Manual There is No Point in Looking Back (Modern Classics for Modern Readers Book 1)

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A classic has a certain universal appeal. Great works of literature touch us to our very core beings—partly because they integrate themes that are understood by readers from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. Themes of love, hate, death, life, and faith touch upon some of our most basic emotional responses. A classic makes connections. You can study a classic and discover influences from other writers and other great works of literature.

It gets tossed around by cultural commentators, architectural critics, and suspicious traditionalists. Because those cataclysmic events shifted the way the world sees itself in irreversible ways. Certainly, classic themes endure.

by Nora Ephron (2006)

Romeo and Juliet will still be foolish enough to kill themselves without checking for a pulse thousands of years from now. But readers who live in a post-WWII era are concerned with much that is new.

Ideas about race, gender, and class are shifting, and literature is both a cause and an effect. Readers have a broader understanding of an interconnected world where people, pictures, and words travel in all directions at warp speed. A world that has witnessed totalitarianism, imperialism, and corporate conglomeration cannot turn back that clock.

And perhaps most importantly, readers today bring a hardened realism that stems from contemplating the enormity of genocide and perennially living on the edge of self-destruction. These hallmarks of our modernism can be seen in a wide variety of works. A glance at previous winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature brings us Orhan Pamuk, who explores conflicts in modern Turkish society; J. Beyond content, modern classics also demonstrate a shift in style from earlier eras. This shift began in the early part of the century, with luminaries such as James Joyce expanding the reach of the novel as a form.


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In the post-war era, the hardened realism of the Hemingway school became less of a novelty and more a requirement. And perhaps most importantly, readers today bring a hardened realism that stems from contemplating the enormity of genocide and perennially living on the edge of self-destruction. These hallmarks of our modernism can be seen in a wide variety of works.

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A glance at previous winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature brings us Orhan Pamuk, who explores conflicts in modern Turkish society; J. Beyond content, modern classics also demonstrate a shift in style from earlier eras. This shift began in the early part of the century, with luminaries such as James Joyce expanding the reach of the novel as a form.

In the post-war era, the hardened realism of the Hemingway school became less of a novelty and more a requirement. Cultural shifts have meant that obscenities once viewed as outrageous are commonplace. In tandem with television and movies, literature has also shown its willingness to spill blood on the pages, as violent horrors that once would not even have been alluded to now become the basis of best-selling novels.

But is it a classic?

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It can be argued it is not. It suffers the burden of those who go first—they seem less impressive than those who come after.

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For many readers, it has a universal appeal. If WWII and its ramifications mark the boundary, this novel of the absurdities of war stands definitively on the modern side. Miller Jr.

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It has been copied endlessly, but it holds up as well—or better than any other work in painting a stark warning of the dire consequences of our path to destruction. Share Flipboard Email. Esther Lombardi is a veteran journalist who has written about literature, education, and technology.

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