ERIC Number: ED331057
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-Apr
Reference Count: 0
Does a Literary Canon Exist in Our Secondary Schools? Or How Many Students Need To Read the Same Body of Works before It Can be Called a Literary Canon?
For a number of years, charges have flown back and forth about the presence or absence of a literary canon in the secondary schools. A review of surveys, done over the past century, of the literary works teachers say they have assigned their students, shows that only four authors from the 1907 list are present on the 1990 list. There does not seem to be any strong evidence for the existence of a canon in high school literature programs over the past century if what is meant by a canon is a group of literary works remaining essentially unchanged from decade to decade. If a canon means, however, that the majority of students in this country have been exposed to a relatively small body of literary works, the evidence is not clear. Lists of works read across schools do not tell how many of these works an individual student is apt to have read. Probably the most valid way to determine the existence and nature of a supposed literary canon is to compile not what the most frequently assigned works across schools or classes are but what individual students are reading within and across schools. The trends discerned in comparing the results of these surveys raise a number of questions for English teachers to discuss, including questions about the intellectual and moral content of readings as well as the civic mission of the schools. (Four tables of data are included.) (TD)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Cultural Literacy; Literary Canon; Reading Lists
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Chicago, IL, April 3-7, 1991).