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Classic Summer Eras

By Megan Powell, Magali Prel and Natasha Smith

In honour of the summer season, the classics team has gathered different classics you can read based on what “era” you want your summer to be. Whether you want to expand your knowledge and intellect, fall in love and live a romantic escapade or stay out late and party all summer, we have the perfect classic that encapsulates each era for you. These classics portray stories with themes respective to each era and can help you get in the mood, find inspiration and embody the aesthetic to start your summer in the right way. Whether you're in your intellectual, romantic or messy era, there is a classic for you.

“Intellectual Summer” - Meditations by Aurelius

Meditations is the private reflections of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, believed to be written between 171 and 175 AD. Aurelius is believed to be a pioneer of the philosophical branch of Stoicism, a philosophy that teaches the development of self-control and fortitude to overcome negative emotions to improve one’s moral and ethical wellbeing. It promotes living in accordance with nature and accepting the things that one cannot control.

Meditations is a collection of Aurelius’ private journals in which he would make notes to himself of things he learned during his days as an emperor, as well as commentary on Stoic literature he would consume. He discusses themes of ethics, self-improvement and the pursuit of a virtuous life, as well as the ever-changing state of nature, the impermanence of life and the importance of living with reason and virtue.

This book is a fantastic way to kick off your “intellectual summer era,” as it is easy to read and understand and it teaches valuable lessons about letting go, embracing change and reminding us to live in the present due to the inevitability of death being part of life. Aurelius also encouraged frequent self-reflection and journaling to allow oneself to see one’s progress and identify areas in which one can improve one’s life. As a result, Meditations essentially works as a guide on how to start practicing Stoicism - perfect for your intellectual summer era.

“Messy Summer” - The Beautiful and the Damned by F Scott Fitzgerald

Not everyone’s summer can be sunshine and roses when for some, financial woes and infidelity may cause a bleak downcast on the warmer months, perhaps garnering a reputation for a troubled and messy era. Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned follows Anthony Patch and his wife, Gloria, who indulge in splendor, excessive spending and liquor - all beyond their means in an attempt to showcase the dazzling spectacle of the high-class jazz age, only for it to unveil their irresponsible actions and naivety.

Fitzgerald’s novel uncovers some home truths about his own relationship, through unveiling hedonistic traits and inheritance pursuits which inevitably cause Anthony and Gloria’s foundations to crumble. The financial burdens the couple face as a result of Anthony’s troubled writing career, and Gloria’s incessant partying in attempts to cling to youth’s romanticism, only aid to tear them apart. The lack of acceptance of life’s inevitable progression, paired with the refusal to change their indulgent ways, depicts the socialite class’ inability to embrace modernity’s changes during the 1920s.

The Beautiful and Damned truly represents the upper class’ fate, especially through Gloria, whom Fitzgerald introduces as “beauty.” Her soul portrayed as no greater than her looks and is shown to be trapped in a world of misogyny and double standards. This perhaps depicts the rich as being of no more superior intellect or importance than the ordinary person. The couple’s inability to reform condemns them to a miserable marriage and a destroyed reputation.

“Romantic Summer” - Maurice by E. M. Forster

Perhaps synonymous with summer comes the era that focuses on love. With lighter nights and bright vibrant beauty everywhere comes the potential for love and amazement as the days extend. “Summer loving” epitomises of most romantic stories that arise from the classic collection. Following this trend, E. M. Forster’s 1971 novel Maurice is a love story to be remembered. Set in the early 20th century, the novel follows the titular character in a Bildungsroman adventure that details his homosexual love with Alec. Forster follows Maurice through pivotal moments in his life from puberty to adulthood, all the while exploring his connections with sex and love. Maurice is a fascinating read and is a lesser known classics that did not reach the top of the league with the giants in terms of literary success. However, that doesn’t detract from the openness and truth. There is something to be said about the fact that Maurice was published posthumously, displaying Forster’s choice to withhold his novel. Although E. M. Forster’s most prolific work A Room with a View might be more widely read, Maurice is the perfect novel to add to your summer reading list.



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