Western canon - Wikipedia

 

american literature canon list

American literature is literature written or produced in the United States of America and its preceding colonies (for specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States).Before the founding of the United States, the British colonies on the eastern coast of the present-day United States were heavily influenced by English literature. Hans Christian Andersen. The magical author of The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, and The Brave Tin Soldier, Andersen also wrote poignant short stories enjoyed by readers of all ages, including The Last Dream of Old Oak and the tender, bittersweet Christmas classic The Little Matchstick Girl. In American literature, a canon refers to a collection of published works that scholars consider to be most influential in the country's culture. The term often extends beyond written works and includes art or music that meet similar criteria. A literary canon is considered .


Popular Literary Canon Books


About a year ago I put an end to my indiscriminate reading habits. I resolved to read, at least for the time being, only American novels. But I quickly understood that, even within that limited scope, I could be almost as indiscriminate as before.

Therefore, to give my reading purpose and focus, I decided to make a project of it. I would compile a list of the Best American Novels, — A month into this exercise, I suddenly understood what I was doing.

I was filling some of the gaps in my undergraduate education. Since college I have been a devoted reader, but for almost five decades my primary focus has been architecture—studying it, teaching it, writing about it, and practicing it. I write, then, as an enthusiast, not as a scholar. I american literature canon list something of the difference. Perhaps more consequentially, I was fortunate to be considered a friend by the late Michael Davitt Bell, one of the major scholars of American literature of his generation.

I see Bell smiling now at the preposterous nature of my undertaking, while also urging me on and wanting to join in. Since I can already hear your questions and even protests, I will address them by following my list with a brief discussion of each of the words in my title. I have rendered in bold the 10 novels I like best.

One hundred is small enough to force some tough choices. One question inherent in any list of the best novels is how to distribute them over time. But not so quick. Perhaps the reading public of, say, the s was much more dependent on and attuned to novels than it is now, when we are so preoccupied by other sources of information and entertainment.

My list thus tries to have it both ways. I divide it into four sections. The first, from tohas 19 novels. The second, from tohas The third, from tohas The fourth, from tohas Scholars of literature today often shy away from or even disdain issues of quality. I have a problem with that. In my professional life I am always thinking about quality. If that is true with architecture, why should it not also be true with literature?

So here are the three attributes of Best. I admire novelists who have a way with words, who create telling phrases, paragraphs, and chapters, and who carry a story from cover to american literature canon list with a consistent and unique voice that dare I say it? But few writers achieve it. Most never get much beyond the workmanlike. People and Places. It is possible for a writer to be a virtuoso stylist but have nothing to say.

I read novels because they tell me about people. I am interested in the complexity of their thoughts and feelings and what propels them to action, american literature canon list, especially in their relationships with other people. Novels that offer true insights about these matters will always be worth reading, no matter when they were written. Secondarily, since all architects are, american literature canon list, however covertly, environmental determinists, I am also interested in how novelists describe places, natural and manmade, and their effects on people.

Our country and culture. Many of the most memorable characters in the novels on the list are not only striking individuals, they are also American types and even archetypes. I do not like the phrase The American Experience. The American Experiment american literature canon list much more resonant.

Novels can connect us american literature canon list what these were at a specific time and for all time.

No issue has perplexed me more than how to weigh these three criteria in selecting the One Hundred Best American Novels. The temptation is enormous to be somehow representative—of groups, regions, literary movements, tendencies, and so forth.

I have tried to resist all of that because writing ultimately and unequivocally american literature canon list first.

I am so in awe of them that I am tempted to include even their secondary and tertiary works. But with reluctance I have restrained myself. In principle any novel by an American, set in America, or about America potentially qualifies. In practice there are difficulties. A few novelists were not born in the United States. Isaac Bashevis Singer, for example, was born in near Warsaw and emigrated to the United States in He wrote exclusively in Yiddish, and his works were then translated into English.

Most of his american literature canon list novels are set in the old country, but toward the end of his career his subject matter increasingly was the transition to the new world. These are American novels. Another group of writers periodically lived and wrote abroad, chief among them Henry James. He left the United States in and lived almost exclusively in Europe, mainly England, till his death in Shortly before he died he became a British subject.

The most problematical novelist in these terms is Vladimir Nabokov, american literature canon list. Born in Russia inhe was brought up trilingual, in Russian, american literature canon list, French, and English.

He settled in the United States in The income from Lolita allowed him to focus solely on his writing and to move back to Europe in the fall of I am sure there are many dictionary and encyclopedia definitions of a novel, american literature canon list.

Scholars also discuss how novel took primacy over tale and romance. I will bypass all of that. Ripleyis a confidence man bordering on sociopath, certainly a distinctive American type. I can find no clear demarcation between a novella and a novel. Francis Hopkinson was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

His novel is a political satire about King George. Charlotte Temple was tremendously popular in the first half of the 19th century and may be of interest because of that. But as writing, it is a sentimental piece of fluff. The Coquette is more substantial and has had more staying power. A full manuscript was discovered only in the s, two centuries after it was written.

Turned out in by college undergraduates, the novel is sophomoric. So is the starting point of the American novel, even though Father Bombo does not make the list and even though the first substantial novel did not appear for more than two decades after that.

I graduated from college in At that time, because the recent american literature canon list was considered too murky to american literature canon list intelligently, American History and Literature, my field of concentration, stopped at I continue to share that skepticism about the study of the recent past.

Thus my cutoff date is That is not tied to a historically significant event like or I cannot defend it against, for example,except to say that there are already enough issues of perspective that bear upon the novels from to They would be magnified the closer the end date is to the present. I have read many novels by authors not on the list as well as many, but not all, works by authors on the list.

James Fenimore Cooper, for example, wrote 32 works of fiction many of which he called tales. Most of these weigh in at more than pages each, american literature canon list. In the face of such productivity, I found that the best way to prioritize reading is to rely on the opinions of others. But questions about those opinions inevitably arise. Consider the case of Willa Cather. Do we prefer O Pioneers! Are they really better novels than, for example, One of Ours and A Lost Ladywhich tell of later, more settled, more prosperous, but more aimless generations in the Midwest—subjects equally important to Cather?

And is Shadows on the Rockwhich is now rarely read, less deserving than Death Comes for the Archbishop ? David Handlin is the founding partner of Handlin, Garrahan and Associates, an architecture firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Comments powered by Disqus. But dramatic, life-changing climate change is happening right now in our own backyard. Permission required for reprinting, american literature canon list, reproducing, or other uses.

Newsletter Enter your email address to subscribe.

 

What Is the American Literary Canon? | Synonym

 

american literature canon list

 

The American literary canon, or the books deemed important enough to teach in schools and survive over generations, is a fraught subject. The United States is home to so many cultures that it is. I resolved to read, at least for the time being, only American novels. But I quickly understood that, even within that limited scope, I could be almost as indiscriminate as before. Therefore, to give my reading purpose and focus, I decided to make a project of it. I would compile a list of the Best American Novels, – Hans Christian Andersen. The magical author of The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, and The Brave Tin Soldier, Andersen also wrote poignant short stories enjoyed by readers of all ages, including The Last Dream of Old Oak and the tender, bittersweet Christmas classic The Little Matchstick Girl.