The Literary Canon

In the Beginning

The “Canon” of English Literature. Canon: n., from the Latin canon or “rule.” Originally, an ecclesiastical code of law or standard of judgment, later any standard of judgment based upon a determinate set of authorized texts, like the canonical books of the Bible, Torah, Qu’ran, or Sutras.

The English Literary Canon

Le Monde’s 100 Books of the Century

Project Gutenberg

When mans transitions from the oral to the written tradition, the ability for alterations becomes limited. At the same time this is taking place, cities like Rome are experiencing population booms. Social codes are required to keep order. Biblical scriptures act as laws by presenting scenarios that emulate how people should live. Honor thy Father, Thou Shall not Murder etc…

Religious texts and other literature that is considered vital to the canon found its way there because of the impact it had on shaping culture and society. Some scholars argue, The Literary Canon is too exclusive and its selection should not be limited to white males.

While this is true, it is important to remember the onset of Western Society was primarily ruled by men. Whether from the Mediterranean or far North, (whatever the measure of white is?) their decisions shaped Western Culture. It is also important to remember that details from those times are surfacing all the time and retelling the story of western history. For example, in Florence, an exhibition featuring woman artists whose works were created during the Italian Renaissance is soon being celebrated.

The Literary Canon is an ever-morphing tool to explore western culture.

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