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September 18, 2007

Comments

There's an excellent essay by two of the teaching assistants for the (I think) Stanford program that was one of the first targets for the Dead White Man accusation. There point was that one of the things that make the canon so appealing is that many of the DWM were actually deeply subversive, challenging the society in which they lived. In this sense, DWM are the antithesis of conservatism, challenging the society from the inside.

I've got one word for you: Clarissa.

More seriously:

While I take your point about "the test of time" being the only real test, in some cases, authors remain in "the English canon" while others are excluded, not because they're amazingly good writers who continue to appeal, but because they are white males who were selected to be in the canon because they were white males.

Samuel Richardson wrote best-selling epistolary novels in the 1740s: Pamela and Clarissa. English literature courses still teach them. Yet no one reads them for pleasure any more - they are taught because they are canon, and they became canon because Richardson is a man.

Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte all wrote novels which are still read for pleasure: so did Elizabeth Gaskell. If the "test of time" is the test of the English canon, these writers have passed with flying colors - yet they're not in "the canon".

Read Joanna Russ's book How To Prevent Women Writing on the methods used to ensure that novels and poems by women do not achieve canonic status. The same methods are used (Russ says, in an afterword) to suppress books by black writers.

"Read Joanna Russ's book How To Prevent Women Writing"

I'll go that far with Jes, emphatically, in recommending that everyone read it.

Joanna has been a friend of mine since not long after my pal Jim Freund came in raving about her manuscript of "We Who Are About to...," at a Fanoclast meeting, circa 1975, long after I was a fan of her fiction, and years before we became friends in Seattle, circa 1978, and I spent a week as her houseboy, cooking and cleaning for her after a back operation, circa 1980.

Etc., etc., etc. Ditto Chip, and, oh, heck, lots of stuff, and all our intermixings in the Seventies and Eighties. Chip snores. Joanna argued about fanfiction theory in the living room I shared in the early eighties in Seattle. Etc.

Not that any of that should ever interfere with Jes's perceptions that I'm too evil to speak to, including that bits of How To Prevent Women Writing were argued about in my house's living room before publication.

Is the canon what is taught in English literature, or is the canon what is taught in general Western civ? Because Richardson may be in the former, but he ain't in the latter.

A quote from Donadio's article is revealing:

"In 1965, the authors most frequently assigned in English classes were Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, Dryden, Pope and T. S. Eliot, according to a survey by the National Association of Scholars, an organization committed to preserving “the Western intellectual heritage.” In 1998, they were Shakespeare, Chaucer, Jane Austen, Milton, Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison."

What this suggests to me is that what has been changed in the canon is mostly at the fringes: e.g. rather than twelve dead white males you have ten DWMs, one woman and one black writer. Surely a canon ought to expect to undergo some changes?

Or to put it another way: What have I missed by never having read Dryden? Can anyone give me a convincing reason for why I should voluntarily read anything by him? There's a danger of circularity here: you define great works as those have stood the test of time, while ignoring the fact that many people only read them because they've been made to. If you look at pre-20th century works that people still read for enjoyment, you'd probably get a rather different take on the canon. (It'd be interesting to see e.g. sales rankings for series like Oxford World Classics, Penguin Classics, Wordsowrth Classics).

See Why I Don't Respond To Gary Farber, also The Power of the Cut Direct.

Magistra: Or to put it another way: What have I missed by never having read Dryden? Can anyone give me a convincing reason for why I should voluntarily read anything by him? There's a danger of circularity here: you define great works as those have stood the test of time, while ignoring the fact that many people only read them because they've been made to. If you look at pre-20th century works that people still read for enjoyment, you'd probably get a rather different take on the canon. (It'd be interesting to see e.g. sales rankings for series like Oxford World Classics, Penguin Classics, Wordsowrth Classics).

Indeed. (But then again, how many books miss being reprinted? Joanna Russ notes that when she wanted to teach Villette, Charlotte Bronte's fourth and greatest novel, she couldn't find a cheap edition to be made available in the university bookstore.)

My rule of thumb - very roughly - would be that if people are still reading a person's books for pleasure (or going to see their plays for enjoyment) fifty years or more after the writer's dead, you can begin to call that writer's works "classic". E. Nesbit; Beatrix Potter; Frances Hodgson Burnett; Louisa May Alcott; Rudyard Kipling; Lewis Carroll... none of them "canon" - all them writers who succeeded in transcending their own time.


I'm always a little amused by the failure of many to see the circularity of the arguments in regards to "the canon." Of course these authors "continue to appeal across generations" -- they're taught in English classes beginning in grade school and continuing through college and grad school. What opportunity do more contemporary -- I'm talking mid-to-late 20th century here -- writers have to become part of the canon if their works aren't studied and taught?

Shorter me: "You know what the kids really love these days? Shakespeare!"

My counter argument to "classic because it is taught and taught because it is classic" is that there are few things more likely to spoil the fun/joy of literature than the way it is taught at school. I am familiar witch children/students that come with an open mind for great literature but will neve ever touch a "canonic" author again because they will forever associate them with boredom, stupid analysis and the coercion to read them at speed. The same happens with classical music btw. If all one is allowed to do is analyzing chords, the beauty can be lost forever. I can fully understand that someone who has to write essays about "the significance of Hauke's eye colour in Der Schimmelreiter" and similar inanities on a regular base and receiving bad marks for not coming to the "correct" solution* is unlikely to develop a love for the written word.
I also get the impression that often the best texts of an author are not read at school but actually those with the least appeal. Kipling is seen by "serious" German critics as "too entertaining to be of value", Nobel Prize be damned (or even seen as corroborating evidence).

*In extreme cases even the stated opinion of the author of the text about the meaning is regarded as "wrong" because it disagrees with the analytical material available to the teacher.

What have I missed by never having read Dryden? Can anyone give me a convincing reason for why I should voluntarily read anything by him?

Well, for one example, the following description of life under the Bush Adminstration:

All, all of a piece throughout;
Thy chase had a beast in view;
Thy wars brought nothing about;
Thy lovers were all untrue.
'Tis well an old age is out,
And time to begin a new.

But at least in theory, you can see how respecting history and tradition could be empirically-based, and how it might provide rational, epistemological guidance to modern people.

But, the very fact that only white males (and, generally, aristocratic/wealthy) white males were able to write means that we perpetuate the very segregationist past by relying on this empirical evaluation of literature.

I don't disagree that it is important to read the canon that should be periodically updated. I resent the fact that I never really learned Greek mythology or read more than one or two of Shakespeare's plays in school (and, the same ones over and over). Also, many of the Toni Morrisons and Virginia Woolfs read those authors and understanding their influences is important.

Where I get off the boat from the conservatives is that we should teach Chaucer, Shakespeare, Kant, Decartes, etc. in exactly the same way throughout time because the Western Enlightenment tells us so. The meanings of these texts changes throughout time. Watching Othello now means something very different, even in the U.S. than it did in the 1960s. By being told to teach the same tired canon in the same tired way, then this says that we can simply "freeze" time and not acknowledge the larger social situations that give these texts, at least partially, their meaning.

The "test of time" argument is dubious. Dickens, Tolstoy and Twain haven't passed 200 years, Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald not even a century, but a lot of people (as Roth grumbles in that one quote in the article) would count them as canon or at least "classic."

Hey, Dickens was a pulp writer, Tolstoy a sexual maniac and heretic, Twain was satirical... ;-)
Btw, Shakespeare was for quite some time considered as anything but respectable (especially for his lack of decency and the general lewdness of his texts).
'Novel' was in the beginning a "low" genre and not in the same league as epics or classical drama, the German "Roman" was even less reputable. I hear the same was true in China were it was a major faux pas to use the word for novel in the same sentence as those for "true" literature.
The canon has its fashions too.

anthony savile's oup book 'the test of time' is devoted solely to assessing (from a broadly kantian point of view) the validity of the argument from the test of time. people have been thinking about the argument itself for a while, and savile's book would be a good place to start.

two empirical disagreements with claims up above, based on their contradicting my experience of 20 years teaching in the college of arts:

contra jes, it seems to me that gaskell and the brontes are very nearly as canonical as homer and shakespeare. i don't mean merely that they *should* be more often taught, studied, and pondered than richardson or smollett; i mean that, at least in the u.s., they *are*, already. to settle this properly, we'd need to meet for dueling college course catalogues at dawn, and that's more empirical effort than i'm willing to expend. but i think i'd prevail.

contra donadio's claim in the original post, i would have thought it was generally agreed that the tide of multiculti enthusiasms had reached its high water mark in the late '80s/early '90s, and receded since then leaving the landscape essentially unchanged.

as far as i can tell, homer and shakespeare and so on still get a lot of attention on college campuses. there is still a great eagerness among freshmen to read them and learn about them.

finally--one can use the test of time as a defeasible rule-of-thumb heuristic for guiding yourself to good stuff, while reserving the right to disagree about any individual work that has been sanctified by it. enduring quality is *one* reason why works can get into the canon, but not the only one. nesbit and alcott seem to me classics for all time; stuart little and the rest of e.b. white seem to have been smuggled into the 20th c. canon because white had a lot of friends in nyc publishing.

Properly understood, it’s not an irrational embrace of the traditional-for-the-traditional’s sake, but an empirical argument.

No, it's not. Saying otherwise doesn't actually change that. Unless you're simply saying that we can empirically determine whether something is (a) old, and (b) still in print. In which case, fair enough. I think there's a good case for the "conservative" approach to "the canon," but jerry-rigged empiricism isn't it.

The bottom line is that I think we should have a presumption of deep respect for books that have withstood the test of time.

This, of course, becomes self-fulfilling fairly quickly.

I think there's a good case for the "conservative" approach to "the canon," but jerry-rigged empiricism isn't it.

Of Shakespeare's contemporaries, a bit of Marlowe is sometimes read--the line about the face launching a thousand ships is well known, but the rest of his work is pretty obscure. Hardly anyone reads Fletcher, Kydd, Beaumont or Middleton. I think the reason for that is that Shakespeare was a better poet and playwright than his contemporaries. Is that mere "jerry-rigged empiricism" on my part?

rea,

I think your comment and the canon overstates the difference between the various writers of the same era. While Shakespeare was better than Marlowe, is he so much better than most college-track high school students will have read half a dozen Shakespeares in class, and no Marlowes? Is Flaubert so much better than Balzac that most will read Madame Bovary and no one Pere Goriot? (numerous other examples available).

I think the reason for that is that Shakespeare was a better poet and playwright than his contemporaries. Is that mere "jerry-rigged empiricism" on my part?

Insofar as you're saying that "better poet" is purporting to be something distinct from "read more," I think it is jerry-rigged empiricism. It doesn't make any more sense to me than claiming that KG is the best player in the NBA because he has the largest contract.

To Jes's first comment, I respond: Huh?

Samuel Richardson wrote best-selling epistolary novels in the 1740s: Pamela and Clarissa. English literature courses still teach them. Yet no one reads them for pleasure any more - they are taught because they are canon, and they became canon because Richardson is a man.

Richardson may be read and taught, but Jes' experience is completely unlike mine. Was anyone (outside of the UK, perhaps) required to read Richardson as part of any course relating to the canon? I wasn't. On the other hand ....

Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte all wrote novels which are still read for pleasure: so did Elizabeth Gaskell. If the "test of time" is the test of the English canon, these writers have passed with flying colors - yet they're not in "the canon".

The Bronte sisters were well-represented.

My sense is that whether or not the multiculturalists "won" depends entirely on what you take them to have been after. They did raise awareness of the white male-ness of the canon, as a result of which people are a lot less likely to nave no female authors -- no Austen, no George Eliot, no Dickinson, no no one -- without noticing that fact. They also made people realize that to talk about, say, "literature" when in fact you mean European and American literature is wrong, so that you should either add the qualifying adjectives or cover the whole world.

Both of these are, imho, unqualified goods. As is the fact that they provoked a lot of debate, including publius' post, about what makes a canon anyways, and whether there is one, and in what sense. Also purely good.

On the other hand, the whole 'taking Shakespeare to be a great writer is simply an artifact of the patriarchy' line of thought is pretty much dead, as far as I can see, and good riddance.

About the 'teaching modes of inquiry/approaches to knowledge' question: I can't speak to whether or not it was consistently implemented -- I taught in three Harvard core courses, one of which did a great job at this, and two of which were less successful at it, both for reasons having to do with the individual professors -- but the general idea always struck me as sound. (Not that I have any, um personal bias or anything...)

The idea was: if you try to teach all the books students should have read, you'll either end up teaching nothing else to them for maybe a decade, leaving them no electives at all, or you'll end up with, say, three works of literature, a couple of mathematics results, the odd scientific paper, some basic econ, and generally a sort of skeleton crew of the intellect. Because there's just too much that students really, really ought to read, and that will only get more true over time.

For this reason, what makes most sense (so the thinking went) is to teach them not some (pretty denuded) list of stuff, but the habits of thought that (a) are used in different crucial areas of inquiry, and (b) will enable them to read and profit from books in those areas long after they leave. The idea was not to stop studying the canonical texts -- in the courses I taught for, canonical philosophy texts were precisely what we studied -- but to study them with an eye to teaching how people in this discipline think. (Which ought to happen anyways, if you're teaching them right, just as teaching the content has to be part of teaching the mode of inquiry -- it's just a matter of which is the overarching goal.)

While Shakespeare was better than Marlowe, is he so much better than most college-track high school students will have read half a dozen Shakespeares in class, and no Marlowes?

Wait a second. How many Marlowe works of note were there that were well-known at the time? Faustus? I mean, (1) most of Marlowe was published after his death, and never really gained a wide following, and (2) Shakespeare's production was huge, well-read from the start, and of consistently high quality (some of extraordinary quality). Sure, students should read some Marlowe, but there should be a massive imbalance between their Marlowe and Shakespeare readings.

what is this "canon" thing, and why do y'all fret so over it ?

it sounds a lot like academic troll-bait, like Rolling Stones' annual 100 Best Albums Ever list, where all the amateur critics get to argue about the relative placements of Sgt Pepper and London Calling and why it's too early to include anything from the White Stripes.

Hil - i don't disagree with that last bit. i'm not opposed to all modes of inquiry analysis re literature. in fact, i'm sure it was a novel, exciting method when it was introduced. i guess my complaint (like ross's) is that grad students and some profs abuse it. everything, for instance, gets filtered through whatever individual preference/mode/identity the grad student has adopted. it becomes a crutch -- and relieves them from really learning the work.

i'm not an expert, but as i recall, yale put a lot more emphasis on the text and focusing on the language itself. to me, that's what my english classes so great. it would have different, for instance, if i was forced to read the fairie queen through the professor's chosen identity rather than the text/history/etc. (yet another reason you silly people in cambridge should drive down i-95 for schoolin')

but again, a mode/identity based analysis could be great to complement textual analysis. it just shouldn't be the whole show, imho

publius--
did you do ds as a freshman?

This is a great post, Publius.

I agree.

But, I've always believed this argument over the Canon has been yet another case of both sides of the political fence chewing an important issue to pulp for other reasons besides finding an answer.

I agree pretty much with conservatives on this, but I'd much rather have a drink with Falstaff than Henry V, who would just drag me off to a stupid war, with all the hacking and slaughtering so precious to preserving honor and the ability to flirt with French maidens. Not that there is anything wrong with French maidens, but I draw the line at the hacking.

It also gives me no end of enjoyment to watch the culture of capitalism foment change and declare books and films "instant classics", and furniture and cars and baseball cards produced yesterday "antiques" and "collectables", and then to observe some on the Right run around in fits of horror when, say, Toni Morrison shows up on the core reading list.

We can read the Canon, whether or not it includes recent additions or previously obscure but important works as Jes suggests.

If a person doesn't like it, do what I did. Skip class and read all of the other stuff. You know, while you're hunting down Falstaff in the local bars.

One other point: Reading "Moby Dick" without reading the Bible seems like painting a wall without applying primer to the rough bits. On the other hand, who would want to hang out with the boring conservatives surrounding Madame Bovary. Off to the meadow, Emma, I can imagine myself suggesting. We can die a horrible death later.

Stephen Daedalus, Leopold Bloom, and Molly Bloom without Homer and Dante? Just a lot of desultory wandering through town ending in 100 pages or so of masturbatory yadda-yadda. Sublime. nevertheless, but shouldn't someone be funding their 401K?

It's fun too to imagine Jack Kerouac and Dean Moriarity showing up at Jane Austen's place or maybe knocking on Emily Dickenson's door with her peeking through the curtain in an upstairs window. Or, to think about how Kerouac might have handled Penelope's suitors on his return to New Jersey from the wine-dark sea.

Well, he'd probably head back to the Coast with Dean at the helm.

The Canon is the one thing that seeped through Proust's cork-lined room.

Of course, if Humbert Humbert instead of Dante in his dark wood had beheld Beatrice, we'd have had a whole different Inferno.

burnin, burnin,
disco inferno!

On the other hand, the whole 'taking Shakespeare to be a great writer is simply an artifact of the patriarchy' line of thought is pretty much dead, as far as I can see, and good riddance.

I took the claim to be slightly different. To wit, I understood them to be saying that if someone's works are included in the definition of what it means to write well, it will be impossible to evaluate in any meaningful sense the works of that writer, and it will be hard for someone who does not reflect that sensibility to make into the category of "writes well." I think the decrease in Dead White Male bashing is a function of the success in getting others into the "worth reading" category.

I loved Shakespeare in school (I know, weird) and proceeded to go through a phase where I read all of Shakespeare, all of Marlowe (appealed mostly to the gentry), and all of Jonson (appealed mostly to the plebians). Marlowe's Faustus was most interesting in comparison to Goethe's Faust. But...let's note, I read most of that for pleasure. (I believe I was required to read one Ben Jonson and 4 Shakespeare plays during my high school career; the Jonson in the English class I took in Germany.)

I loved all of them and would never have been exposed to most of them if it weren't for school. Shakespeare some, perhaps (my parents are academics so I got some of that earlier than most); but I only knew about Marlowe through a discussion of Shakespeare's contemporaries...and a footnote in the copy of Faust I read in German class. Jonson is more fun and easier to read for many than Shakespeare but most people have never heard of him.

All of which is to say that the advantage of being exposed to stuff like that in school is that at least you see things like that and occasionally something catches someone's interest. I hated a lot of what I had to read in school (Couldn't get into Salinger or Morrison, hated the Heart is a Lonely Hunter), but it exposed me to many books I would not otherwise have read which meant that I get cultural references I wouldn't otherwise get.

For this reason, I also understand why Bible as Literature courses might be useful for those who aren't going to be exposed to it any other way.

Having said that, literature courses should by all means include a mixture of old and new works from all cultures. Let's expose everyone to as many viewpoints and types of writing and cultures as possible before they stop reading. Who knows, one of the books might even hook them the way Shakespeare hooked me.

volpone cannot be improved upon.

von,

"How many Marlowe works of note were there that were well-known at the time? Faustus? I mean, (1) most of Marlowe was published after his death, and never really gained a wide following, and (2) Shakespeare's production was huge, well-read from the start, and of consistently high quality (some of extraordinary quality)."

Other than the quality of Shakespeare's writing, why is any of that relevant in deciding which books students should read hundreds of years later?

kb - no, i didnt apply, but i would if i had it to do over again.

thullen makes a key point that i should have made. it's one that bloom makes too. it's that the canon provides the foundation for much if not all of subsequent literature. moby dick is a good example. hell, even bridget jones is a play on pride and prejudice. and the bible too is key, in a strictly literature respect

Eleana -- i think Ballad of the Sad Cafe is good mccullers. as for morrison, i've only read beloved, which was really good. but i'm not informed enough to speak of her more generally

kid: contra jes, it seems to me that gaskell and the brontes are very nearly as canonical as homer and shakespeare. i don't mean merely that they *should* be more often taught, studied, and pondered than richardson or smollett; i mean that, at least in the u.s., they *are*, already. to settle this properly, we'd need to meet for dueling college course catalogues at dawn, and that's more empirical effort than i'm willing to expend. but i think i'd prevail.

Totally happy to concede that you know more about EngLit college courses in the US than I do! ;-) My knowledge of EngLit course material is second-hand and definitely Brit-only.

the canon provides the foundation for much if not all of subsequent literature

then it includes Tolkien, Spillane, Heinlein, and Bradbury ?

it's that the canon provides the foundation for much if not all of subsequent literature.

Right, which I think is part of the good argument for the conservative approach to the canon: you have to take the world as you find it, and people up the chain say you need to know this. But that is also what motivated the canon wars. As long as no one challenges either the gatekeepers or that which the gatekeepers let in, we are likely to have a self-replicating canon and canon constabulary. It's the same argument, basically, as (rightly) claims the need for "Women in Science" outreach programs.

We've been having a lively discussion on this story as well--not surprising since the 4 of us are all Lit teachers of some form or another.

I tend to think of "the canon" as a very artificial construct, as artificial as the reading lists I concoct for my classes every term. In my poetry survey classes, we read a lot of dead white men, but they tend to take more of a back seat as we get into the latter half of the 20th century, because I have more options. The same goes for my drama survey classes. The point is that someone is always getting pushed aside, someone, as the poet Miller Williams put it in "A Note to the English Poets of the Seventeenth Century":

Someone in every century has to stand there
saying, No, I'm sorry, I'm sorry,
I'm sorry.
You've gone as far as you can go.

At least until they're resurrected by some doctoral student looking for someone to write a dissertation on, that is.

There is a lot of Homer in Tolkien. I suppose Dickens could be the predecessor or Spillane. I can't think of the name of the guy who wrote Gulliver's Travels. (Aphasia attack!) Oh, that's right, Jonathan Swift! Is he part of the canon? He could be considered a forerunner of sci fi, I suppose.

Does Barbara Tuchman make it into the canon yet? Surely 'The Guns of August' and 'The March of Folly' belong on everybody's reading lists...

I'm partial to Dryden's A Song For St. Cecilia's Day, which opens:


From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony
This universal frame began.
When Nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
Arise ye more than dead.
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
In order to their stations leap,
And music's pow'r obey.
From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in man.

I'd say Swift is part of the canon, for "A Modest Proposal" if nothing else. But I'd like to address the whole "canon as the foundation for other literature" issue, because while it's true, it's not the whole story. One can get a lot out of Moby Dick, for instance, without knowing the Bible--not as much, probably, but Moby Dick stands on its own, which is what makes it such a phenomenal book, not what it references. There are plenty of books which are made better by knowing what they reference, but which don't stand up on their own, and they're not part of the canon. It's the idea that a piece is strong enough to stand alone that makes it worthy of inclusion, in my opinion.

Clarissa rocks. I read it for pleasure a couple of years ago; I found myself reading it late into the night, even though those bastard canon-lovers had spoiled the ending for me. Sexy and scary and wierd.

I think an unspoken subtext of many of these conversations is the idea that there is great value to a critical mass of people having read the same stuff. Regardless of what that stuff is.

At least, when I get into discussions, people often seem to justify "You should read Shakespeare" with "because so much else on our culture is based on it." They fall back on that after you argue "Well, who is to say Shakespeare is better than Marlowe?"

The sloppy version is "You should read X so you can get all of the cultural in-jokes." The more sophisticated argument is "It is valuable for people within a society to have shared cultural literacy."

I get very impatient indeed with people who pretend this is an argument over quality of writing, when in fact for many of them it boils down to an argument that the society can't hold together if everybody hasn't read the same authors.

(N.b. I am not accusing anyone here of making that argument -- haven't read the thread closely enough to be sure.)

See, I'm glad rea posted that Dryden at 7:57. I learned so much more from that about life under the Bush adminstrationthan I could have anywhere else. Aside from the fact that I actually do live there and Dryden didn't, that is. Which I think is one of the problems with "canonization."

Also, I think Jes's two links above, which appear to have been posted for the sole purpose of denigrating Gary Farber, violate at least the spirit of the posting rules, are childish in classic "I'm not touching you" style, and their content shows that there is at least one Briton who doesn't do irony either.

I think an unspoken subtext of many of these conversations is the idea that there is great value to a critical mass of people having read the same stuff. Regardless of what that stuff is.

At least, when I get into discussions, people often seem to justify "You should read Shakespeare" with "because so much else on our culture is based on it." They fall back on that after you argue "Well, who is to say Shakespeare is better than Marlowe?"

The sloppy version is "You should read X so you can get all of the cultural in-jokes." The more sophisticated argument is "It is valuable for people within a society to have shared cultural literacy."

I get very impatient indeed with people who pretend this is an argument over quality of writing, when in fact for many of them it boils down to an argument that the society can't hold together if everybody hasn't read the same authors.

Hm, but that just pushes the argument off, because the natural question arises...why these authors, and not others?

Hm, but that just pushes the argument off, because the natural question arises...why these authors, and not others?

Initial conditions.

Good to see that this discussion has pulled jackmormon into the fray as well.

I don't see the canon as being in any real danger on the modern university campus. No one on this list has named a single (traditionally) canonical work which is not currently being taught at some level within the handful of colleges with which I have been associated, so it is not as if any of these works are "endangered." Instead, these complaints always seem to center upon the core class syllabuses and the presence of a Woolf or Morrison text, which makes me think that part of the fear here is not that universities are forgetting the canon, but that universities -- and here they usually mean English departments, or the College of Arts and Humanities -- are lending institutional authority to these authors and their perceived politics.

I can say, however, that when I sit down to create a syllabus for a survey course in English Lit I am more concerned with choosing works from differing historical contexts that complement each other than I am about the vagaries of an author's historical popularity. If it's a general survey of English-language poetry, then I need to choose works from a 1200 year span that represent the major trends and themes and illuminate the drift of culture across that span of time. If it's a general survey of English-language novels, then I have (for the most part) a 200 year span to cover and time to teach only five to eight works. In either case I have to balance historical, stylistic, and thematic concerns in order to pick a very limited number of texts that work well together and can be put in dialogue with each other. I gain extra dividends for the class dynamic if a couple of these works are more accessible or if one of them has the frisson of controversy or if one has strong parallels with current events, because that makes it more likely that my students will engage with that work and, by extension, the other works with which it has been placed in dialogue.

My job (as laid out in the catalog description for these courses) is to help students learn to read (in the more general sense of the word) and to express themselves more critically, not to train their aesthetic sensibilities.

I choose contemporary books and/or books on the margins of the canon because including these books deepens the class dialogue in ways that secondary material about the canonical works does not accomplish as effectively.

I'd be happy to teach the canon. I'd love to have the luxury of enough required Humanities classes to do so. I'm not going to be given that luxury.

And I haven't even begun to get into the controversies that would arise over how any of these works should best be taught to students.

Testing the span sentries.

Incertus (Brian):

Well, yes, "Moby Dick" does stand alone. We don't need to read musty manuals on converting whale blubber into candlewax or about advanced harpooning techniques, either. On the other hand, "Call me Ismael" means something completely different from "Call me Ish Kabibble".

What it means, exactly, is where the fun begins. For example, what does "incertus" mean? Does it mean "Brian" or is something else lurking there? ;)

Who does "Slarbartifast" think he is? I didn't know.

I don't mean in a literal, footnoted way either. It's more vague than that, something in the cadence of Melville's language. I think "Moby Dick" should be read before Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" too, for the same reason.

I read "Moby Dick" a long time ago. I refuse to read it again until I read more of the Bible, which come to think of it, I'd better hurry and do. Yes, it's a little like insisting on eating all of your potatoes before touching your meat.

Call me Neurotic.

Then again, I hate the number of words wasted in pasring the following question: "Gregor Samsa: Cockroach or Dung Beetle?"

Speaking of beetles, I always liked John Lennon's attitude toward the lyrics of "I Am The Walrus": that should keep the bloody fans busy for awhile.

May I say, too, that my blogging canon is severely diminished by Jackmormon's absence.

I guess "Slarbartifast" thinks he is Slartibartfast.

But who is Ish Kabibble?

Other than the quality of Shakespeare's writing, why is any of that relevant in deciding which books students should read hundreds of years later?

DtM - because, as Publius points out, what's "in" the canon -- and thus forms the common culture -- depends a great deal on what has been read for a very long time and "stood the test of time." Quality is one factor, but not the only one.

Paul Bowles is a better writer than 99% of his contemporaries, but very few people read him. He is not in the new modernist canon. But they'll read Camus (who's just as good) or Kerouac (who's not) because they are in the canon.

Hmm. If we're going to look at other female additions to the canonical stuff, what about Colette and Murasaki Shikibu (the author of The Tale of Genji.) There's also Aphra Behn who should get mentioned. And what about Christian de Pisan?

(Actually, as a very omnivorous reader, I read everything. Am trying to get my hands on a copy of Shamela.)

nous: "that part of the fear here is not that universities are forgetting the canon, but that universities -- and here they usually mean English departments, or the College of Arts and Humanities -- are lending institutional authority to these authors and their perceived politics"

I think an important part of the the claim is that e.g. Morrison is on the list _because_ of her politics. I at least would rather teach _Jane Eyre_ and _Wide Sargasso Sea_, and I think Elizabeth Bishop would be an even better choice.

Actually, some books I'd like to suggest for those who like a) reference hunting b) mischievous writers c) great spoofs:

1) A Perfect Vacuum by Stanislaw Lem. A collection of essays about books which have never been written. Some of his satires work better than others--but what he does to Joyce is unparalleled.

2) Silverlock by John Myers Myers (there's also a sequel which IMHO is even better.) A thumpingly picaresque fantasy through most of Western literature.

3) Any of the Tuesday Next stories by Jasper Fforde. Imagine a world where the Crimean War never ended, detectives can walk into books, dodos and Tasmanian devils have been recreated through genetic engineering...the Minotaur is running around trying to kill our heroine with fatal gags...and where Lady Hamilton and Hamlet can sit down together for tea.

I have advanced degrees in English and teach literature at a university, and I've got to agree with "cleet" way up top who said that this sounds like trollbait for the academic set. It really is. The dirty little secret of the "canon wars" is that while Toni Morrison and Tim O'Brien and being taught more, English MAJORS at least are still leaving college with a full serving of Dryden, Pope, Milton, Spenser, and so on in their bellies. The canon expanded beyond the Greeks and Romans to absorb English writers in the first place (See Jonathan Swift's "Battle of the Books" -- the 18th C. satire of the canon wars) and will now expand to include American writers as well.

I think it's very telling that wherever I go online looking for commentary on this subject, people choose a different name (Austen, Morrison...) to say, "well now THIS person clearly belongs in the canon, but the REST of 'em..." It's funny. The writers we personally love we lobby for unflinchingly. The ones we don't -- or more likely, haven't read YET ;-) -- we are more willing to dismiss.

The real story is the canon's getting longer, and no 4-year-degree can hope to sum it all up. Literary education is a lifelong adventure -- and I for one am glad it is.

rilkefan- I have no problem with teaching any of those (and a colleague of mine just finished teaching both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea in her survey class). As to whether or not I teach those in place of Morrison...it depends on the class and how those would fit with the other texts on the syllabus. I might choose Beloved over Wide Sargasso Sea if I had, for instance, chosen Villette over Jane Eyre, in part because I wanted to assign a comparison paper based around the literary function of ghosts within a narrative.

"Was anyone (outside of the UK, perhaps) required to read Richardson as part of any course relating to the canon? I wasn't."

I never heard of Pamela and Clarissa, save for my once-sweetie urging it on me (unsuccessfully), because she loved it. She loved Trollope, as well. And a whole lot of more obscure British 19th century writers.

The idea that American high schools have generally taught Pamela and Clarissa seems entirely unwarranted, though I imagine some AP classes might have dealt with it, perhaps.

Sheesh. Pamela and Clarissa. I wasn't trying to suggest that they were one novel. Sorry for the error in formatting.

John Thullen,

"But who is Ish Kabibble?"

I will be. I've got the right hair for it. Similar appreciation of silly music, too, although I am less successful making it.

"See Why I Don't Respond To Gary Farber, also The Power of the Cut Direct."

"I terminated the argument by telling him I was never going to respond to his comments again, and I never have."

Sure. Everyone has noticed the truth of this.

The easiest answer is: whatever.

The fact is that we have a lot of common views, and I often agree with you, and I'm inclined to imagine that at least at time from to time you agree with me.

A lot of the other time, our discursive styles annoy each other. It's not uncommon, life goes on. However you want to deal with it isn't exactly a major factor in my life, and I'm sure it isn't in yours.

But if you were speaking the truth, you'd say something closer to "I really don't like engaging in argument with Gary, and rarely do, and try to avoid it as much as possible," rather than claiming the untruth that you "never have" responded to me again, which is, well, a pointless lie, apparently of pride.

But, whatever. Deal with me neutrally, or not, as you wish. It's hardly as if your general lack of response to me makes my life harder. I wish you well, nonetheless.

And I really do agree with you much of the time.

von,

As pointed out above, most notably by Phil, this creates a circular canon, where books are in it because they always have been, and out of it because they always have been, in spite of their merits.

Further, if popularity at the time of publication is a component of whether one should be in the canon, as you argued above and I objected to ("(1) most of Marlowe was published after his death, and never really gained a wide following, and (2) Shakespeare's production was huge, well-read from the start"), should one expect Jackie Collins to be considered for inclusion in the canon when late 20th century Americans are added to it?

Thullen, Moby-Dick is flat-out rad. The first time I read it, I ended up staying in the bathtub for over three hours because I was so happy reading that book there.

It was one of those weird two-and-a-half-foot-long French bathtubs: not terribly comfortable, but better for sitting upright and reading about whaleboats in, I suppose.

My grandfather had a copy of Moby-Dick that has become family legend. At the top of every chapter, he scribbled "YES" or "NO," indicating his opinion of the usefulness and virtue of the chapter to the story and knowledge in general. The famousest chapter evah, "On The Whiteness of the Whale," gets an exclamation point: "NO!!"

It's all great. Christ, I love that book.

There isn't going to be an endlessly circular canon because English grad students have to write their theses on something, and revisiting the same ground that every great scholar ever has trodden into mud is enough to drive a person mad. What does seem to be endlessly circular are the conversations between professional literary scholars and drive-by culture warriors.

Ot to take my last comment a little less flippantly, does anyone here believe James Michener belongs in the canon? He certainly expressed his view that he was writing literature for the ages, and felt slighted that he was never seriously considered for a Nobel Prize in Literature.

To me, greatness is simply a function of appeal over time. If a book continues to appeal to generation after generation, then there’s probably some objective value lurking somewhere in the work.

The problem with this argument is that much of what we call the canon didn't stand the test of time. If you'd listed Donne instead of Dryden in your example above, no one would've batted an eye, since their comparably canonical; however, were it not for Eliot's championing of Donne in 1920, Dryden's predecessor wouldn't be in the canon. Were it not for Carl Van Doren, Moby Dick would likely be as obscure now as it was sixty years after its publication.

My point here is that certain works which seem inarguably ensconced in the canon were, in fact, the product of the same advocacy conservatives bemoan.

Dantheman--
you know that hacking sound cats make when they're dealing with a hairball? That's what Michener makes me think of.

tzs--
props to you for the Silverlock reference. I think it's a pity
[ Myers]{2}'s books haven't stayed in continuous print--the Harp and the Blade is also a delight.

I agree with Jackmormon about Moby Dick. My copy has greasy fingerprints on a number of pages because I was unwilling to put it down while eating some new york-style pizza, even though it was one of the chapters on whale-hunting. I felt the same way about War and Peace too (although I read it over pizza from a different place).

"What does seem to be endlessly circular are the conversations between professional literary scholars and drive-by culture warriors."

It's the same out here in the genres.

I attended a liberal arts college that had a required year-long freshman humanities class. The first semester was all Greek, the second half Roman and half early Medieval (when I took it).

I was a Hellenist, so I would have been grumpy in hindsight if any of the Greek had been elided, and was relatively indifferent to the Roman stuff (although it's certainly true that Homer echoes beautifully through the Aeneid, and you can see Herodotus and Thucydides in Livy and Tacitus, and there's some fun bile in Cicero etc.etc.). But the thing is, my adviser once mentioned to me he had just been to a rather vigorous (I suspect acrimonious) faculty meeting in which the content of the second semester was debated. It was a real tug of war every year as to what the contents and structure would be. My impression was that it seesawed every year back and forth, a bit more of the Romans this year, a week more to read the Bible or Chretien de Troyes the next. It struck me just how much canon there was altogether if you put together everybody's viewpoints.

Although I am sure my world will be no poorer never reading Chretien again. I sort of think of him as the Terry Brooks of the Middle Ages.

re SEK's comment,
the same is true of Bach. He was considered lesser than his sons for many years and left relatively obscure, until Mendelssohn championed him, IIRC.

"I sort of think of him as the Terry Brooks of the Middle Ages."

I couldn't get away with this back when I was, you know, working, but since I'm not: that means purge him.

OT - Any chance those of you with Kos accounts could log in and recommend this diary? If so, I would appreciate it (not my diary).

Publius: read Song of Solomon.

Nous' comment up above needs more attention. It's one thing to talk in the abstract about what authors and works deserve recognition of some sort for continuing influence on some part of our society. (Defining "our" is a separate question and an important one at that. I'm just noting here that I'm glossing over it.) It's another to talk about how classes actually work.

I think I see something of a trend over the decades I've been noticing curricula toward fewer exceprts and more complete works. It used to be that a lot of the introductory and survey syllabi I perused would have for each week a whole bunch of snippets of this and that and the other. A few poems, maybe a chapter or two from this novel and from that, to be strung together with suitable commentary. Now the same kind of course seems at least a bit more likely to use all of a novel or play or other long work flanked by a few excerpts from other pieces.

Is that postmodern, counter-cultural, subversive, or something? It could just be a fad in pedagogy. It could, for that matter, not be a trend that exists outside my head. But the kind of decision involved in making such a selection is definitely real, and one that will affect all kinds of other choices in the class.

The class' scope is important, too. "Western Civilization" sort of begs the question, and the moment you get any narrower focus, you're going to end up naturally excluding some material and then having boundary issues with a bunch of what remains. Whether it's literature of a region over a period of time, or of a period of time across wide-ranging space, or about a recurring theme, or whatever...if you try to illuminate the actual subject well, that's necessarily going to mean giving attention to works that may or may not meet anyone's criteria for greatness in some other context. Some canon-championing seems to me to assume as a given that no smaller unit is as innately worthly as the whole, and I don't think that's a self-evident principle. (I agree with it in some ways but not in others.)

How far should any unit of course study be considered deserving in its own right, and how far should it be framed with some attention to contemporary relevance? That's a loaded question for anyone who takes it seriously, and it strongly influences the selection of material too. Furthermore, is it more important for the study of literature to emphasize the works that have loomed largest in making our world what it is today, or the ones that embody what various groups would describe as their highest aspirations, whether or not they've ever come close to fulfilling them? And do we have an obligation to be consistent in answering that question for different groups?

Part of the reason canon struggles interest me less in recent years is, honestly, that I'm less sure what I want a canon for, or what anyone should want it for, and until I see some sign that others are thinking about the purpose of the whole exercise in practical terms - what then shall we teach, and how? - I'm less interested in their daydreams about it.

Oh, I agree with everyone who digs Moby Dick. What a weird, intense, cool, totally engrossing ride it is. Wow.

My point here is that certain works which seem inarguably ensconced in the canon were, in fact, the product of the same advocacy conservatives bemoan.

That feels like the best point in this thread, by a long shot. Or maybe just the point at which all of the responses should have started. Anyway, nice point.

Phil, since Gary seemed to want to pick a fight, I linked to my journal so that he could go pick his fight there. I'd rather he discussed his opinion of me somewhere else than this thread, honestly.

Jackmormon: Thullen, Moby-Dick is flat-out rad.

Word. I started reading the mom's copy in a house where I was babysitting, after her 5-year-old daughter had finally gone to sleep, and I was still reading it when the mom came home. She saw I didn't want to stop, and made me take her copy home with her so I could read it on the bus: a generosity to be remembered.

Dantheman: Ot to take my last comment a little less flippantly, does anyone here believe James Michener belongs in the canon?

I really like his novel The Novel, which was the first of his novels I ever read. However, when I tried to read his other novels, I was unable to get further than the first chapter.

(And I'm someone who normally reads books on the "I've started so I'll finish" basis: I even finished Crime and Punishment, though admittedly I was reading it on a transAtlantic flight and my choice was between finishing C&P and mugging the passenger in the next seat for her Jackie Collins. It was a tough call, even though I'd normally rather watch a whole episode of Little House on the Prairie than read Jackie Collins. But I read C&P, and now I never have to do that again.)

SEK: My point here is that certain works which seem inarguably ensconced in the canon were, in fact, the product of the same advocacy conservatives bemoan.

Word. Word word word.

Jes,

"Dantheman: Ot to take my last comment a little less flippantly, does anyone here believe James Michener belongs in the canon?

I really like his novel The Novel, which was the first of his novels I ever read. However, when I tried to read his other novels, I was unable to get further than the first chapter."

Giving Michener a little respect, his first chapters typically involve pre-historic animals and his novels get somewhat better once the world becomes populated by humans.

Dantheman: Giving Michener a little respect, his first chapters typically involve pre-historic animals and his novels get somewhat better once the world becomes populated by humans.

Okay. Next time I pick one up, I may try to struggle on to the third chapter. But I suspect it'll help to be on a plane... and my neighbor not to be reading Jane Austen.

"My point here is that certain works which seem inarguably ensconced in the canon were, in fact, the product of the same advocacy conservatives bemoan."

Some critic saying, "Hey, [genius] So-and-so is actually really cool, and here's why", and people nodding their heads, and still caring long after, simply isn't comparable to [middling talent] So-and-so being assigned because he's contemporary and has the right politics.

Jes,

"Next time I pick one up, I may try to struggle on to the third chapter."

Your call. Although I have read 5 Michener novels cover to cover (Centennial, The Covenant, The Source, The Drifters and Alaska), I haven't read one of his in over 10 years, and have found far better things to read, even if one is searching for trashy page-turners to read when my kids are quiet on an airplane.

I even finished Crime and Punishment

Hey, since when is Crime and Punishment an exemplar of a book to be struggled through? That was assigned summer reading for my dorm as a freshman, and I ate it up. It was literally a life-changing book for me -- I was so enamored of it that I took Russian as my language requirement, which led to a second major in Russian Literature, and then eight years in a Ph.D. program in Slavic linguistics. Without that book, I probably would've just grabbed a programming job in Silicon Valley right after college, a few years before the Internet boom, and now I'd be a multimillionaire tech god with a mansion in the Woodside foothills instead of an anonymous programmer in a two-bit software company in Nowhere, CT.

G*dd*mn book ruined my life.

Some critic saying, "Hey, [genius] So-and-so is actually really cool, and here's why", and people nodding their heads, and still caring long after, simply isn't comparable to [middling talent] So-and-so being assigned because he's contemporary and has the right politics.

Why?

And be aware that some of the contemporary people are being pushed by critics as well, presumably using some of the same tools that got the former into the canon.

rilkefan- please say more about what you mean here by talent and how this quality fits into the overall structure of the content taught in a humanities classroom. What is the role of the instructor with regards to the student's understanding of literary talent?

Some critic saying, "Hey, [genius] So-and-so is actually really cool, and here's why", and people nodding their heads, and still caring long after, simply isn't comparable to [middling talent] So-and-so being assigned because he's contemporary and has the right politics.

Can you provide me of an example of someone doing that?

Also, some authors of middling talent produce one work of utter genius, so talking about authors as canonical is somewhat beside the point. I'm thinking, for example, of someone like Sherwood Anderson, a hugely influential figure whose Winesburg, Ohio ought to be read by every student of American literature ... and that should be the only Anderson book they read. So Anderson's "in" the canon, but not in the way Shakespeare's "in" the canon.

speaking of Crime and Punishment....

I should expand on why I asked for an example: most of the time when I see this claim forwarded, it relates to someone teaching contemporary Caribbean literature. I don't know why -- the bright colors? is there something inherently unserious about mangos? -- but for them, the most middling of the middling talents come from the Caribbean. Worse, from this perspective, is the work of Caribbean women, who write novels in which all people do is cut and consume mangos in a highly symbolic way. Worse still, there are the Caribbean lesbians, who cut and consume mangos in an even more highly symbolic way, since they define themselves by the bananas they don't cut and consume. The very worst, however, are the scifi Caribbean lesbians, who cut and consume highly symbolic mangos in a future in which there are no more bananas.

Such are the postcolonial-feminist-queer-scifi novels whose existence rattles the calm of canon defenders.

Agh, stop!

Jack:

You paint a picture.

I like the "idea" of reading in the tub, but never manage it. I've read while driving, and once read half a novel during a movie in the theatre.

I can't watch "Jaws" in the tub, either, but that's a fish of a different color.

Michener:

He doesn't even make my Miniseries Canon. The only cannon he might make is the one is should to be shot out of.

I once got Stephen Daedalus fingerprints all over a four-cheese pizza.

Ot to take my last comment a little less flippantly, does anyone here believe James Michener belongs in the canon? He certainly expressed his view that he was writing literature for the ages, and felt slighted that he was never seriously considered for a Nobel Prize in Literature.

I've read Space, and I anti-recommend it. It was awful. Hopefully his other works are better; I'd like to get some sense that that's true before investing any time in one.

I wasn't advancing the updates-of-the-canon-are-pc argument, just noting that the claims are not equivalent. Assuming there is such a thing as quality, works showing it ought to be in the canon, not works which are recommended by their politics. For a supposed list of the latter, see the conservative critics. For a non-political view I find sensible, see the above post.

I don't know for example if we read Adrienne Rich in my intro poetry course instead of say May Swenson because of politics, but it's possible. If one wants to include something contemporary on a reading list, it's probably even sensible to intentionally avoid works that appeal to one's ideology.

Someone - I don't recall who - once described reading a Michener novel as being like chewing one's way through a warehouse full of Rice Krispies. I'd say that's not a bad comparison.

(I've read, and after a fashion enjoyed, four or five Michener novels, but not in many years.)

Just got an email from Amazon:

"As someone who has purchased or rated books by Harold Bloom, you might like to know that Bloom's Classic Critical Views: Ralph Waldo Emerson (Bloom's Classic Critical Views) will be released on September 30, 2007."

But a book's, (and, more generally, any work of art's) politics often contribute to its quality.

I liked Clavell's _Shogun_ back in the early '80s - how does that compare to Michener?

"But a book's, (and, more generally, any work of art's) politics often contribute to its quality."

Well, but I read Eliot and Yeats and Kipling and ... despite, not because of, their politics.

rilkefan,

"I liked Clavell's _Shogun_ back in the early '80s - how does that compare to Michener?"

It's a fair comparison. Do you think anyone will consider Clavell part of the canon around 2100?

As for Michener, I recall a postal Diplomacy game over 25 years ago, where each month there was a piece vaguely related to the status of the game in the style of a different writer (I can still recite large portions of the Dr. Seuss one).

The Michener one had the Italian Ambassador visiting the Turkish Foreign Minister, and took up two whole single-spaced pages describing the doorknob of the office and launching into various tangents, while the editor shouted "OPEN THE DAMNED DOOR ALREADY!".

As pointed out above, most notably by Phil, this creates a circular canon, where books are in it because they always have been, and out of it because they always have been, in spite of their merits.

Further, if popularity at the time of publication is a component of whether one should be in the canon, as you argued above and I objected to ("(1) most of Marlowe was published after his death, and never really gained a wide following, and (2) Shakespeare's production was huge, well-read from the start"), should one expect Jackie Collins to be considered for inclusion in the canon when late 20th century Americans are added to it?

DtM, you're separately focusing on the various elements of a canonical work without allowing that those elements make a whole. Or, put another way -- albeit as a cliche -- you're missing the forest for the trees.

A work is part of the canon because it has influenced the culture. Influence can in part be measure by quality and tenure (crap doesn't last). But quality and tenure are was of measuring influence, not checkboxes for a canonical work.

As I understand it, Publius's point is that you don't really know whether a book has cultural influence until some time has passed and you can get some perspective on it. By this standard, Collins is not (yet) canonical: there's no evidence of her sustaining influence. Nor is Marlowe: he wasn't popular at the time and never gained popularity later and thus, despite his merit, never had much influence. Shakespear, on the other hand, has been enormously influential for 400 years.

By basing the canon on influence rather than merit, we can start to avoid the problem Amy identified: namely, all my favorite authors are in the canon because they're my favorite authors. That doesn't mean that the canon is free from controversy, or that one should only read canonical works. All it says is: These works have been around, they've had a lot of influence, and in order to "get" a lot of the culture and cultural references, you're going to have to be familiar with them.

So, let's apply this to another book I thought was simmply fantastic: Gordimer's "July's People". It certainly was popular & well-regarded in its day (Gordimer won a Nobel in significant part on its merits). But will it be canonical? Probably not. It doesn't have much resonance outside of its time and place, and that time and place is fading from the global memory (in part because of the successes of SA's truth and reconciliation comte.). It also, with retrospect, looks weirdly out of place and pseudo-racist. It's been Huck Finn'd, but without the defense of, "well, that was 100 years ago." (Although, of course, South Africa in the early 1980s may very well have been 100 years ago in a certain sense -- that's the problem.) So, no, Gordimer, great writer that she is, probably won't get in the canon because her works won't have influence. She is consigned to be examined as a relice of a particular place and time. (Not that she would complain, given how it all turned out.)


Rupert Birkin eats and sumptuously describes the eating of a fig in Lawrence's "Women in Love".

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