Canon Fodder-Friday: Nonfiction

For my final foray into considering the educational canon, I’d like to include nonfiction. Many speeches, letters and treatises have had a profound effect on the modern world as it relates to politics, economics, sciences, philosophy, the penal code, and human rights among other things. The following is my top ten non-fiction canon for works written in the last 250 years:

1) 1764 — On Crime and Punishment by Cesare Beccaria

This treatise was spread by Voltaire long after Beccaria lived out his life largely under house-arrest just for having written it. It suggested the first arguments against capital punishment, torture, and cruel and unusual punishment. It called for punishments to fit the crimes.

2) 1776 — The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith [Hello free market.]
3) 1776 — “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine and The Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson
4) 1845 — Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass
5) 1848 — The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
6) 1859 — On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
7) 1863 — “The Gettysburg Address” and The Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln
8) 1869 — The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill
9) 1958 — Night by Elie Wiesel
10) 1963 — “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

My three previous Friday posts listed Top 10s that included poetry, plays, and novels written in European languages. As of yet, I have not included a single graphic work in any of these lists, so I’d like to propose an eleventh item for this list as I think graphic works can be just as important and literary as non-graphic works.

11) 1991 — Maus by Art Spiegelman

What would you include in such a list, or what would you exclude? Let me know.

April is International Poetry Month. My Friday posts with all be poetry-related:
April 3rd– Poetry Forms I: Haikus and Limericks
April 10th– Poetry Forms II: Sonnets, Villanelles and Sestinas
April 17th– Poetry: Rhyming and Sounds
April 24th– Poetry: Avoiding Abstractions and Cliches

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Canon Fodder-Friday: Western World Literature

Today I’d like to consider and open up a discussion on what should be the educational canon for non-English, Western World Literature. This is to build on previous weeks’ consideration of the Literary Canon and the Poetry Canon. In general, I find the educational canon in the English-language countries to be very English-language based as if all of the great strides in literature have indeed occurred in England and later in America. While both acknowledging and disregarding the problems with translations, I wish to compile the Top Ten List of what needs to be included that came from non-English cultures, though my list in blatantly Western in scope.

1) Franz Kafka–The Trial (Der Prozess) and “The Metamorphosis” (“Die Verwandlung”)
2) Anton Chekhov–“The Cherry Orchard” (“Vishnevyi sad”)
3) Federico Garcia Lorca–Blood Wedding (Bodas de Sangre)
4) Albert Camus–The Stranger (L’Etranger) and The Plague (La Peste)
5) Samuel Beckett–Waiting for Godot (En attendant Godot)
6) Jean-Paul Satre–Nausea (La Nausee)
7) Thomas Mann–Death in Venice (Der Tod in Venedig)
8) Hermann Hesse–Siddhartha
9) Gabriel Garcia Marquez–One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien anos de soledad)
10) Italo Calvino–Cosmicomics

Also, check out the further addition of Canon-Fodder Fridays:
March 27th– Non-fiction Canon and Other [plays, graphic novels etc.]

Also, April is International Poetry Month. My Friday posts with all be poetry-related:
April 3rd– Poetry Forms I: Haikus and Limericks
April 10th– Poetry Forms II: Sonnets, Villanelles and Sestinas
April 17th– Poetry: Rhyming and Sounds
April 24th– Poetry: Avoiding Abstractions and Cliches

Canon-Fodder Friday: Poetry

Today I’d like to consider and open up a discussion on what should be the educational canon for poetry. This is to build on last week’s consideration of the Literary Canon. This list is severely skewed toward English language poets and especially American poets, so please insert your opinion with full force.

In general, poetry gets unequal coverage in our school system. However, it deserves its rightful place in the canon. I largely want to consider the poetry of the part 150 years so we can optimistically assume that Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats and Browning have been covered. My question is: what about when it veers modern, with use of free verse and open verse, from the Victorian practices? [By this definition, Tennyson and Dickinson are Victorian.]

Here’s my list for our Poetry Top Ten, or Verse: Walt Whitman to Today–

1) Walt Whitman–Song of Myself
2) Robert Frost–“Mending Wall”, “The Road Not Taken”, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”
3) William Carlos Williams–“The Ivy Crown”, “The Red Wheelbarrow”, “This Is Just to Say”, “Poem”
4) T. S. Eliot–“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, “The Wasteland”
5) e. e. cummings–“in Just-“, “next to of course god america i”, “r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r”, “anyone lived in a pretty how town”
6) Rainer Maria Rilke–Duino Elegies
7) Wallace Stevens–“Anecdote of the Jar”, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”
8) Sylvia Plath–“Daddy”, “The Edge”, “Lady Lazarus”, “The Colossus”,
9) Allen Ginsberg–Howl and Other Poems
10) Ntozake Shange–for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf

I’ve tried to list poets that changed the face of poetry. Yes, the list could easily have been double in length. But what are your thoughts?

Also, check out the further additions of Canon-Fodder Fridays:
March 20th– World Lit. Canon [Lorca, Camus, Chekhov . . .]
March 27th– Non-fiction Canon and Other [plays, graphic novels etc.]

Authorized Thoughts: Canon-Fodder Friday–English Lit.

What is the current must-read literary canon? And what should it be?

That is the question of the week. Parents, teachers, readers and writers will all have differing opinions. Clearly, country of origin will also taint this list. But I’d love to hear some non-American opinions, too. Here’s the scenario: a friend will be home-schooling her son this next year to ensure his learning of literature. He is a promising writer of 15. His Star Wars fan-fic is better than most.

In the spirit of Sports Play-offs [w/ both my Blackhawks and Iowa State teams making viable runs], we are limiting this list of what must be read to 10 books. Ten. [Though I bet we end up with a full Round of 16.] Original language must be English [I’ll tackle World Lit. in 2 weeks] and we are limiting to post-Shakespearean. So, Chaucer and Camus are out, though I enjoy both. Let’s also exclude poetry–we can address that next Friday.

Following is a tentative list, however, surely I’m being redundant in areas and overlooking others. Help me to amend this list w/ a 1-in-1-out scenario.

1) Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn
2) William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
3) John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men
4) Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Grey
5) George Orwell’s 1984
6) Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
7) Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
8) Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
9) Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities
10) F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Sharpen your claws, opinionated people! I want to hear from you. Where did I go wrong? Are you still scanning the list for Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austin, Toni Morrison? Are you scratching your heads over excluding Brave New World, The Scarlet Letter, Dubliners, The Awakening [by Kate Chopin], Catch-22, Catcher in the Rye, and Heart of Darkness?

To add a book to the list, remove a book and state why, please. . . and at what point do I admit that I’ve neglected to read 2 of the 10 books I just listed?

Also, check out the further additions of Canon-Fodder Fridays:
March 13th– Poetry Canon [Ginsburg, Plath, Williams, Frost, Rilke . . .]
March 20th– World Lit. Canon [Lorca, Camus, Chekhov . . .]
March 27th– Non-fiction Canon and Other [plays, graphic novels etc.]