Works of literature/poetry that don''t seem dated...
The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock\
Most of Emily Dickenson''s work.\
Why is this? Other great works from Whitman to Dickens are fantastic, but they seem so antiquated. Interesting.
Emily Dickinson was a genius. Her style of writing was as fresh today as it was when she wrote it.
You can sing any Dickinson poem to the tune " The Yellow Rose of Texas" or "Gilligan''s Island," but what young person knows those tunes anymore? It''s not timeless. Now, if you could sing her poems to " Friday," then she''s a genius!
And you can sing Frost''s Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening to the tune of "Hernando''s Hideaway."\
I think a lot of Whitman is very contemporary.
I know what OP is getting at - many of the classic authors are brilliant, but unmistakably of their time ... eg Dostoevsky, Herman Melville, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot. But there are a lot of are poets like Byron, Wallace Stevens, Donne, Andrew Marvell, whose work can feel startlingly contemporary. I''m trying to think of some authors who fit that description ... Emily Bronte certainly ... maybe Faulkner?
I think neither Dickens nor George Eliot are antiquated when it comes to their depiction of human nature. Certainly not more so than Jane Eyre.
I know many will disagree with me, but I think Jane Austen''s sense of humor and insight into the character of people is just as relevant today as it was in her time. Obviously, Napoleonic England is incredibly dated, but somehow her character studies are still fresh.
When looking at themes and emotional truth, great literature remains timeless because it speaks to our humanity, not necessarily to our specific society. Vice and virtue, desire and despair, courage and cowardliness, and so on, are the essence of these works: details of century and circumstance serve as the corpus to the essential soul.%0D\
If all of the writers cited by OP were irrelevant, they wouldn''t still be read today.
I agree with you r5 re Eliot''s and Dickens'' insights into human nature but I''ve just started Daniel Deronda and it is somehow ... dated. I think her prose is a bit fussier in this than Middlemarch, which I loved and which stands the test of time
I saw a man pursuing the horizon.\
On and on they sped.\
I was confused at this; \
I accosted the man. \
"It is futile," I said, \
"You can never..."\
"You lie," he cried,\
And ran on.\
by Stephen Crane.\
I also think "Not waving but drowning" by Stevie Smith lives on and on
Mrs. Dalloway. I still think it''s the best novel from the 20th century.%0D\
Howards End, a close second.
The Voice of the Night
20th century literature-F Scott Fitzgerald whose crushed dreams and lost loves carry over to any generation.%0D\
Poetry-Edna St Vincent Millay and Yeats for the sheer beauty of their words.
I am reading Balzac and his work is frightening more real about sex and money than any author I have ever read.\
And the most uncliched gay character in all literature runs through many of his novels.
I''d give the prize to To the Lighthouse, VOTN, but it''s a close call.\
Trollope holds up well, too.
Jane Austen is the only 19th century author that people still read just for fun, so she probably owns this thread.
R15, are you nuts?\
Twain, Dickens, James, Chehov, Balzac, Zola, Wilde, et al?
Austen, the Bronte sisters, Woolf, and Wilde are some authors whom I consider timeless in terms of prose, characters, and theme. %0D\
Pride and Prejudice%0D\
Villette (an underrated masterpiece by Charlotte)%0D\
To the Lighthouse%0D\
The Picture of Dorian Gray%0D\
Madame Bovary is also a beautiful novel. I still remember a description from Flaubert about how the fog hung like gauze woven through the trees ... sigh*
The new Lydia Davis translation of Bovary is sublime.
Oscar Wilde still has it going on.
In what universe is Whitman more dated than "Jane Eyre"?
What R7 said.\
And anyone who reads Moby Dick and says it isn''t relevant today hasn''t understood it.
There is an early chapter in Henry James'' Portrait of a Lady (1883) where the elderly American banker discusses why wealthy youth is attracted to communism
I find Madame Bovary very dated.%0D\
Balzac on the other hand, could be writing today.%0D\
Zola used to seem dated but his world is returning, unfortunately.%0D\
I think The Great Gatsby is pretty timeless%0D\
even though it takes place in a very specific time - the 1920s.
Madame Bovary is timeless. There are still tons of "Emma Bovary" types running around.%0D\
Totally agree with Woolf. To me, she''s a genius. Truly.
On the subject of Zola: Yes, there is a rather turgid feel at times to his work, but reread him. Great writer with a tremendous power who deserves more attention.%0D\
VOTN: Add to your list "Ulysses," "Absalom, Absalom!" and "Secret Agent."
Everyone has her/his own favorites. Hardy is one of my favorite novelists. He writes about the 19th century, but his characters are immortal.%0D\
I have just discovered James T Farrell''s STUDS LONIGAN trilogy, and I am amazed at how well he got into the young man''s mind--much of it could be today altho it takes place in the early twenties. He is relatively forgotten today, but his depiction of youth is like a lower-class Holden Caulfied.%0D\
Anyone else read Farrell?
Yes, definitely agree re Conrad''s The Secret Agent ... funny how certain social/political themes keep resurfacing in our times
Chaucer''s "Prologue," if you want specifics, OP! We still live amongst Knights and Pardoners, Millers and Summoners. And The Wife of Bath? She just died; her name was Elizabeth.%0D\
Read Conrad''s "The Secret Sharer" while regarding the Captain as a closeted gay man.%0D\
Read Browning''s "My Last Duchess" to read of OJ-level jealousy and entitlement.%0D\
Read Paton''s "Cry, the Beloved Country" to know Nelson Mandela and all civil rights advocates.%0D\
Read "Macbeth" if you are ambitious to a fault--or are a friend to such a one. %0D\
Read "Wuthering Heights" if you have ever howled at the moon with an unutterable love.%0D\
Read "Dulce et Decorum Est" to know what Pat Tillman realized, and why he died.%0D
[quote]You can sing any Dickinson poem to the tune " The Yellow Rose of Texas" or "Gilligan''s Island," but what young person knows those tunes anymore? It''s not timeless. Now, if you could sing her poems to " Friday," then she''s a genius!\
I Never Saw A Moor can be sung to Baby Got Back.
Even a casual review of the dissatisfaction with their lots in life and lust for an out of reach glamour revealed by so many datalounge posters proves that Emma Bovary will live forever.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Chekhov's greatest short stories, especially Ward Number Six
Gabriela Mistral's poems
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Winter's Tale, King Lear, Hamlet, etc., etc., etc.
Persuasion (first among equals in the Austen cannon, well with the exception of Northanger Abbey, which is merely a good read)
Death Comes For the Archbishop
A Tale of Two Cities
Tartuffe (will be spot on as long as hypocrisy and self-righteousness exist, and never moreso than today)
Pere Goriot, Cousine Bette, etc., etc., etc.
Dawn Powell's extraordinary novels especially A Time To Be Born and The Far Pavilions
The Crucible and Death of a Salesman
A Streetcar Named Desire
Long Days Journey Into Night
Mary Stuart and Don Carlos
Cyrano de Bergerac
The Little Foxes (still the quintessential tale of neverending American greed)
To His Coy Mistress
The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Wasteland
Gypsy, My Fair Lady, Guys and Dolls, Threepenny Opera, Sweeney Todd
The House of Mirth resonates..\
I think you have to have lost significant income in this economy and see the greater divide between the haves and have nots to fully connect with it. But if you are fucked like I am, this novel is heartbreaking (and brilliantly written)
"Alice''s Adventures In Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass"
Franz Kafka "The Trial"
"Read Conrad's "The Secret Sharer" while regarding the Captain as a closeted gay man."%0D
That's fascinating. I read a bio of Conrad that stated he also intended the character of Mr. Jones in his novel VICTORY to be a gay man: "Women are a perfect curse!" Conrad based this character on a real gay male misogynist of his acquaintance.%0D
Shakespeare's plays are - not surprisingly given the sexuality in the sonnets - rife with characters who could be interpreted as gay or bi. Some are so obvious it's surprising they haven't inspired more commentary. The heroine, Emilia, of his final play, THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN, delivers a speech about her fond memories of her female childhood friend whose bare breasts she loved to twine flowers around, a speech which ends with her declaring that "the true love between maid and maid may be more than in sex divididual" - "dividual" meaning the divided sexes, the separate sexes.%0D
I mean, Shakespeare isn't even subtle or subtextual about it. She's plainly a dyke! Harold Bloom has a pretty great analysis of the play in his Shakespeare book.
Lest we forget Brideshead Revisited and its delightfully gay/bi ensemble.
[quote]Mrs. Dalloway. I still think it''s the best novel from the 20th century.%0D\
Yes, but small surprise. Mrs. Dalloway is more modern than most anything written in the 86 years since its publication. Genres of expose-memoir and ethnicity and sexual reckoning have not eclipsed Woolf''s style. Dalloway at 86 is more modern in many ways than, say, White Teeth at 11. %0D\
Yeats. Watch Fox News and read ''The Second Coming.\
''The best lack conviction and the worst are filled with passionate intensity.''
Troilus and Cressida is another Shakespeare play with gay content
Faulkner!? Are you bizarre!? His writing is as kitschy, dated and impenetrable as the day he wrote it! Blech.
Oh, Ernest H. at R45, you were a good writer too!
Anna Karenina. My god.
I disagree with Ulysses. Lost its edge this last decade with the internet. Perhaps it was the first hypertextual novel, but today it seems trying too hard. Woolf, however, is wonderfully understated.
I'd add Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier"
George MacDonald - At the Back of the North Wind, the Princess and the Goblin, etc
E. Nesbitt - The Five Children and It, Phoenix and the Carpet, etc.
Frances Hodgson Burnett - The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, etc
L. Frank Baum - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Sticking to late 19th c./turn of the 20th c. children's books that hold up despite their period settings.
I just got done re-reading "Pride and Prejudice" and watching the classic BBC version of it with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. I never get tired of it.
Anything by Barbara Pym is a terrifically witty and pointed commentary on English society.
"Under the Volcano."
Three great novels that have not been mentioned:
The Magic Mountain
War and Peace
Proust's Remembrance of Things Past
The Little Prince by St Exupery
I must add Trollope's The Way We Live Now.
None of Trollope's other novels even come up to it.
Also love Middlemarch and Persuasion.
It's a strange question, not only implying that dated is the default position of works of literature but that poetry is something other than literature.
There are countless great works of literature that are not dated.
[quote]None of Trollope's other novels even come up to it.
Trollope seem less dated than Dickens because Dickens wrote of days past where Trollope's novels always take place at the time he wrote them (around 1850-80.) Most of his works have a modern feel to them. "The Way We Live Now" is indeed his masterpiece but "The Small House at Allington" is a close second and "The Eustace Diamonds" is fun and suspenseful from start to finish.
"Of all novelists in any country, Trollope best understands the role of money. Compared with him, even Balzac is too romantic."—W. H. Auden
Sherlock Holmes. Years ago there was a series of books; I think it was called the Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. Basically it was contemporaries of Conan Doyle and their mystery/detective stories. Horrible. Unreadable and very dated. It really emphasized how good Conan Doyle was. Sometimes you have to read the dreck to appreciate the better stuff.
Mellville's Bartleby the Scrivener seems very modern. And yes Yeats the Second Coming is relevant today.
"And you can sing Frost's Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening to the tune of "Hernando's Hideaway.'"
Thank you, Wendy Wasserstein.
I read that article, too.
Wharton's The Age Of Innocence is more relevant now than ever before.
As to why some works seem more dated than others, it probably comes down to one of the writerly rules...don't use specific brands or items that are very time-specific. Now, they didn't really have 'brands' as such like we do today but there are definitely things that can date a book to its own time and no other.
Books about more universal themes and, especially books that contain any sort of magical realism, etc., can much more easily translate to modern minds than more concrete stories based on obsolete things like, say, whaling or chimney-sweeps.
The books are still great but the modern mind, when reading them, puts them in the past. However, when we read something by Dickinson, there is nothing to mark it as 'of the past'. It is wider in nature with no touchstones waving to you saying, "Look at me...I'm from a different time!"
I was surprised to see "Moby Dick" mentioned a couple of times on this thread.
There is a whole lot more information about whale butchering in that novel than you ever want to know. Plus, Melville opines that whales are fish.
My nomination is "The Odyssey," which is the oldest book besides the Bible many people might have read, but is still cool in its weirdness.
R66, I think Moby Dick falls into a specific category. You can choose to read the book in two different ways and whichever way you choose will determine how relevant and modern the story is.
If you go into it as a book about the history of whaling and look at the story of Ahab through that lens, then it's dated. If you go into it as a book about obsession and insanity that happens to take place in the world of whaling, it is relevant and modern.
This is true for many older books. It comes down to whether you focus on character or story.
Love "The Eustace Diamonds."
Also let's define dated.
If by finding a work dated, we mean that a reader's imagination is challenged because the work describes a time governed by different social mores, or a reader's imagination is challenged because the work was novel in technique or theme at the time of publication but that is no longer the case, I see no value in the opinion of those who whose standards of literature are premised on such dim imaginations.
The Great Gatsby-F.Scott Fitzgerald
The Turning of the Screw-Henry James
Dream Story-Arthur Schnitzler
Letters to a Young Poet-Rainer Maria Rilke
Wuthering Heights-Emily Bronte
Dame Maggie Smith
"Vice and virtue, desire and despair, courage and cowardliness"
R7 just gave three new titles for Jane Austen novels had she not been so rude and died on us.
Speaking of F Scott what is the word on the Baz film?
Love Oscar Wilde but his stuff is a bit dated.
Faulkner is as embarrassing as Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump.
Dickens should seem dated, but he's so good technically that he doesn't.
Anything by Trollope. Someone above recommended The Eustace Diamonds, I would add The Way We Live Now in particular.
T.S. Eliot in general holds up. "Journey of the Magi" is great and the "Four Quartets" as well as Wasteland and Prufrock.
My favorites include:
The Mayor of Casterbridge
The Way We Live Now
The Custom of the Country
Tried to read both Madame Bovary and Cousin Bette but only got about half way through. Same with The Portrait of a Lady.
Naked Lunch will never be dated.
Most pre-20th Century classic literature is not dated. Which is why people still read it 50 years ago and still read it today.
If I only was forced to read Great Expectations way back in high school what would be the best suggestion for reading a Dickens novel now?
Should I begin with one of the prsumably easier ones like Oliver Twist, David Copperfield or Nicholas Nickleby or dive right into Hard Times, Bleak House or Our Mutual Friend?
The City and the Pillar-Gore Vidal
The Lucia books by EF Benson not only still read well, they're funnier and meaner than anything anyone's written since.
Do the British pronounce it LOO-sha?
Always wondered, never saw the TV shows.
No, R80. Nor will it ever actually be read.
Start with Tale of Two Cities. It's short, action-packed, historically interesting, and of course well written. It's not typical Dickens in the Bleak House/Our Mutual Friend mold, but it's a good starter book for getting back into it.
Carson McCullers. All of her novels are as good and better than most writing and storytelling before and since. READ them.
Dated has nothing to do with the reflection of the author's times, or place. What else does an artist do? It is more about the style and politics. Sensitivity. Fran Lebowitz, is more important than we realize. Her style may be frozen, but the sensibilities will last. Truth resonates for the reader who could not ever have been there.
Madame Bovary is NOT dated. She is everywhere still and there are more misogynist texts every day of the week. Flaubert tells this story as close to perfectly as words allow.
Style becomes dated. Dickens, perhaps, Tom Wolfe for sure. Joyce Carol Oates. Margaret Atwood. (I am Canadian and love much of her work, but the narratives do not transcend the style - specific and dated) "The Handmaids Tale" is the exception, come back and see.
Poetry is the trickiest. Is "daddy" by Sylvia Plath dated because it was one of the first in this feminist sexual abuse confessional style and content even when her style was a deliberate experiment? An in joke that has been emulated for decades as the real thing. Plath, not dated. Anne Sexton, flea on your donkey. Peter Gabriel, inspired by. Up-dated.
I love Donne. The themes are not of this age but the style and depth are glorious and resonant. It is "dated" work, politically.
This English Geek could go on. We are all iconoclasts in our own minds and times.
Some works just read pretty or dirty or in the long haul are just worth the trudge. Lolita is a great book, a stylized rewarding read. Is the writing just fancy or out of date? The story is perfectly told, and has yet to be told better or with more insight.
Gabriel Marques or whatever the name, instantly dated, pretty nonsense. One can flesh out any human experience with lovely words and images, but there should something more said to last.
As Fran Lebowitz says, "just because you have a book in you doesn't mean it should be written. There are entirely too many books being written."
I loved Tom Robbins and John Irving when I was coming of age. Irving tells some wonderful stories with a political style that marks and dates them. Tom Robbins is mostly all messy structure but more gratifying to revisit. His work will not stand up, but it stands for something more important in the human politic.
Who ever knew they were writing for the ages? Not Shakespeare, not Faulkner, not Dickens. Hemingway probably thought so and read what that gets you! Discerning critics are important to all art. Popularity is for everyone. Most everyone now is full of shit but there is always talent.
Murder mysteries offer us all a piece.
I agree, R37. One of my favorite novels.
Yes, agreed. The House of Mirth. Timeless.
The Age of Innocence, is a different story....
The yellow fog that rubbed its back upon the window pane
The yellow smoke that rubbed its muzzle on the window pane
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered in the pools that stand in drains
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap
And seeing that it was a soft October night
Curled once about the house and fell asleep
Sorry about the punctuation - or lack thereof...
Most of the big name 19th century Russian writers.
Thanks for the post r88. I found myself nodding along to it.
This could have been an interesting discussion, but of course it ended up being a thread full of pretentious one-upping.
I'm not sure about not dated, but this poem made my grade 10 high school english class (who usually complained about stuff sounding 'old') laugh their fucking asses off.
[quote]The lanky hank of a she in the inn over there\t
Nearly killed me for asking the loan of a glass of beer:\t
May the devil grip the whey-faced slut by the hair,\t
And beat bad manners out of her skin for a year.\t
That parboiled imp, with the hardest jaw you will see\t
On virtue’s path, and a voice that would rasp the dead,\t
Came roaring and raging the minute she looked on me,\t
And threw me out of the house on the back of my head!\t
If I asked her master he’d give me a cask a day;\t
But she, with the beer at hand, not a gill would arrange!\t
May she marry a ghost and bear him a kitten, and may\t
The High King of Glory permit her to get the mange
ah, I fucked up the formatting, but it's there.
Author's James Stephens by the way.
R85 - her nickname is pronounced Loo-CHEE-ya in affectionate imitation of Italian. It is a play on her last name. Her real name is Emmeline Lucas.
Another vote for Anthony Trollope, especially THE WAY WE LIVE NOW. Many (but not all) of Trollope's young women characters seem trapped in the Victorian era. Other than that, his work seems undated. One reason may be that he set most of his stories in the year in which he wrote them.
I agree with most of what R88 wrote. Though I fear he is a pretentious snot.
Obviously, William Shakespeare owns this thread.
I've read Robert Graves' "I Claudius" and "Claudius the God" several times, first when I was a teenager in the 70's. It never seems dated.
Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment could be today's St Petersburg.
Some of the better Philip Roth books also hold up very well.
I've been saving all my treasured Barbara Pym paperbacks since the 1980s to reread in my cozy old age so she better hold up.
Based on the multitude of Agatha Christie threads we've had at DL over the years, I'd say she never goes out of style. Whether or not she seems dated, I won't say.
Oh, to be the heiress to her literary estate!
''Berta Garland'' by Arthur Schnitzler
Philip Roth? No way. His entire oeuvre is a lesson in over rated. Portnoy's Complaint, which I would say is his best, feels like a Neil Simon comedy that goes on for ten too many acts. Everything about it screams: It's 1965! I'm Jewish! Life is hard! But I'm a genius! Let's fuck (ooo, I'm SO outrageous...and I have a big dick)!
So incredibly 20th century. And not in a good way.