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Some Things Never Change

"We recognize them in a personal calamity that is particular to its time but that has the universality of great suffering and despair and courage, of a 'victim' seeking to wrest control over his own life away from the condition that has controlled him. It's a situation, Cunningham reminds us, that differs from age to age only in the specific details, not in the humanity those details reveal. That's what happens when works get reenvisioned: we learn something about the age that produced original as well as about our own."
~page 224 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor

This is an interesting idea to look at. There are so many things that don't really change over time. That's an easy thing to forget at times, but it's true. The opera that Foster mentioned (La Boheme) was later turned into the hit Broadway musical Rent, recently adapted into a movie. In the opera, the character Mimi was infected with tuberculosis. In the modern musical adaptation, Mimi is a drug addict and other characters have AIDS. The details may have changed between the two, but to my knowledge, they both include the struggle that goes along with these afflictions. That fact doesn't change.

Comments (2)

Alyssa Sanow:

I appreciate your point that the struggles depicted by "dispair and suffering" are universal and timeless. This not only allows the audience to appreciate the original as well as modern interpretations, but it enables the readers to relate to these timesless ideals. That is why truly classic literature can be appreciated by readers today to the same degree it was durin the time period in which it was written.

Christopher Dufalla:

Some messages are indeed timeless. I think thsat Foster makes a very valid point. Just because an idea is old, that doesn't mean that it no longer applies. The common ideals of mankind, care, the golden rule, justice, etc, are all timeless. Their messages are just as relavent now as they were thousands of years ago.

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