The Timelessness of Classic Characters
There are some literary characters who never seem to grow old. Oedipus continues to remind us that unbending pride—what the ancient Greeks called hubris—is still with us. Othello will not let us forget that jealousy, the “green-eyed monster,” can still take us down. Ibsen’s Nora Helmer from A Doll’s House is still a beacon of feminine independence.
And Hamlet can still send shivers up our spines in his relentless pursuit of revenge, clearly telling us that there are tragic consequences to such an obsessive pursuit.
The timelessness of these characters is not just because they continue to be mirrors of humanity’s universal flaws and aspirations. Often, they leap out on the page or the stage to reveal some nuanced shift away from the predictable psychological traits that many of us could easily identify on a literature multiple-choice exam. Continue reading
When I retired from college teaching many years ago, I had become radicalized by my experiences with teaching International film and culture and African-American Literature.
Both courses led me to my belief that “story” is an essential ingredient in teaching students how to understand another culture. Once a student can identify with a person in a story, once they can follow a fictional narrative of a person’s life and conflicts, they are more apt to “identify”with that person, to humanize them. Continue reading