Essay on Expanding the Literary Canon

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Expanding the Literary Canon While this essay can in no way claim to contain a fully representative sampling of what various scholars have contributed relative to the ongoing debate over the literary canon, I will attempt to highlight three distinct positions which are all informed by John Guillory's critical contributions to the canonical debate. First, I will discuss the concept of ideology and canon formation as Guillory first articulated it in his 1983 essay, "The Ideology of Canon Formation: T. S. Eliot and Cleanth Brooks," and which he subsequently thoroughly revised and included in his 1993 book on canon formation, Cultural Capital: The Problem of literary Canon Formation This essay on the ways ideology and cultural politics…show more content…
Of course the marginal elite he is referring to here is the literary culture within the academy. He goes on to posit that while it is unlikely that the formations of canons can ever be removed from ideological conflicts, that in essence, this is not really saying much at all (145)! While the marriage ofideology and canon formation may be self-evident, Guillory still goes on in the essay to carefUlly delineate how the ideological concerns of T. S. Eliot culminated in Eliot's creation ofa revisionist canon which operated as somewhat of a "shadow canon" along side the established literary canon by elevating the importance of the Metaphysical poets at the expense ofthe established poets ofthe traditional canon--Milton, Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley, Yeats, etc. According to Guillory, the recipients of Eliot's canon (scholars, academics) the "marginal elite", act as the "clergy" ofthe orthodoxy ofthe literary culture, occupying, as Guillory points out, a perch not unlike that of Eliot's preferred poets: "Its real status is precisely that of Donne's poetry, which circulated among a coterie of admirers, or a marginal elite" (151). Guillory maintains that it is Cleanth Brooks who is left with the task of translating Eliot's many ideological concerns;-the doctrine ofimpersonality relative creative invention as articulated in "Tradition and the Individual Talent", the monumental and closed
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