This book investigates the role of the idea of the literary canon in the teaching of literature, especially in colleges and secondary schools in the United States. Before the term "canon" was widely used in literary studies, which occurred in the second half of 20th century when the canon was first seriously viewed as politically and culturally problematic, the idea that some literary texts were more worthy of being studied than others existed since the beginning of the discipline of the teaching of literature in the 1800s. The concept of the canon, however, extends as far back as to Ancient Greece and its meaning has evolved over time. Thus, this book charts the changing meaning of the idea of the literary canon, examining its influence specifically in the teaching of literature from the beginning of the field to the 21st century. To explain how the literary canon and the teaching of literature have changed over time and continue to change, this book constructs a theory of canon formation based on the ideas of Michel Foucault and the assemblage theory of Manuel DeLanda, illustrating that the literary canon, while frequently contested, is integral to the teaching of literature yet changes as the teaching of literature changes.
Table of Contents
Locating the Canon
Suspending the Given
The Canon, Its Gatekeepers, and the Teaching of Literature
Power Relations, the Canon, and Resistance
Assemblages: Lines of Stability and Change in the Canon
Incompleteness and the Canon in the Teaching of Literature
Robert J. Aston received his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has taught secondary English for over ten years and in both California and New York; he has also taught at Columbia University’s Teachers College. His research, influenced heavily by the ideas of Michel Foucault, focuses on canon theory, literary knowledge, and assemblage theory.