There are many definitions pertaining to the term “canon,” most of which are related to a pattern of formula. In terms of English Studies, the pattern reflects a biblical sense of “canon.” This type of canon is taken as rule or law; in other words, required attention to certain patterns. These laws/patterns became the biblical books we have come to know in religion. They have been revered as a form of higher truth.
Canonization: the selection of what are conventionally called the “classics,” selected and respected over time as a respected pattern of literature.
The original “canonizers” decided what pieces from the bible were the most beneficial for Christians to read, regardless of their universal appeal or aesthetics. The books were chosen to promote certain standards and interpretations for the religious community. Intellectuals in the English community organized a literature canon in a similar way. The works commonly studied in secondary and higher education have been standardized through this canon, which begs the following questions:
Were there more writers that could have been classics if not for the focus on white males?
Were minorities literate enough to contribute to a classical canon; what are the causes and effects of this?
Could we successfully organize a separate canon for different social groups?
Could this separated canon ever be equal?
Therefore, English intellectuals of today must question the traditional canon. We must challenge the definition of what makes a piece of literature “worth” reading. For that matter, we must question our own authority over this process. Are intellectuals fit to organize a canon, and how permanent should the canon be?
Will the work of Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling reach the timelessness of William Shakespeare?