What Makes a Classic a Classic?

This year for school I’m going to be reading a lot of American literature classics. Currently, I’m just about to start working on The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. That got me wondering what actually makes a classic a classic. I found these quotes in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter by Leland Ryken, which I’m reading for school, and I thought they answered my question nicely.

“The best that has been thought and said.” – Matthew Arnold

“A literary classic ranks with the best of its kind that have been produced.” – Harper Handbook to Literature

“A classic ‘lays its images permanently on the mind [and] is entirely irreplaceable in the sense that no other book whatever comes anywhere near reminding you of it or being even a momentary substitute for it.'” – C.S. Lewis

“Classics are works to which ‘we return time and again in our minds, even if we do not reread them frequently, as touchstones by which we interpret the world around us.'” – Nina Baym

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla


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