|John Guillory argues that it is primarily course-design that gives us the canon. For this assignment, we will assume that teaching anthologies determine what is canononical, not that they teach us how to value literature.|
Anna Letitia Barbauld's poetry finally made it into the sixth edition of the Norton Anthology. Some members of the class should volunteer to read through Barbauld's poems, found in the Norton, and then write together a short (one to two paragraphs) portrait of the author gleaned solely from the Norton selection. Some selections follow:
Other members of the class should read through Barbauld's poetry found here at Romantic Circles, the 1773 edition of her poems. Together, those class members should write a short portrait of the author. Compare the two: is there a difference?
Go to the Anthologies and Miscellanies Page and think about the following question: how did editors who lived during the eighteenth century and the Romantic period—how did they "canonize" specific works of literature, or did they? Try to make explicit any principles you see being used to decide whether a writer is "good" and ways of indicating which writers are "better" than others.
Take a look at how Romantic poets have been canonized by anthologies during the 20th century (Twentieth Century Anthologies Page). Read Alan Richardson's essay, available on line, "British Romanticism as a Cognitive Category. How has the twentieth-century shaped the canon of Romantic literature? Again, try to make explicit any principles you see being used to decide whether a writer is "good" and ways of indicating which writers are "better" than others.
What's the difference?
Then you might want to read any of the articles that interest you in the special issue of Romanticism on the Net titled Romantic Anthologies. Are we currently shaping "the canon," or exploding it? What principles operate to determine the value of an author or work?
John Guillory, Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation
William Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Poets (on reserve at King)
Jonathan Kramnick, "The Cultural Logic of Late Feudalism," from Making the English Canon: Print Capitalism and the Cultural Past, 1700-1770
Trevor Ross, "Basis for Criticism" and "Epilogue," from The Making of the English Literary Canon
Mark Rose, "The Author as Proprietor," Representations
Laura Mandell, "Misogyny and the Canon," from Misogynous Economies: The Business of Literature in Britain