Friday, December 2, 2011

The Literary Canon

The literary canon can be described as a group of books that helped to shape American culture.

I can not remember any of the books that I read in high school, but I do remember that I loved to read the books that were assigned by my teachers. I am wondering if I don't remember the books because we did not read any by African American authors, and I could not see myself in the text; the teachers did not teach the novels in a way that would make them memorable; or I have been out of high school for so long until I just can't remember that far back.

When I was in undergraduate and graduate school, we use to have lots of discussions about the literary canon and whether or not there were particular books that all students should read and exactly what should be read if there was a such a thing as a literary canon.

Being young and not having much experience with teaching and the vast literary world, I didn't know what my thoughts were on this topic in graduate or undergraduate school, but I did feel that the literary canon, if there was a such a thing, should not only include dead, white men: Hemingway, Dickens, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald etc., there are lots of other writers who helped to shape the American culture.

Today, I have a lot more experience with literature and teaching, and I do feel that there are certain books that all students should read before they leave high school. However, I feel that some of the books in the canon should change to reflects the time. For instance, The Kite Runner is a story by a man from Afghanistan who writes about a boy and his family who lives in Afghanistan. This book looks at war and the impact that it had on the people of Afghanistan. Due to the war that the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afgan North Alliance waged on Afghanistan, I do believe that this is a relevant book that should be read today; however, it may not be relevant 20, 30 or 40 years from now.

Even though there are books that I feel are time period relevant, there are other books that I feel are timeless and should be read by all high school students: To Kill A Mockingbird, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Romeo and Juliet, Absolute True Diary by a Part-Time Indian, anything by Charles Dickens etc.

However, this is one of the problems with the literary canon; if you get 100 teachers of English together and ask them the top 10 books that all students should read before they leave high school, I believe that it would be almost impossible to get them to come to a consensus. I know that there are certain books that I want all students to enjoy and learn from, but there are other teachers who have list of books that are very different from mine.

Today, with my seniors, I mentioned Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and To Kill a Mockingbird by Nelle Harper Lee, and only a few students had read these two books. Oh my!!!!

What are you thoughts on the literary canon, and do you think that there are books that all students should read before they leave high school?

By the way, do you remember any books that you read in high school, or am I the only person who can't remember that far back?

1 comment:

Tracy Ricks said...

It's funny you would ask that question because I DO NOT remember any books I read in high school but remember my favorite book from elementary school "old yellow". Lol I guess that was the name of it. Once again another GREAT blog!!

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