Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The canon continues to inspire debates about what should be included in such. Two criteria stand out in which to select the elite set of authors and their works. One is a set of moral values that should be learned to carry about what it means to be Western and the other is aesthetic values, which determine how literature should be represented.
These two camps are not necessary opposed to each other, but it could be said to characterize them that the former is static while the latter is dynamic. What is meant is that moral values tend to be elements that are a fixed set of prescriptive rules, while aesthetics ebb and flow with each passing age. Another way of putting it is that moral values are Apollonian while the aesthetic is Dionysian.
However you cut through the body of work that is suggested to be kept from generation to generation, consider that most are chosen because they carry these qualities. And most of these works carry both to instruct as well as to be appreciated. What is idle, though, is disputing the historical validity of the works to some political end. Some of these, especially the recently political, had their stigma die down already.
So the cannon is given to categorization but not based on crafting a code to support an identity group because that is a heretical practice given what you belong to. Also because the canon contains only the most important authors, it is difficult to hold to a canon which ignores these in favor of personal preferences classed by trends. The moral and aesthetic standards of a work shape their placement.