The Scarlet Letter By William Shakespeare

1860 Words8 Pages
The students groan as their teacher passes out copies of The Scarlet Letter. One student asks, “Do we have to read this, Mrs. Smith?” Another pupil interjects with, “Yeah, this is boring!” In response, Mrs. Smith says, “Of course we do. It’s a classic! The Scarlet Letter is a wonderful, canonical piece of literature. I would be failing you if I didn’t expose you to this!” “But, what is canonical? What does that even mean?!” Jane, one of the best students in the class, comments. “Well, you know, it’s in the canon. Everyone reads The Scarlet Letter” the teacher studders as an answer. Janie retorts with, “What makes it canon?” “People say that the book should be taught in schools. That is what makes it a respectable, canonical novel.” “Who are these people? Why do they decide?” This back-and-forth conversation between the teacher and her students keeps going until, finally, Mrs. Smith exclaims, “Read the first chapter and write your initial thoughts.”
The hypothetical situation above occurs often in schools. Teachers are bombarded with students questioning their reading list, but some are unable to give proper reasons for emphasizing certain texts over others. Saying that we study a piece of literature because it’s “canon,” as Mrs. Smith did, doesn’t give the students much justification for their learning. Unfortunately, the term “canonical literature” is not used in everyday conversations, so most people are either unfamiliar with it or have highly varying definitions. My definition differs slightly from Mrs. Smith’s; I have found that canonical literature refers to work that is typically highly regarded in a scholarly sense, or, in the classroom setting, work that is most suitable for study and historical, thematic admiration. Aca...

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...for being too dramatic with too many plot holes. Now, African American writers praise her often, like Alice Walker, who says that this is the most important book you’ll ever read. Schools use Their Eyes Were Watching God as an example of African American women’s past struggles for freedom; it’s even viewed as a timeless piece on the relationship between a man and a woman, even though Janie had several of those relationships. Originally, the book was written about culture during its time, just as popular fiction is usually written based on the culture surrounding it. At some point, Their Eyes Were Watching God was popular fiction, just like how, at some point, Third Girl From the Left will be literary fiction because of its timelessness as commentary/insight into the journey to self-acceptance of one’s sexual identity and because of its varying levels of independence.
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