What Literature Do You Consider To Be Part Of The United States' Current Literary Canon, And Why? How Do Those Selections Reflect The Cultural Tradition Of The United States? What Do You Consider To Be Part Of Your Personal Literary Canon?


2 Answers

Patricia Devereux Profile
Wow, this is quite a topic to answer in a short space!I am assuming (hoping?) you mean respected, intellectual literature, not romance novels and science fiction and their ilk.
Bestsellers in the U.S. Include about as many fiction as nonficiton titles. I will restrict my answer to the former.
Novels about the lives of women are very popular, especially those dealling with the complexities of marriage. This reflects the fact that most book buyers now are female.
Women are also reading about alternatives to their traditional roles as wives and mothers, especially about the trials of being a single professional woman.Mystery and detective novels are also very popular; again, this is a burgeoning field for women as writers and readers. I would guess that this is a reflection of the popularity of TV crime shows.
Historical fiction is extremely popular; every year now, a sprawling American Indian novel makes the best seller lists. Novels about prehistoric Europe and the history of Asia are also popular.
A relatively new phenomenon is young people of color writing about their lives and how ethnic groups fit into U.S culture. This is a very compelling genre.As for my "personal literary canon," lately I have been reading a lot of novels by women. To me, they just seem to have their fingers on the pulse of human experience more firmly than do male writers.
I have also been reading more mysteries and crime novels, again mostly written by women.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
The canon that Chispa purported is defined by populism. Plato and Plutarch are canonized not because they are/were popular but because their work represents an ideology that has defined the Western world. If popularity defined our literature, then Twilight would be canonized. Which would be a sad sad thing.    I'd say the current (contemporary?) literary Canon includes:  Cormac McCarthy  Michael Chabon  Lydia Davis  Chris Ware  Margaret Atwood  Dave Eggers  Philip Roth  Alison Bechdel  Kelly Link  Jonathan Franzen  Joyce Carol Oates    I'd choose these authors because of the frequency with which their names come up, the awards they've won, and their influence within the literary world. Dave Eggers runs the quarterly literary journal McSweeney's as well as having many acclaimed books.  Chabon and McCarthy have both won Pulitzer's. McCarthy was also a part of Oprah's book club, one of the most influential book organizations in America. Chris Ware and Alison Bechdel represent the rise in graphic novels and comics in American Literature, both producing universally acclaimed works in the last decade.    I'd say what defines the canon is the frequency with which a book comes up in literary and academic circles (i.e. The number of "best" lists it's on, the number of classrooms it is taught in, the number of favorable reviews).    The most influential literary and canon-defining awards in America, as far as I can tell, would be the PEN/Faulkner award, The National Book Award, The Pulitzer, and The National Book Critics Circle.    I lean towards visual studies so Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, Lynda Barry, Daniel Clowes, Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Alan Moore, Craig Thompson, Will Eisner, Frank Miller, R. Crumb, Winsor McCay, Harvey Kurtzman, and Harvey Pekar are all part of my canon.    In my alphabetical-literature Canon, however, is Cormac McCarthy, Dave Eggers, Amy Hempel, Toni Morrison, Lydia Davis, Michael Chabon, Raymond Carver, Steven Millhauser, and Jeffrey Eugenides.    I have a reason for each of these being in my personal canon. Davis because of her brevity (I lean towards brevity in my own fiction), Chabon because of his themes of homosexuality, McCarthy because he focuses on the west, Eggers because he's the patron saint of everything new and strange, Millhauser because he's dark and beautiful. Put them all together and you get what I hope to become (very wishful thinking).

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