Monday, 18 July 2011

Traipsing through canon

Monday 18 July 2011

As high school students writing historiographical essays in Extension History, we were always warned not to produce simplistic chronological accounts of one historian's view of history after another's, but to make more sophisticated, atemporal arguments. The former approach was always referred to as the 'traipse through history', a common enough, but evocative term that hasn't left me since. It's something about the vivid imagery of the word 'traipse': a humble student, unworthy and unknowledgeable, stumbling around in the past, moving clumsily towards the present, missing things here, leaping ahead there, rushing forwards and doubling back.

This is how I intend to progress on my 'traipse through canon'. The bachelor's degree I'm doing in Creative Writing is panoramic in scope, spanning the entire history of literature but, of course, rocketing through it all at lightning pace, much too fast to keep up and actually read all of the texts set for study. Therefore it's up to me. And frankly, I'm sick of answering 'no' everytime someone asks me if I've read such and such famous literary author. I think it's inexcusable for a writer with literary aspirations to be unfamiliar with the classics, so I'm going to read them. I'm ever so slightly obsessive compulsive (in my own way that doesn't involve insanity or cleanliness), so I'm compiling a chronological list of authors from antiquity to the present, and I'm going to, at my own pace, haphazardly advance through it. It might take me my entire life, but by Odin's Raven, I'm going to be at least superficially acquainted with the major figures in literary canon.

I'm slogging through Ancient Greece at the moment, mostly with the aid of Librivox, an organisation which has volunteers read great works of literature and makes them available for free download from their website and iTunes. Get on it!

Homer and Hesiod are
urging me onwards.

I'm keeping track of my traipse through canon on the 'reading catalogue page' of this blog, if you're interested to see who and what I've read so far.

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