The Canon A Presentation by: Marcus Jimenez
What is the Canon? • In modern literature study, the "best”, "most important" or "most representative" works of secular literature which anchor the study of English and American literature.
How was it developed? • The philosopher John Searle once said, “In my experience there never was, in fact, a fixed 'canon'; there was rather a certain set of tentative judgments about what had importance and quality. Such judgments are always subject to revision, and in fact they were constantly being revised.”” • One attempt at compiling a canon was the Harvard Classics. “The greatest university is a collection of books” –Thomas Carlyle • Another notable attempt was the Great Books of the Western World program that offered a reading lists, books, and organizational strategies to the public.
Who decides the Canon? • Major College Anthologies in America. • To appear in the Norton or Oxford anthology is considered to be an achievement of status and accessibility to a reading public. This does not admit one into a sense of “greatness.”
Does the Canon Change Over Time? • The Canon has been challenged and changed over history. Time periods: • 1920’s by Lionel Trilling and Oscar Handlin (Ivy League Scholars) • 1960’s when cultural change brought the concerns of women, minorities, gays and Marxist liberals to the forefront of literary study • Several texts have sparked reevaluations in the English curriculum over time
How has it changed? • In the 1920’s it was changed by Jewish Intellectuals • In the 1960’s it changed to reflect the growing involvement of women, minorities, gays and Marxist liberals in the forefront of literary study • Several times it has been considered for change but never got changed, only debated.
Examples: • Macbeth • Lord of the Flies • The Odyssey