Literature Canon

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Defining Classic Literature and Dismantling the White Male Canon

A question that has been brought up quite a few times in my literature classes is how to change the canon to include more diverse literature. First, we need to define what makes a "classic" a "classic." Is it that they were written so long ago and people still read them? Or does the novel hold something else entirely? Another aspect I have noticed when reading or browsing over deemed classic novels is how male dominated the canon is. Yes, we have Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters and Alcott and Harper Lee, but overall, female authors are few and far between in the original canon. White male authors dominate. Why is that? How does the dismantling begin? Does it need to happen or should we simply leave the canon well enough alone?

  • Another question to add to the list of why "classics" are dominated by white male authors might be: to what extent do the market forces acting on and created by a publishing "industry" leave the canon relatively untouched by anyone outside the DWM (dead white male) zone? – pjoshualaskey 8 years ago