The Western Canon

Every country and culture has a canon. A canon is a body of work, which includes music, art, scientific discoveries, and written works. The canon reflects the region it is associated with. The Western Canon is those bodies of works that represent Western culture. Often the canon is what following works are judged by. A traditional or classical school would be based on the works from the regions canon.

There are these who object at the idea of a canon and scoff at the fact that a canon could actually reflect or be a benchmark for an entire region. It is thought that political interests can influence canons and who is doing the judging. Furthermore, the idea that a person could actually determine what is in a canon, begs the answer as to who has that much power?

Canons could include epic poems, folk tales, poems (rhymed and unrhymed), mythology, art (all the types such as visual, sculpture, and painting), and major science and philosophy developments.

In literature the canon most teachers are given includes Shakespeare, all the Greek myths, some Hawthorne and Hemingway, the Romantic poets, Dickinson, Frost, Welles, and so many others. Books have actually been published on whose works constitute a place on the Western Canon. Freud, Einstein, and Edison have been mentioned in the other fields.

What happens to new great works of art as far as the canon is a little mysterious. Then the definition of a great art had to be defined. And how long must a writer, scientist, or artist wait for his or her works to be considered to be listed on the Western Canon consideration? Does the writer, artist, or scientist have to die first, is a certain time frame require, or do a certain amount of people have to view the work?

The Western Canon is a respected list with many concerns and many opinions. Harold Bloom has written several fine books on the subject in which he tries to define the concept and make a listing of what he thinks should be considered a canon piece. Many colleges and universities have published lists of what they consider to be great works. Oxford and Penguin Publishing have also tried to compile a Western Canon list. There is much debate on the subject and many opinions as to what items should really be included on the Western Canon.