When determining which literature earns the designation as “Classic Literature,” there are several factors to take into account. First and foremost is the culture one is focusing on; in the west, classic literature is almost exclusively written by western authors. The impact the piece of literature has had on society, whether positive or negative, is also a deciding factor in determining whether or not it is a piece of classic literature. Classic literature is not exclusively complex or adult-oriented; the works of Dr. Seuss, for example, are deemed classics in the genre of children’s literature. Ultimately, works deemed classic literature are part of the “must-read” literary canon as designated by scholars within the field of literary studies.
Classic literature can take a variety of literary forms, including prose, poetry, and drama, but the most common is the novel or short story. Some works of classic literature are rather modern; 1984, for example, was written in 1948. Others are extremely dated, some reaching back into the days of antiquity. Some classic literature makes connections to other pieces of literature; the play A Raisin in the Sun, for example, draws its title from A Dream Deferred, a poem by Langston Hughes. Others are quite controversial for their time; the use of the word “nigger” in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain has led to its inclusion on many banned book lists. A piece of classic literature stands the test of time; the lessons learned or experiences of the characters are ones shared by people in various places across various time periods. This unending relatability allows the literature itself to demonstrate its value and worth with each and every reading.