Writers write for a variety of reasons, but mainly to voice their concerns; some write to document the times – chronicle or crystallise experience and distil the essence of history to give it permanency, while others use it as an emotional release of pent up tension and some write for the edification or moral uplifting of the world.
Classical literature also known as universal literature or the canon, appeals to all people of all places and all times. It speaks to us because of the fundamental messages conveyed are relevant to all people and engages us to identify and see ourselves.
Stories are our lifeblood and we need to acknowledge the importance of the storyteller. They invite understanding, leading to tolerance and empathy and they tell of the richness of our culture and our lives.
Essentially Literature is the result of dreams, visions, spells, songs....
The Epic of Gilgamesh:
Gilgamesh is putatively the earliest form of literature extant. He was an historical king of Uruk in Babylonia, on the River Euphrates in modern Iraq; he lived about 2700 B.C. Many stories and myths were written about Gilgamesh, some of which were written down about 2000 B.C. in the Sumerian language on clay tablets which still survive. Discovered in the late 19th C., The Epic of Gilgamesh is a narrative tale about the friendship between the King of Ur and Enkidu, a feral human. The two strong men who fight over the right of the King to sleep with Enkid’s bride on her first night. When the fight ends in a draw, the two men, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become great friends and travel the world together.
If you’re looking for messages, I think that the message is the book, that it’s an extremely exciting and dramatic and powerful story that has elements of all the great adventure stories.
You could say that it’s dangerous to be in power, that you’re likely to abuse it, and this is a cliché. It’s the first quest story, it’s a story with an amazingly sophisticated sense of good and evil, and what lies at the core of human existence. One message that it might have for us living where and when we do, is that if you go out to try to rid the world of evil, and destroy monsters, that you’re going to get into a lot of trouble.”
Other Classical literature comes from Greek and Roman times especially the Golden Age of Greece; the Epic poems of Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey, the plays of the Greek tragedians, and many others.
In the English Language Beowolf is considered one of our first recorded tales, followed by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and then the plays of Shakespeare which have survived the test of time and been translated into hundreds of languages.
Classical novelists would include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Jane Austen’s many novels and the Bronte sisters followed by Charles Dickens.
Modern Drama has its origins in 5th Century Greek Drama and the influence of Plato and Aristotle continue to this day. Perhaps the pinnacle of dramatic performance was the Elizabethan/ Jacobean period in England during the 15 and 16th centuries.
Plato and Aristotle laid out polemic or juxtaposing ground rules of what good literature should look like.
This is how Neil Armfield introduced his 2007 Season at Belvoir
“If theatre is a metaphor of life (and what is it but that), it suggests that there is some way out of the mess we seem to have all found ourselves in. ………
…..You do it by listening and teaching, by raising the standards of education, by advancing informed debate by encouraging the telling of our stories in books, on our screens ‘and on our stages. And that’s what we (Dramatists) are trying, in our own way, to do. That’s our job: to tell the stories, to sing the songs of our land, our world, our past.
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