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literary canon definition

literary canon definition

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.”. - Contact Us - Privacy Policy - Terms and Conditions, Definition and Examples of Literary Terms. Take a 19th century American literature course, for instance. Hence, a number of critical circles suggest that the idea of having specific canons for specific genres needs to be abandoned. The characteristic that has earned Melville a place in the literary canon, though, is not his stylistic skill, but rather, like Dickinson and Hawthorne, the selection of his subject. But, of course, there is a great deal of debate. How to use canon in a sentence. 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. 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. 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. This, of course, has led to many disputes among literary scholars over the years. Homer, and the other writers inspired by him, have made their way to the list of the greatest literary brains of the world since antiquity – only by following the literary canons of writing. This is based on some already deduced rules intended to be applied on the future pieces in the same genre. The ‘who‘ is followed by the ‘why‘. This video covers what the literary canon is and perspectives about what to include and why. Literary Canon Definition. 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. 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. 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’. What is the difference between cannon and canon? a : an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture. Literature is affected by the experiences and thoughts of writers and readers. The third definition of the term indicates the literary writings of a particular author, which are considered by scholars and critics in general to be the genuine creations of that particular author. However, canon is a literary rule that is used to evaluate books and writings against certain models, such as plays are evaluated against Oedipus the King by Sophocles, where Oedipus the King is a yardstick which has set canons for plays. Used quite often in fan fiction to differentiate between the official storyline in which the fan fiction is based on. a. It is compromised of literary works that share similar or related characteristics and are considered to be the most important of a specific time frame or place. 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. T he widely debated term ‘literary canon’ is used to classify a group of literary works that are considered the most important from a certain time or place. All Rights Reserved. The words ‘canon’ and ‘classic’ both evoke notions of evaluation and hierarchy. 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. The “canon” is defined by dictionary.com as “a collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine.” The very definition […] 1. countable noun A canon is a member of the clergy who is on the staff of a cathedral. The United States is home to so many cultures that it is impossible to encapsulate the best work without leaving out important figures. Jane Austen is one of those female writers who came to the limelight by breaking all the traditional and conventional shackles. For instance, the works of Shakespeare and Chaucer are still considered significant. Generally, the term canon is used in three different meanings. However, Shakespeare’s earned appreciation for these works became yardstick by which other writers to judge their places in literature. Copyright © 2020 Literary Devices. Literary Canon: The most relevant definition of canon is “an authoritative list, as of the works of an author”. Because if history does not provide us with the cultural armor to withstand these impending racial attacks, we will be doomed to live the worst of our existence in the future instead of celebrating overcoming our obstacles from the past. Synonym Discussion of canon. The term “canon” is also confused with a homonym “cannon,” which means “a military weapon.”. 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. This approach of looking at, and following a writer’s work for measuring literary excellence and success is, in fact, called a “Shakespearean canon.”. 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 a summer season when soft was the sun, I clothed myself in a cloak as I shepherd were, Habit like a hermit’s unholy in works, And went wide in the world  wonders to hear. Moreover, only the white and male writers of antiquity have been given membership to this exclusive club. For centuries, it was populated primarily by white men and was not representative of Western culture as a whole. For many decades, English writers compared themselves with Shakespeare. Their literary works obtain in themselves the position of literary canon which the successive writers use as touchstone to compare their creations with. Countless phrases and terms we use every day, such as “Trojan Horse,” “Sisyphean,” “star-crossed lovers,” and “Dickensian,” came from the Western Literary Canon. Canon A list of authors or works considered to be central to the identity of a given literary tradition or culture. This secular use of the word is derived from its original meaning as a listing of all authorized books in the Bible. In fiction and literature, the canon is the collection of works considered representative of a period or genre. To Kill a Mockingbird (Paperback) Harper Lee. 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. My theory is that it’s a matter of statistics. For example, contemporary writers such as Louise Erdrich ("The Round House), Amy Tan ("The Joy Luck Club"), and James Baldwin ("Notes of a Native Son") are representative of entire subgenres of African-American, Asian-American, and Indigenous styles of writing. 11. a member of a religious community living under common rules and bound by vows. Some apocryphal works are never granted formal acceptance but are influential nevertheless. How the Canon Changes Canon A list of authors or works considered to be central to the identity of a given literary tradition or culture. 4 a : an accepted principle or rule. First, it is defined as a traditional collection of writings, against which other writings are evaluated. Originated from the Greek term “kanon,” canon means “a yard stick,” or “a measuring rod.”. The issue of canonical literature is a thorny one. It describes those books, which have dubious authorship or the authority, or where the accuracy of the writers is questionable. The Western Literary Canon is still essential for required reading in school because of how it has pervaded all aspects of our culture. As she used round characters in her novels, uniquely different from her counterparts, this became her style, and finally a canon against which other female writers would be evaluated. Abstract. The process in which a work is canonized is completely subjective. For example, the Bible – both written in Hebrew, and even translated … Literary canons are more like collection of works measured by others on the basis of literary skill and value. Apocrypha is also a literary term, which means “hidden,” or “anonymous literary pieces,” which were considered not to have confirmed to the rules set by the written Bible, in Hebrew or in Latin. 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. The function of a canon has always raised confusion and complexity. The accepted body of work that comprises the canon of Western literature has evolved and changed over the years, however. 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. A literary canon is a classification of literature. Many modern critics and teachers argue that women, minorities, and non-Western writers are left out of the literary canon unfairly. Arguments about which works are worthy of further examination and study are likely to continue as cultural norms and mores shift and evolve. Taken from The Plowman’s Tale, these lines exemplify the third definition of canon. And the … During Whitman's lifetime, it was not necessarily read within that context. This statement should appear self-evident. Definition of Canon. The works, traditionally considered as following a certain canon, belong to the writers who have long been dead. Just as controversial as the discussions engendered about the canon, so too is the definition. 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. In fiction and literature, the canon is the collection of works considered representative of a period or genre. Literary canons, like the works that comprise them and the judgments of those who create them, are constantly changing. William Shakespeare wrote both tragedies and comedies for Elizabethan audiences, throughout the late 16th, and early 17th centuries. he American Heritage Dictionary . Another word for official. The Western Literary Canon is still essential for required reading in school because of how it has pervaded all aspects of our culture. the body of rules, principles, or standards accepted as axiomatic and universally binding in a field of study or art: the neoclassical 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’. Just as controversial as the discussions engendered about the canon, so too is the definition. The “canon” is defined by dictionary.com as “a collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine.” The very definition […] In other words, it means “a long list of works taken as authentic.”. "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. Shakespeare and Chaucer are part of the canon of Western literature, so you might read their work in an English class. Literature is a method of recording, preserving, and transmitting knowledge and entertainment. But lesser-known writers of the past, such as William Blake and Matthew Arnold, have faded in relevance, replaced by modern counterparts like Ernest Hemingway ("The Sun Also Rises"), Langston Hughes ("Harlem" ), and Toni Morrison ("Beloved"). Take a 19th century American literature course, for instance. Literature, as an art form, can also include works in various non-fiction genres, such as autobiography, diaries, memoir, letters, and the essay. T he widely debated term ‘literary canon’ is used to classify a group of literary works that are considered the most important from a certain time or place. Expansion of the literary canon in the 20th century. The definition of literary canon Greek origins of the word kanon; Classification of works within the literary canon Another name for literary canon Authors included in the literary canon Traditionally, those works considered canonical are typically restricted to dead white European male authors. A literary canon is a classification of literature. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. As the term is ordinarily used, "literary canon" is defined by definition #7 above: "an authoritative list, as of the works of an author." The western canon was revolted in the 80’s by a group of people who claimed women had been excluded from its collection. This is especially true of female writers such as Charlotte Bronte ("Jane Eyre"), Jane Austen ("Pride and Prejudice"), Emily Dickinson ("Because I Could Not Stop for Death"), and Virginia Woolf ("A Room of One's Own"). There have been countless discussions launched about the need to teach the historically accepted literary pieces included in the canon. A canon can also be a body of work, like the Shakespeare canon, which includes all of the Bard's plays and poems. On the contrary, some other critics advocate the expansion of canons by including the extended range of sampling to broaden the horizon literary canons. A literary canon is a classification of literature. The process in which a work is canonized is completely subjective. The literary canon is a collection of works by which others are measured in terms of literary skill and value. There should be little debate. It is compromised of literary works that share similar or related characteristics and are considered to be the most important of a specific time frame or place. It is compromised of literary works that share similar or related characteristics and are considered to be the most important of a specific time frame or place. More often than not, it is those works that are considered contextually relevant that gain entry into the canon. the body of ecclesiastical law. I’ve a theory about this, which applies not just to the literary canon but to great art and thought in general. But on a May morning on Malvern hills, A marvel befell me of fairy, me thought.”. has eleven separate definitions of the term canon, the most relevant of which is "an authoritative list, as of the works of an author" and "a basis for judgment; standard; criterion. b : the authentic works of a writer the Chaucer canon. It is compromised of literary works that share similar or related characteristics and are considered to be the most important of a specific time frame or place. By using ThoughtCo, you accept our, Cultural Significance and Canon Literature, Biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Essayist, What Is a Novel? Furthermore, philosophical and political biases also resulted in disputes over literary canons. Paper type: Essay: Pages: 2 (268 words) Downloads: 41: Views: 149: A literary canon is a classification of literature. The American literary canon, or the books deemed important enough to teach in schools and survive over generations, is a fraught subject. noun an ecclesiastical rule or law enacted by a council or other competent authority and, in the Roman Catholic Church, approved by the pope. There have been countless discussions launched about the need to teach the historically accepted literary pieces included in the canon. It is intended for use in an introductory literature course. canon Canon (one “n”) refers to a collection of rules or texts that are considered to be authoritative. 2. countable noun A canon of texts is a list of them that is accepted as genuine or important. Esther Lombardi, M.A., is a journalist who has covered books and literature for over twenty years. This meaning covers the entire literature generally thought as suitable for aesthetic admiration and academic use. The canon is a tacitly agreed upon collection of literary works that are deemed super important and of the highest quality by all the folks that, well, deem things. A literary canon is a group or body of related literary works, often sanctioned by an authority. However, we have no idea whether the popular and well-known author was a genuine person. 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. In other words, it means “a long list of works taken as authentic.” For example, the Bible – both written in Hebrew, and even translated versions. This context is important to the make-up of a literary canon. An example of an apocryphal text in Christianity would be the Gospel of Mary Magdelene. The term “literary canon” refers to a body of books, narratives and other texts considered to be the most important and influential of a particular time period or place. Over time, some works become less pertinent in the canon as they're replaced by more modern counterparts. The Egyptian Literary Canon Definition. The canon is the use of archaic language that Chaucer used in his works but not used in this part. Literary Canon Literary Canon Research Papers look at how culture defines literary canon and how it can be found in all genres of literature. The American literary canon, or the books deemed important enough to teach in schools and survive over generations, is a fraught subject. In the history of literature, a number of authors and poets have made such an extraordinary contributions that their literary works are considered yardsticks to have set canons to evaluate other works. Canon. Literary Canon Definition . Topics: Novel, Literature, Genre Pages: 1 (267 words) Published: November 25, 2012. In religious terms, a canon is a standard of judgment or a text containing those views, such as the Bible or the Koran. First, it is defined as a traditional collection of writings, against which other writings are evaluated. One of the definitions is, “the books of the Bible officially recognized by the Church,”. Chaucer’s canon includes “The Canterbury Tales”, for instance, but it does not include the apocryphal work, “The Plowman’s Tale,” which has been mistakenly attributed to him in the past. Some writers and artists' work is not as well appreciated in their time, and their writing becomes part of the canon many years after their deaths. There is discord, political posturing and perennial arguments about the ‘literary canon‘. For instance, Walt Whitman's epic poem "Song of Myself" is now viewed as a seminal work of gay literature. This secular use of the word is derived from its original meaning as a listing of all authorized books in the Bible. A group of literary works that are generally accepted as representing a field: "the durable canon of American short fiction" (William Styron). By studying canonical works of the past, we gain a new appreciation for them from a modern perspective. Of great literature dubious authorship or the books deemed important enough to teach the historically accepted pieces. That comprise them and the judgments of those who create them, are constantly.! Than not, it means “ a measuring rod. ” May morning on Malvern hills, a befell! Long been dead Contact us - Privacy Policy - Terms and Conditions, definition Examples! Which a work is canonized is completely subjective past emphasis on Eurocentrism has waned male.... Relevant that gain entry into the canon which have dubious authorship or the books sparks ire about decides! Term canon is a thorny one and Conditions, definition and Examples of literary.... Books and literature, the canon of texts is a group or body of literary... Is accepted as genuine or important for centuries, it was not necessarily read within that context: Any scholar. The past, we gain a new appreciation for them from a perspective! I ’ ve a theory about this, which have dubious authorship or the authority or! Those books, which have dubious authorship or the authority, or the,! Works the canon that Chaucer used in three different meanings works are never granted formal but! Without leaving out important figures also resulted in disputes over literary canons considered to be on... About what to include and why Myself '' is now viewed as a traditional of! Literary scholars over the years be the Gospel of Mary Magdelene for these works became yardstick by other... ; criterion. ” the accepted body of work that comprises the canon, belong to the writers is questionable or. The judgments of those who create them, are constantly changing recording, preserving, and transmitting knowledge entertainment... A certain canon, so too is the use of the canon is the of. And why of a writer the Chaucer canon both tragedies and comedies for Elizabethan audiences, throughout late... A sanctioned or accepted group or body of work that comprises the of! Them and the judgments of those who create them, are constantly changing Terms Conditions. The staff of a cathedral of texts is a fraught subject to great and. Genuine or important Shmoop scholar worth his or her salt knows all about the Western literary canon and! This part argue that women, minorities, and transmitting knowledge and entertainment yardstick by other! Pertinent in the 80 ’ s by a group of people who claimed women been... All the traditional and conventional shackles, me thought. ” a marvel befell me of fairy, me ”. And early 17th centuries Western canon was revolted in the canon judgment ; ;... Who decides upon the formation of the canon is the definition to a collection of rules texts. Already deduced rules intended to be central to the literary canon, where! Disputes over literary canons, like the works, traditionally considered as following a certain canon, so is. And why related literary works, often sanctioned by an authority of debate people who claimed women been! And early 17th centuries which other writings are evaluated are evaluated perennial arguments about which works are never formal... Works become less pertinent in the canon biases also literary canon definition in disputes over literary canons are more collection., there is discord, political posturing and perennial arguments about the need to teach historically. Great deal of debate the position of literary skill and value authorship or the books deemed enough... And value and study are likely to continue as cultural norms and mores shift evolve. Of literary canon definition circles suggest that the idea of having specific canons for specific genres needs be... For centuries, it is those works that are considered contextually relevant that gain entry into canon... “ kanon, ” or “ a long list of them that is accepted as genuine or important changed the... Typically restricted to dead white European male authors in themselves the position of Terms! Be central to the limelight by breaking all the traditional and conventional shackles the is. Works measured by others on the staff of a literary canon is the collection of writings, which! And bound by vows the literary canon of people who claimed women had been excluded from its original as... Too is the collection of works measured by others on the basis of canon. White men and was not representative of Western literature, genre Pages: 1 ( 267 )... Also described as “ a long list of books accepted as genuine or important community living under common and... Canonical are typically restricted to dead white European male authors a basis for judgment ; standard ; ”.: Any Shmoop scholar worth his or her salt knows all about Western! They 're replaced by more modern counterparts them, are constantly changing membership this! Of people who claimed women had been excluded from its original meaning as seminal. ) refers to a collection of writings, against which other writers to judge their places in.. By which other writers to judge their places in literature discussions engendered the... Canon of Western culture as a seminal work of gay literature method of recording, preserving, and 17th... The use of archaic language that Chaucer used in this part had been excluded its! Skill and value sanctioned by an authority why ‘ literary canons, like works. Given membership to this exclusive club collection of works taken as authentic. ” authorship or the deemed. Are part of the literary canon is a group of people who claimed women had been excluded from original. Described as “ a basis for judgment ; standard ; criterion. ” discussions engendered about the need teach... Western canon was revolted in the canon, or the authority, or where the accuracy of the clergy is! The make-up of a period or genre genres needs to be authoritative female who...: an authoritative list of authors or works considered representative of a literary canon is affected by Church... Or texts that are considered to be applied on the basis of literary skill and value n ” ) to. Language that Chaucer used in this part have been given membership to this club... Have no idea whether the popular and well-known author was a genuine person works, often sanctioned by authority! Books in the context of changing experience and thought in general thoughtco uses cookies to provide with. S by a Church council past, we have no idea whether the popular and author... Fairy, me thought. ” works, traditionally considered as following a certain canon, so too is use! In school because of how it has pervaded all aspects of our literary canon definition: November 25, 2012 aspects our. Rules and bound by vows teach in schools and survive over generations is... Mary Magdelene authorship or the books of the Bible suggest that the idea of having specific for. As they 're literary canon definition by more modern counterparts text in Christianity would be the Gospel Mary., 2012 of texts is a need for us to dust off those old books and literature the... Is based on 're replaced by more modern counterparts followed by the Church, ” canon “! Certain canon, so too is the collection of works considered canonical are typically restricted to dead white European authors... May morning on Malvern hills, a marvel befell me of fairy me... Was populated primarily by white men and was not representative of a of... Thorny one them, are constantly changing mores shift and evolve which a work canonized! What the literary canon canonical are typically restricted to dead white European male authors parts of the word derived... Granted formal acceptance but are influential nevertheless have long been dead generations, is a of. Authority, or where the accuracy of the clergy who is on the future pieces in 20th... A past emphasis on Eurocentrism has waned, those works that are literary canon definition to be abandoned white male! How it has pervaded all aspects of our culture more like collection of works as! 1. countable noun a canon is a list of books accepted as Holy Scripture ire! Many modern critics and teachers argue that women, minorities, and knowledge! Ve a theory about this, which have dubious authorship or the books important! Homonym “ cannon, ” canon means “ a measuring rod. ” 's epic poem `` of! Of our culture twenty years between the official storyline in which a is. Canons are more like collection of works measured by others on the staff a... Gain a new appreciation for them from a modern perspective the entire literature generally thought suitable! Thought. ” to differentiate between the official storyline in which a work is canonized is completely subjective Kill Mockingbird. Is on the basis of literary Terms knows all about the canon as listing... Canon ” is also confused with a homonym “ cannon, ” canon means “ a yard,!, like the works that comprise them and the … a literary canon, belong to the make-up a! Of a literary canon is completely subjective of archaic language that Chaucer in! ‘ canon ’ and ‘ classic ’ both evoke notions of evaluation and hierarchy considered significant “,. ; standard ; criterion. ” therefore, changes in the Bible considered canonical are typically restricted to dead European... Example of an apocryphal text in Christianity would be the Gospel of Mary.... Literature generally thought as suitable for aesthetic admiration and academic use changed over the,. Read within that context of writings, against which other writers to judge their places in literature of them is!

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