22 December 2010

Literary Canon

For the final in my English class, my professor assigned a literature canon for a group project.  To summarize: our group needed to define the term "literature,"interview a couple people on their personal definitions and a few recommendations, then create a canon that all English majors should read during their stint in college.

I have a much more liberal and, I feel, inclusive view of literature.  Although I have the utmost respect for those eternal authors and works attributed to the founding of the study known as "English," I feel the current repertoire for English students offers little in the way of other categories, such as Young Adult, Children's, Graphic Novels, etc.  This concept led to a lively (and somewhat annoying) debate during our presentation, especially since my professor has not (and will not) read Harry Potter and must argue against its presence on the Canon.  Ah well, to each his own.

Before I present the list in question, I must clarify that I haven't read most of these works and at least half of the works must be UNread by the entire group.  We are basing this off of research, recommendations and required readings from past English classes, and personal choice.  They are organized by categories and I am aware that most of the titles belong in multiple categories; however, the list would be redundant.

Here is the Canon for your perusal--

1000 B.C. to 100 A.D.  (World Literature)
Fables by Aesop (Moral Tales 6th Century B.C.)-- read
Oedipus Rex and Antigone by Sophocles (Greek Tragedy Plays 5th Century B.C.)
The Dialogues by Plato (Philosophy 4th Century B.C.)
Poetics and Ethics by Aristotle (Philosophy 4th Century B.C.)
Aeneid by Virgil (Epic 1st Century B.C.)
Metamorphoses by Ovid (Mythology 1st Century B.C.)
Lysistrata by Aristophones, play, 411 BC—read
The Illiad & The Odyssey by Homer, epic poem, 1194-1184 BC
Dante’s Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, poem, 1555
The Bible by Various Authors, religious text, around 500 bc—read
Greek Myths (author unknown), folklore, 800-900 bc—read
Medea by Euripides, play, 431 b.c. – read

From 100 AD – 1200 AD
Beowulf by Anonymous, epic poem, 8th to 11th century— (a little)
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, fantasy, 1950-1956
Confessions and The City of God by St. Augustine (Theology 4th Century A.D.) 

From 1200-1500 A.D.
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, frame tale, 14th century—read
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by the “Pearl Poet,” Middle English alliterative romance, 14th century
The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (Allegorical Tales 1353) 

From 1500-1700 A.D.
Utopia by St. Thomas Moore (Theology 1516)
Paradise Lost by John Milton (Epic Poem 1667)
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (Theology 1678)
Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes, satire, 1615

From 1700-1900
Grimm’s Fairytales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Folklore/ Fairytale, 1812
Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairytales by Hans Christian Andersen, Children’s Lit, 1835-1861—read
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, adventure, 1844-1846
Candide by Voltaire (Philosophy 1752)
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Novel 1857)
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (Novel 1862)
War and Peace by Victor Hugo (Novel 1865)
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Novel 1866)
The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, adventure, 1844

From 1900- present
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, children’s lit, 1943
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, fantasy, 1937
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, fantasy, 1954
O Pioneers by Willa Cather (Novel 1913)
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (Novel 1925)
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (Novel 1939)
The Stranger by Albert Camus (Novel 1942)
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov (Novel 1957) 

Women’s Literature
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, novel of manners/ satire, 1813—read
Persuasion by Jane Austen, romance, 1818—read
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, drama, 1868
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (Novel 1847)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Novel 1847)-- read

British Literature
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, morality tale/ fairytale, Dec. 19, 1843
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by W.J. Craig (and Shakespeare), playwright/ anthology, 1914 (and 16th century)—read
**Animal Farm by George Orwell, Dystopian/ political fiction/ social science fiction, June 8, 1949—read
The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland/ Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, fantasy, 1865-1871
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, detective fiction/ mystery, Oct. 14, 1892
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, novel, 1859—read
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (Novel 1847)
Collected Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson (Poetry Mid 19th Century)
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (Novel 1855)
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (Novel 1873)
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (Novel 1874
War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (Novel 1898)
1984 by George Orwell (Novel 1949)-- read
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift, adventure/fantasy, 1726
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, adventure/ young adult, 1883

American Literature
Collected Works of Edgar Allen Poe, poetry/ horror, 19th century—read
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, realistic fiction/ children’s lit, 1882
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, satirical novel, 1885—read
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, folk/ satire/ children’s, 1876
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Novel 1850)-- read
Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Novel 1850)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, fiction novel, 1852
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, war novel, 1895
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, fictional autobiography,1719

Collected Works of Robert Browning (Poetry Mid 19th Century)
Collected Works by Molière (Comedic Plays 17th Century)
The Poems of Robert Frost, poetry, 1894 to 1960’s-- read 
Collected Works of William Wordsworth (Poetry 18th -19th Century)-- read
Collected Works of Lord Byron (Poetry Early 19th Century)
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, comedy/ play, 1895
Collected Works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Philosophy 18th Century)
Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays 19th Century) 
Collected Works of Henry David Thoreau (Essays 19th Century) 
Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther, newspaper columns, 1939
Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen (Play 1890)
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (Play 1949) 
Our Town by Thornton Wilder, play, 1938—read

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Fantasy, June 30, 1997—read
Savvy by Ingrid Law, Children’s Lit/ Fiction, May 1, 2008—read
The Giver by Lois Lowry, soft science fiction, 1993—read
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, Young Adult, 1962—read
Pemberly Manor by Kathryn L. Nelson, fan fiction, Dec. 10, 2006—read
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, fantasy, Sept. 30, 2008—read
Batman: Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison, graphic novel, 1989—read
The Watchmen by Alan Moore, graphic novel, Sept. 1986—read
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, historical realism, Aug. 31, 2010
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, satirical novel, Aug. 17, 1996
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, novel, May 29, 2003
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, novel, 1970—read
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, novel, 2001—read
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, children’s lit, 1924-- read
 The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, historiographic metafiction, 1992
The Help by Kathryn Stockett, fiction/ novel, 2009
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, Latin American novel, 1985


  1. What may I ask was your definition of literature?

  2. Ah, well stay tuned, that's actually going to be a topic for an upcoming blog. Are you on the edge of your seat yet?!

  3. Yes! How dare you leave me dangling!