Literary Canon: What Constitutes a Classic? Essay

Literary Canon: What Constitutes a Classic? Essay

Length: 1142 words (3.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Strong Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Classic works of literature are not arbitrarily deemed as such. In order to be regarded so highly, a literary work must demonstrate its ability to touch upon – and thoughtfully examine – important issues of a particular era (so to speak, a slice of time). A traditional canon is substantiated by consistent and legitimate acclaim, and while of course there is an underlying element of subjectivity, literary scholars tend to possess discerning taste. Blindly placing faith in the opinions of experts can be dangerous, however; trusting all of their judgments and assuming the entire literary canon is worthwhile to read would be a misstep. Ideally, by initiating readers with exemplary works, a unique taste is born and the reader can then pursue the literature of their choosing. A truly alluring work of literature is one that retains meaning no matter who the audience is – if the impact of the story only resonates with a small group, its scope (and message) is limited.
Perhaps the most dominant feature of ‘classic’ works is the presence of a particularly memorable character. Multi-layered, evolving characters enhance the progression of the story, but not in a perfunctory manner, and not simply as a device to move the story forward. Additionally, if a primary character is similarly constructed to the average reader, it legitimizes the plausibility of the work. By offering a portrayal of a character that is grounded in reality connects the reader – who may be able to relate to the character’s plight or triumph – and lends real meaning to the story. For instance, in Melville’s “Bartelby, the Scrivener,” the titular character is thoroughly downcast and displays no fun characteristics, but a great number of people can sympathize with the mis...

... middle of paper ...

...sic American storytelling, and their prodigious skill should not be overlooked. I would have enjoyed more exposure to African-American literature within the curriculum, as I find it a good deal of it saturated with authenticity and a very approachable (but sophisticated) prose. Although I can admit the inclusion of several prolific and respected female writers was rewarding and enhanced the scope of the course.
Ultimately, enforcing a strict traditional literary canon is logistically implausible, but holding reverence for outstanding literary works should be continued. In some ways, it is the natural progression of a well-rounded education: what sort of high school student should be exempt from reading “The Catcher in the Rye?” If we expanded this discussion to foreign writers, it becomes immeasurably and unflinchingly imperative to maintain a traditional canon.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

“Inclusion in Today’s Literary Canon” Essay

- Stephen King is a creative and massively popular author of horror fiction with the ability to make his readers squirm. Rated one of the best writers since early 1970s due to his prolific work, which is immensely intriguing. Stephen King is acknowledged for producing a novel each year or more. Some of his best sellers comprise the “The Shinning” (1977), “Salem Lost” (1975), “Carrie” (1974), and “Dead Zone” (1979). Even though, Stephen King’s writing style is bizarre and bloodcurdling, his characters have become iconic, because he has acquired a technique that makes him masterful....   [tags: Literary Analysis ]

Strong Essays
1278 words (3.7 pages)

Argument for Sonja Livingston’s Inclusion in the Literary Canon Essay

- The literary canon is those works considered by scholars, critics, and teachers to be the most important to read and study, which collectively constitute the “masterpieces” of literature. (Meyer 2175) In the past there has been much debate on whether non-fiction should be considered for inclusion in the canon, but non-fiction writers being considered part of the canon is not unheard of, and is already a reality – George Orwell, Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway- all had a significant body of non-fictional work and are well respected, well established members....   [tags: Literature ]

Strong Essays
1374 words (3.9 pages)

Essay about Common Sense, Practicality, and the Literary Canon

- Common Sense, Practicality, and the Literary Canon       In keeping with my more-or-less conservative views, it seems obvious that what is most lacking in the English culture-war debates is a little common sense and practicality. Take, for example, the question of the literary canon (by which I mean the canon of imaginative literature: fiction, poetry, and drama). In his preface to Falling Into Theory, David H. Richter articulates three basic positions on the issue of the standard or traditional canon: defend the canon, expand it to include works by women and minorities, or eliminate it altogether (vii- viii)....   [tags: Argumentative Persuasive Essays]

Strong Essays
1583 words (4.5 pages)

What Should Constitute The Canon of Sacred Scripture? Essay examples

- INTRODUCTION A debate lasting close to 2 millennia has fallen almost entirely out of favor in the popular realm of Christian Theology. Looking through countless theology books will result in almost nothing helpful, except for the occasional quotes from more obscure texts. Examining the discussion of councils related to this issue will result in frustration as the topic is left out entirely. In desperation, a curious inquirer may turn to Catholic texts, where Priests and experts will set out to discuss the issue in depth....   [tags: Protestants vs Catholics]

Strong Essays
2727 words (7.8 pages)

William Carlos Williams and the Canon Essay

- I had envisioned the literary canon to be a fixed list of literature that could only be added to and not taken away from. I was mistaken. As I researched it became clear that the works included in the Western Canon are not fixed; the importance of some pieces wane, while others that may have been ignored are brought to the forefront as time progresses and perspectives evolve. I have a belief that everything is relative and it seems that is true when it comes to the literary canon. As our society transforms, so do our beliefs and values....   [tags: Literary Analysis ]

Strong Essays
1397 words (4 pages)

Who can be integrated into the literary canon of American Literature? Essay

- This is a good question; Due to what American Literature stands for, who can be part of the literary canon. I think literature (American or otherwise) serves as a means by which one can examine a society's values, ideas, hopes, fears, and dreams through fiction or oral literature. Those who have had an impact on their society create something that many people will read of or look upon in different ethnicities, ages, social class, etc; However, does It always have to be an author or an writing documentation to exactly fit in the category of American Literature?; My opinion I would have to say no American Literature should be a Varity of people who made a difference in American not just by wri...   [tags: American Literature]

Strong Essays
1436 words (4.1 pages)

Expanding the Literary Canon Essay

- Expanding the Literary Canon While this essay can in no way claim to contain a fully representative sampling of what various scholars have contributed relative to the ongoing debate over the literary canon, I will attempt to highlight three distinct positions which are all informed by John Guillory's critical contributions to the canonical debate. First, I will discuss the concept of ideology and canon formation as Guillory first articulated it in his 1983 essay, "The Ideology of Canon Formation: T....   [tags: Literature English Essays]

Strong Essays
3580 words (10.2 pages)

Essay about The Most Dangerous Game: A Literary Classic

- For a story to be accepted as a classic it must meet certain requirements. For one, it has to “withstand the test of time.” “The Most Dangerous Game,” was original published in 1924 and it is still commonly read today for entertainment and educational purposes. A classic also must have a certain “universal appeal,” meaning it touches upon some of our most basic emotional responses. In “The Most Dangerous Game,” it integrates themes that are easily understood by all types of readers, themes of competition, fear, and moral values....   [tags: Research Paper]

Strong Essays
619 words (1.8 pages)

Books Of The Canon Essay

- Books Of The Canon It is my contention that students do not read enough. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on reading at all levels of education, especially at the secondary and college level. Many authors from the text, The Presence of Others, discuss the importance of what has been labeled the canon. In this essay I will discuss some of their thoughts and feelings regarding the subject, and will propose a variation of how to change the curriculum. In addition to that, I will examine how I feel the intellectual level of the United States' populace needs expanding....   [tags: Education Learning Teaching Essays]

Free Essays
953 words (2.7 pages)

Essay about Analysis of The Canon's Yeoman's Tale

- Summary and Analysis of The Canon's Yeoman's Tale (The Canterbury Tales) Prologue to the Canon's Yeoman's Tale: When the story of Saint Cecilia was finished and the company continued on their journey, they came across two men. One of them was clad all in black and had been traveling quickly on their horses; the narrator believes that he must be a canon (an alchemist). The Canon's Yeoman said that they wished to join the company on their journey, for they had heard of their tales. The Host asked if the Canon could tell a tale, and the Yeoman answers that the Canon knows tales of mirth and jollity, and is a man whom anybody would be honored to know....   [tags: Canterbury Tales The Canon's Yeoman's Tale Essays]

Strong Essays
760 words (2.2 pages)