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All Rights Reserved. The function of a canon has always raised confusion and complexity. For instance, Walt Whitman's epic poem "Song of Myself" is now viewed as a seminal work of gay literature. Many teachers and schools rely on the canon to teach students about literature, so it's crucial that it includes works that are representative of society, providing a snapshot of a given point in time. The ‘who‘ is followed by the ‘why‘. Over time, some works become less pertinent in the canon as they're replaced by more modern counterparts. Literature, as an art form, can also include works in various non-fiction genres, such as autobiography, diaries, memoir, letters, and the essay. When considering the term “literary canon,” one is ultimately considering the whole of the seminal works in the arts that have come to define a genre. Secondly, students of literature use it to refer to the writings included in anthologies, or textbooks under certain genres, and thus are evaluated according to the genre under which they are placed. Expansion of the literary canon in the 20th century. This means that the literary work is relevant to ongo… She wrote mild and smiling romantic novels, such as Pride and Prejudice and Emma, setting them in England, and making marriage her subject to be explored. Take a 19th century American literature course, for instance. First, it is defined as a traditional collection of writings, against which other writings are evaluated. Arguments about which works are worthy of further examination and study are likely to continue as cultural norms and mores shift and evolve. Canon A list of authors or works considered to be central to the identity of a given literary tradition or culture. Hence, a number of critical circles suggest that the idea of having specific canons for specific genres needs to be abandoned. The collected works of William Shakespeare, for instance, would be part of the canon of western literature, since his writing and writing style has had a significant impact on nearly all aspects of that genre. There is discord, political posturing and perennial arguments about the ‘literary canon‘. But on a May morning on Malvern hills, A marvel befell me of fairy, me thought.”. Sometimes within religious traditions, as views evolve or change, some formerly canonical texts become "apocryphal," meaning outside the realm of what's considered representative. In the twentieth century there was a general reassessment of the literary canon, including women's writing, post-colonial literatures, gay and lesbian literature, writing by people of colour, working people's writing, and the cultural productions of historically marginalized groups. The United States is home to so many cultures that it is impossible to encapsulate the best work without leaving out important figures. For instance, the works of Shakespeare and Chaucer are still considered significant. As the term is ordinarily used, "literary canon" is defined by definition #7 above: "an authoritative list, as … There have been countless discussions launched about the need to teach the historically accepted literary pieces included in the canon. Just as controversial as the discussions engendered about the canon, so too is the definition. Though modern canons of literature have traditionally been set by universities or other official bodies, there is no authoritative body that scholars know today from ancient Egypt that would have designated an Egyptian literary canon. William Shakespeare wrote both tragedies and comedies for Elizabethan audiences, throughout the late 16th, and early 17th centuries. For centuries, it was populated primarily by white men and was not representative of Western culture as a whole. 1. countable noun A canon is a member of the clergy who is on the staff of a cathedral. Definition: Any Shmoop scholar worth his or her salt knows all about the western literary canon. It is also described as “a basis for judgment; standard; criterion.”. Countless phrases and terms we use every day, such as “Trojan Horse,” “Sisyphean,” “star-crossed lovers,” and “Dickensian,” came from the Western Literary Canon. However, we have no idea whether the popular and well-known author was a genuine person. Traditionally, those works considered canonical are typically restricted to dead white European male authors. The canon is the use of archaic language that Chaucer used in his works but not used in this part. During Whitman's lifetime, it was not necessarily read within that context. First, it is defined as a traditional collection of writings, against which other writings are evaluated. Just as controversial as the discussions engendered about the canon, so too is the definition. Their literary works obtain in themselves the position of literary canon which the successive writers use as touchstone to compare their creations with. However, Shakespeare’s earned appreciation for these works became yardstick by which other writers to judge their places in literature. In other words, it means “a long list of works taken as authentic.”. Generally, the term canon is used in three different meanings. My theory is that it’s a matter of statistics. This sense of the term makes canon opposite to “apocrypha,” which means “written works having anonymous authors.” The Bible was considered a yardstick to evaluate other literary pieces, according to a certain criterion. Synonym Discussion of canon. The Western Literary Canon is still essential for required reading in school because of how it has pervaded all aspects of our culture. It is intended for use in an introductory literature course. Countless phrases and terms we use every day, such as “Trojan Horse,” “Sisyphean,” “star-crossed lovers,” and “Dickensian,” came from the Western Literary Canon. Literary Canon Literary Canon Research Papers look at how culture defines literary canon and how it can be found in all genres of literature. canon Canon (one “n”) refers to a collection of rules or texts that are considered to be authoritative. This secular use of the word is derived from its original meaning as a listing of all authorized books in the Bible. Definition and Characteristics, Word Choice in English Composition and Literature, Definitions and Discussions of Medieval Rhetoric, M.A., English Literature, California State University - Sacramento, B.A., English, California State University - Sacramento. The Western Literary Canon is still essential for required reading in school because of how it has pervaded all aspects of our culture. By studying canonical works of the past, we gain a new appreciation for them from a modern perspective. 4 a : an accepted principle or rule. This approach of looking at, and following a writer’s work for measuring literary excellence and success is, in fact, called a “Shakespearean canon.”. Derived from the Greek word kan ôn meaning measuring rod or standard, the canon has been compiled by literary critics, scholars and teachers over time in order to assert which works of literature are ‘essential’. A literary canon is a classification of literature. Originated from the Greek term “kanon,” canon means “a yard stick,” or “a measuring rod.” Generally, the term canon is used in three different meanings. The American literary canon, or the books deemed important enough to teach in schools and survive over generations, is a fraught subject. Yet the sense of definition #3 ("standard, criterion") is also strongly implied as the means by which individual works find their way into the literary canon. - Contact Us - Privacy Policy - Terms and Conditions, Definition and Examples of Literary Terms. Literature is a method of recording, preserving, and transmitting knowledge and entertainment. noun an ecclesiastical rule or law enacted by a council or other competent authority and, in the Roman Catholic Church, approved by the pope. And the … the body of rules, principles, or standards accepted as axiomatic and universally binding in a field of study or art: the neoclassical canon. People of color have become more prominent parts of the canon as a past emphasis on Eurocentrism has waned. This is based on some already deduced rules intended to be applied on the future pieces in the same genre. The American literary canon, or the books deemed important enough to teach in schools and survive over generations, is a fraught subject. This, of course, has led to many disputes among literary scholars over the years. This is a highly controversial text not widely recognized in the Church — but it is believed to be the words of one of Jesus' closest companions. c : a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works the canon of great literature. The words ‘canon’ and ‘classic’ both evoke notions of evaluation and hierarchy. the body of ecclesiastical law. Secular and literary applications of the term “canon” refer to a constellation of highly valued, high-cultural texts that have traditionally acted as arbiters of literary value, determining the discipline of literary studies as well as influencing the critical and cultural reception of literature. In religious terms, a canon is a standard of judgment or a text containing those views, such as the Bible or the Koran. A canon can also be a body of work, like the Shakespeare canon, which includes all of the Bard's plays and poems. a. The “canon” is defined by dictionary.com as “a collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine.” The very definition […] Literature is affected by the experiences and thoughts of writers and readers. Canon definition is - a regulation or dogma decreed by a church council. But, of course, there is a great deal of debate. This meaning covers the entire literature generally thought as suitable for aesthetic admiration and academic use. This secular use of the word is derived from its original meaning as a listing of all authorized books in the Bible. Many modern critics and teachers argue that women, minorities, and non-Western writers are left out of the literary canon unfairly. Taken from The Plowman’s Tale, these lines exemplify the third definition of canon. a : an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Women, minorities, and non-Western writers were kept out of this kind of arbitrary practice for a long time – until they won recognition such as the writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Topics: Novel, Literature, Genre Pages: 1 (267 words) Published: November 25, 2012. Another word for official. "Canon is also defined as "the books of the Bible officially recognized by the Church," and the idea of a literary canon also implies some such official status. Literary Canon Definition. Canon A list of authors or works considered to be central to the identity of a given literary tradition or culture. b : the authentic works of a writer the Chaucer canon. The process in which a work is canonized is completely subjective. Used quite often in fan fiction to differentiate between the official storyline in which the fan fiction is based on. A group of literary works that are generally accepted as representing a field: "the durable canon of American short fiction" (William Styron). 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