Slate’s Juliet Lapidos discussed the opinion of  several authors, editors and critics who feel a rethink of literary canon is necessary.

Editor Elif Batuman’s take is that, “literature is supposed to be beautiful and/or necessary—so if at a given time you don’t either enjoy or need a certain book, then you should read something else, and not feel guilty about it. ”

So is this perception of books that we are supposed to revere for the merit they’ve earned over literary history something that still stands today?  Are we supposed publicly love Ulysses because it is considered great? Or does personal opinion and, sadly, popularity, overrule the hundreds of years of accepted canonical inclusion?

Johnathan Rosen reminds us that even some of the greats didn’t agree with the canon: “When Mark Twain said that whenever he read Pride and Prejudice he wanted to dig up Jane Austen and beat her over the head with her own shinbone, it must have felt satisfyingly subversive.” (His personal least favorite “canon” novel is Catcher in the Rye.)

So, LitStackers, what do you think? Should the canon be changed simply because tastes have? Duke it out in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Should the Canon Be Redefined?”

  1. if critical perceptions of individual novels can change so completely over time based on their applications within different cultural and political eras, why can't the canon itself be put to the same tests? maybe that's where we should take a page out of the constitutional law book…since, right now, we don't have that concept of an elastic clause to refer to. but surely that would also create its own new problems…

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