag a paper knife and an English novel.. twisting the smooth paper knife in her little hands, she forced herself to read.
Of course I had to find out who painted this. I did not expect to find it was one of Tolstoy's contemporaries!

Here's a few more of my favorites by Makovsky --

 Petersburg Patio - Konstantin Makovsky

Portrait of an Unknown - Konstantin Makovsky

Before the Wedding - Konstantin Makovsky

Portrait of Hudenkova - Konstantin Makovsky
This is how I imagine Dolly Oblonskaya.
So now that I've told you all about my fun new hobby, I want to encourage you to try it for yourself. If you come across a great image that makes you think of a classic quote you've read, I would love for you to share both the image and the quote with me!

First, be sure to link your source.

Second, put your image/quote combo somewhere where I can see it! It really doesn't matter where --  the Classical Quest Facebook page, your blog or your own Pinterest board (just leave your link in the comment box).

Third, keep it clean.  I'll delete anything I consider inappropriate.

If I get enough feedback, I'll eventually start a new board on Pinterest called "Quotes from YOUR Quest".

I expect this will take a while because reading through the classics and making connections is a long process, but I'm not going anywhere in a hurry. You know where to find me!

Happy collecting!