Saturday, August 29, 2009

Impulse and desire

I'm rereading Tam Lin, and I'd totally forgotten how much it makes me want to read the classics. The English sort and the Greek and Roman sort. I usually wind up digging out my Norton Anthology of English Literature. So I sat down with one of Euripides' plays out of one of my textbooks. I picked Helen, because it's not the play I know I'll have to read for class and I particularly like the bits of Greek myth related to the Trojan War.

I have a sort of funny relationship to Greek literature. For some unknown reason of unknown origins, I always really wanted a classical education, the sort of thing taught in British public schools a century ago. I wanted to be taught Greek and Latin, and maybe French and German too, and be made to read all the classics. I really have no idea where I got this particular desire, but it's stuck with me. Going to an (often not very rigorous) alternative school wasn't especially conducive to this kind of education, though I did wind up reading a couple of Greek plays and some (very minimal) Shakespeare. Otherwise most of the books I've read that are usually taught in school I read just because I wanted to. Fortunately the benefit of said alternative school was being encouraged to go in my own directions, and whatever reading I did outside of class being credited towards my graduation (it thus looks from my transcript like I took eight years of English classes in my four years of high school). Still, I don't feel like I've read all the things I should.

Every time I reread Tam Lin all this comes to mind. This book is absolutely full of literary allusions, and every time I read it I pick up on more of them. I always take the reading as an opportunity to read more of the books Janet mentions reading in her classes--my ultimate goal is to have read all of them. Every time I reread Tam Lin, I get a little closer, feel a little more well-read. I'm looking forward to college largely to have classes as an excuse to work my way towards this goal.

As for Helen--I rather enjoyed it, though I do think literature this old is the better for having a teacher to explain it. I should, I suppose, have read the introduction, but that felt like taking the momentum out of my impulse. I was rather surprised by my finishing the play itself. We'll see what else Tam Lin inspires me to impulse-read.

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