Modern or Classical Literature: What To Choose?

Between book lovers everywhere, there exists the debate as to which works should schools teach their students: modern or classical literature? For many teachers, this can be a difficult choice, as there’s no denying that each category brings with it some very important lessons. There are those who argue that all literature students should have the opportunity to explore the great works of classical authors. In contrast, others argue that literature lessons should be kept modern and up-to-date.

Modern or Classical Literature What To Choose

Whatever preference you may personally hold, a good literary education will generally see students receive exposure to both modern and classical literature. To help you tell what’s what next time you head to the library and pick up a book, we’ve put together a little guide for understanding the need-to-know facts about classic and modern literature!

Classical literature

Classical writing generally refers to the great works of writing that predate the modernity of the twentieth century. Most students will recognize classical literature for its use of what can now feel like antiquated language. Unfortunately, the complexity of the language used in older literature can sometimes be enough to scare students away from the genre. This is truly a shame, as works of classical authors have a lot to offer. The classics become classics for a reason!

Luckily, nowadays students have a lot more tools available to them to help them make sense of the dense, old-fashioned language used in a lot of older works of literature. Free essay examples about literature, such as those at, are great for helping to cut through archaic classical style and make the stories and characters more accessible. Once you get to the heart of classical works, you’ll find yourself confronted with some of the most epic and moving stories ever told!

There are a number of outstanding figures of classical literature that every student should know. These include the truly classical greats of Ancient Greece, such as Homer and Euripides, to the giants of the nineteenth century like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. These classical writers had a tendency to write long, epic works that span years or even decades. Written at a time when sitting down to read was one of the most popular forms of entertainment, classical authors enjoyed crafting stories that could keep their audiences gripped for a long period of time.

Many works from around the world have found themselves accepted as part of the canon of great classical literature, such as the writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Cervantes. For students nowadays, reading these classical works of writing is a great window into bygone societies and a way to understand the cultural legacy that brought us to where we are today.

Modern literature

Modern literature most often refers to works of a more contemporary nature, generally composed around the late nineteenth century onwards. This style of literature is notable for innovations in literary style, by which authors have become more and more experimental with how they choose to tell their stories. Writers such as Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, and F. Scott Fitzgerald began to shift their writing style to be more expressionistic.

This was taken to new extremes by the “beat” generation of the 1960s – Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs. They innovated writing styles that broke completely with tradition and often left readers with questions about the meaning of writing itself. This sort of self-reflection is a common staple of modern literature, with many “postmodern” writers such as Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino choosing to make literature itself the topic of their writing.

When it comes to the study of literature, many people will have a preference for either the classical or the modern. Both offer unique experiences and insights into the societies in which they were written, and both make for a great starting point for any literary essay. However, it’s also true that no great literary education would be complete without exposure to both. Each with their unique benefits, there’s no reason you have to pick one over the other. Book lovers can love all books!


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