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Defense of a Particular Canon

AP English

What is the Literary Canon?

[T]he American Heritage Dictionary 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." 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. To enter the canon, or more properly, to be entered into the canon is to gain certain obvious privileges....

Gaining entrance clearly allows a work to be enjoyed; failing to do so thrusts it into the limbo of the unnoticed, unread, unenjoyed, un-existing. Canonization, in other words, permits the member of the canon to be read and hence not only exist, but also be immortalized. Like the painting accepted as a painting and not, say, a mere decorative object or even paint spill, it receives a conceptual frame, and although one can remark upon the obvious facts that frames confine and separate, precisely such appearance within the frame guarantees its aesthetic contemplation -- its capacity to make the viewer respect it, take it with respect.

- George P. Landow, "The Literary Canon," The Victorian Web

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