Keeping the Canon

The older I get, the more I want to share the joys of “the canon” and liberal arts in general. Every generation feels that its world is slipping into the morass of public, but our Amazon reviews and Buzzfeed listicles don’t make me feel any more assured that we’re not…

Although serious writers continue to work in the hope that time will forgive them for writing well, the prevailing mood welcomes fiction and poetry of every stripe, as long as the reading public champions it. And this I think is a huge mistake. Literature has never just been about the public (even when the public has embraced such canonical authors as Hugo, Dickens, and Tolstoy). Literature has always been a conversation among writers who borrow, build upon, and deviate from each other’s words. Forgetting this, we forget that aesthetics is not a social invention, that democracy is not an aesthetic category; and that the dismantling of hierarchies is tantamount to an erasure of history.

via What We Lose if We Lose the Canon – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.