The Role of the Literary Canon in the Teaching of Literature: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Role of the Literary Canon in the Teaching of Literature

1st Edition

By Robert Aston


200 pages

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Hardback: 9780367432621
pub: 2020-06-01
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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


Chapter One

Suspending the Given

Chapter Two

The Canon, Its Gatekeepers, and the Teaching of Literature


Chapter Three

Power Relations, the Canon, and Resistance

Chapter Four

Assemblages: Lines of Stability and Change in the Canon

Chapter Five

Incompleteness and the Canon in the Teaching of Literature

About the Author

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.

About the Series

Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature

This series is our home for cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to literary studies, it engages with topics such as philosophy, science, race, gender, film, music, and ecology. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Secondary
EDUCATION / Teaching Methods & Materials / Arts & Humanities
LITERARY CRITICISM / Semiotics & Theory