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warpling's avatar

What is a good way to describe something as timeless?

Asked by warpling (846points) March 29th, 2009

In the context of labeling Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein as timeless in its application of evaluating modern biotechnologies. I know there is a better way to call something timeless, especially in a literary and forewarning sense…

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11 Answers

Harp's avatar

Prescient?

lindelizery's avatar

I’m reading this for my English class right now. In all honesty “timeless” is a perfectly acceptable word for what you are referring to. I think what would help is if you expanded this idea into more than a word. To fully illustrate the perpetual, constant, enduring, impending consequence of the ever-present, ever-expanding possibilities within the realm of biotechnology (I laced that with too many adjectives on purpose, ha), you should describe it’s timelessness as a concept, not a state of being. Does that make sense?

I think the quality of timelessness is what makes most great novels… great. I used this idea in a paper I wrote recently, to introduce the novel and my thesis -

There is a unique quality shared by all beloved books, as can be seen by the novels that cover the lists of required reading through grade school and permeate the discussions of college classrooms. Each of them gives the reader something to relate to, whether it is an age, a place, a character, or even an idea. While reading such novels, which because of this unique quality may be from any era, the reader is able to connect to and understand information previously unknown to them. The best of these books allow the reader to grow and learn through the experiences of the characters regardless of their level of experience in the themes presented. A paradigm of this ideal is The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, as can be seen by authenticity and truth presented by the relationships of the author’s four main characters.

I suppose, putting Frankenstein (the novel) in that paragraph instead, the quality which makes the book timeless or able to relate to could be (as from your perspective) it’s exploration of biotechnology.

I’m not sure if everything I’ve said is entirely coherent (it makes sense to me, but not necessarily to everyone else as well), so please, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

warpling's avatar

@Harp Thank you I will definitely include that word.
@lindelizery
Thank you so much, all of what you said is helpful and I agree with your point. I will definitely use that idea of expanding the definition of timeless. I love your opening btw, and am thinking of using something similar to transition into a thesis about not only the timelessness of novels, but –in this case– the cautions given of scientific ethics in Frankenstein. Do you think authors in the past intentionally and consciously write vaguely for future application, as seen in our constitution, or is it something inherent of great novels? Thanks again for the help.

craig_holm's avatar

Well… something timeless is something you don’t need to WATCH.

janbb's avatar

I think “relevance” is another good word/concept you might want to incorporate.

YARNLADY's avatar

Enduring, paradigm, literary classic

Jeruba's avatar

If you use “relevance,” mention what it’s relevant to.

lindelizery's avatar

You’re quite welcome, I’m glad it helped.

In answer to your second question – I know that Shelly’s initial intention was to simply write a horror story. The ‘waking dream’ of sorts that inspired her (the vision that led to the novel) she found terrifying… and figured that if this idea was horrifying to her, it would seem just as frightening to others. This connection was her foremost intention for the story, I would say. I think all authors would love their writing to have universal impact – across language barriers, cultures… and in the same sense, even time. For the most part, it seems as though the best authors write for their time, but employ themes and “universal truths” that extend beyond the era in which the book was written (for example, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was written in the present [Twain’s present], but his exploration of social hierarchy is still applicable to today).

Introverted_Leo's avatar

Heh, yesterday I just watched Van Helsing. Not exactly Frankenstein, but you know…

Meh, I was gonna say something, but it’s pretty much the same things @janbb was getting at with relevance. Like @lindelizery mentioned, a timeless novel will have characters and conflicts that people beyond their time and culture can relate to. Probably best done by creating moving, strong, memorable emotional experiences for the reader. Reading a (good) story is an emotional experience. If the characters and their conflicts don’t move you emotionally, then it isn’t going to be as satisfying (then again, there are plenty other reasons for dissatiscation with a novel). Perhaps timelessness is also due to the exploration of universal truths in the novel, though everyone’s idea of a “universal truth” might not turn out to be so universal, lol.

Hm, guess I said something afterall, heh. Sorry if that wasn’t really much of a contribution.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

…and “dissatiscation” = “dissatisfaction.” Sorry.

TheKNYHT's avatar

I’ve learned a lot from reading materials about quantum physics, for example: Protestants are always in a hurry! Yes, that’s right, I learned this from quantum physics!
First of all, Protestants unlike their Roman Catholic counterparts have no Mass, and because they have no Mass, they have no time, (massless objects do not operate in time)and because they have no time, they’re ALWAYS in a hurry! ; )
Really though, objects without mass, have no restrictions within our space time domain, such as neutrinos.
IF you weigh a floppy disk, it will weigh a couple ounces. Load up thousands of dollars worth of software, and what then will it weigh? The same, software has no mass, thus its not subject to time.
If MIND is more than merely the material brain, that is, if the MIND is ‘software’ of sorts, then our MINDs are timeless as well. This would suggest that long after our hardware (bodies) have decayed, ceased to operate and turn to dust, our minds will live on.
But what does it mean to be timeless (providing you’re not talking about a classic novel, or a great song)?
To exist in eternity, where time does not exist. Time is as much a physical property as gravity, or mass, or caloric energy. Time can be effected by mass, gravity and velocity. Time as well as space and matter exists only within the confines of our limited universe.
I like what Einstein said: “The difference between the past, the present and the future is only a stubbornly persistant illusion.”

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