The Question Of Canonics

So i’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while but procrastinated, for whatever reason… but procrastinate no more! here is the blog that will revolve around a weird comment someone made in one of my classes…

in my adolescent lit class, during one of the first couple weeks, we were reading looking for alaska.

i stinking love this book.

i think this book is great…. it has its flaws, but overall i think it stands as a great peice of literature as it deals with a lot of complex issues and themes that show up in books that are popular in the canon.

but…then a girl in my class said that she likes it, and we should do away with to kill a mockingbird and have students read this book instead.

….i got a little lost. i think both books are great, but i hardly think that looking for alaska has much in comment with to kill a mockingbird..minus all the racial tension and resolution in looking for alaska (SARCASM SARCASM SARCASM).

so as much as i think this girl was a little strange for suggesting that, it made me wonder even further why she thinks we would replace a canonical book with a more modern book in the first place. isn’t the whole point of a canonical book that its kind of timeless? i enjoyed reading to kill a mockingbird just as much as my father did, and we hardly grew up in the same era (you should see him text message).

so what makes a piece canonical? according to the wikisphere:
The term Western canon denotes a criterion of books and, more broadly, music and art that have been the most important and influential in shaping Western culture. As such, it includes the “greatest works of artistic merit.”

ahhh, so that’s why we have to read shakespeare. but then that begs another question… will twilight be considered canonical? (oh please god no). because although it has, in my humble opinion, no artistic merit it was indeed influential. influential enough to inspire crap like this

…you can’t see me right now but i’m weeping.

i guess my point is this– the girls comment in my class raised, in my mind, an interesting idea about canonical works. are there books we should retire? and what books will we see in ten years being taught in schools/what will we be teaching to our students? if we have to include twilight in our curricula, so help me god….

i leave you with this image, forever burned into your brain


2 thoughts on “The Question Of Canonics

  1. tealanaronn says:

    I would DIE if I had to teach Twilight. Horribly written. It is sad that Americas number one best seller is Fifty Shades of Gray. Why? What happened to the classics. The great books. I would love to even teach something like The Hunger Games. But Twilight? It has no depth or valid story line. It is thrown together so horribly that Stephanie Myer should be ashamed.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post, and I love the fact that your adolescents’ lit class is raising these sorts of questions!

    When I took that class last year we did an interesting activity towards the end of our time together. Dr. B made us individually think of 10 books that we thought every student should read before leaving high school. We then got into small groups and had to combine our lists into another 10 books. Finally, we opened it up to a whole class discussion in which we collectively had to narrow down what 10 pieces of literature we thought were the most important to read.

    What scared me most about this activity is that we essentially re-created the existing canon! That means that we decided as a group to continue to perpetuate the exact same words/meanings/characters that our GRANDPARENTS learned about. While I agree that there are certain works that are “timeless,” I also was disturbed by the lack of wiggle room my class had around embracing the new forms of texts and current themes that our list failed to cover.

    The thing is… I don’t think it has to be extremely black and white! Opening up the canon to other (more current) pieces of literature doesn’t mean we HAVE to include books like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey in our curriculum. It simply means we are giving ourselves options.

    Sarah Brown Wessling talks about using “fulcrum” texts and “texture” texts in her classroom. This means that a fulcrum text could be something “timeless” like To Kill a Mockingbird, but maybe the class might read a texture text like American Born Chinese or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian alongside the novel. That way, we are honoring current voices as well as those of the past while still examining the theme of racial disparity in the United States. Good idea, huh?

    Thanks again for bringing this up! I think it would be a great subject for our class to start an online dialogue about :]


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