The Literary Canon

(2141 words)
  • Charlotte Stevens (The Open University)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

The term “canon” (from the Greek kanon, meaning “measure” or “rule”) was originally applied to those books of the Bible deemed to be both genuine and authoritative. The religious terminology of the word was later extended to secular works; canonical status was afforded to a number of books from the classical to the modern period written by a number of authors such as Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, Austen and Dickens. These writers are venerated throughout literary history as writers of the classics; not only are they worthy of serious academic attention, they have also become “celebrated names” holding some measure of universal acclaim.

Just how far back the literary canon can be traced is a matter of some …

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Stevens, Charlotte. "The Literary Canon". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 10 January 2007
[, accessed 25 September 2016.]