Debate about teaching the great books of the Western canon has galvanized American higher education in recent years. The Great Canon Controversy provides an overview of the debate, summarizing the position for the canon and the position against it. Casement supports continued teaching of the canon and respect for it, while calling for revising reading lists to include nontraditional works.
Part I describes how the canon was taught from ancient Greece to the present, noting key arguments for this form of pedagogy that are still with us today, specific books that were taught at different times over the centuries, and controversies the canon has been subject to in the past. Part II deals with anticanonism, epistemological and political dimensions of the theory underlying it. Casement then shows concrete examples of anticanonism in operation, at Stanford University and St. Lawrence University.
Casement argues that, while much of what anticanonists say is hyperbolic or mistaken, we should listen to their demand to give fair treatment to works by marginalized authors and to great non-Western works. This means re-reviewing works worthy of canonization that may have been obscured by prejudice, but still requiring that they make it on their own merits and not out of sympathy for their authors. The Great Canon Controversy will be of great interest to educators and students alike, as well as those interested in the future of higher education in the United States.