The Fault in Our Canon: A Reading List About Problems in the Literary Canon

This brief list is but a glimpse of the complex, crucial and ongoing discussion about the importance of inclusivity and the problems with privilege in the literary canon. Please share your recommendations: essays and articles in this vein, books you wish the canon could accept, etc.

1. “On ‘The John Green Effect,’ Contemporary Realism, and Form as a Political Act.” (Anne Ursu, Terrible Trivium, May 2014)

Realism’s literary privilege in America, the diminishment of other genres, the erasure of minority voices and the weird fact that everyone seems to have forgotten that fantastic YA fiction was around for a long time before John Green took pen to paper.

2. “MFA vs. POC.” (The New Yorker, Junot Diaz, April 2014)

His classmates and professors dismissed or ignored race in their writing, teaching and peer review. Diaz survived his MFA stint, but his classmates of color weren’t all so lucky.

3. “The New Classics: 21 Writers Tell Us Which Books They’d Add to the Canon.” (Jason Diamond, Flavorwire, February 2014)

Contemporary authors share the books that are so important to them, they think everyone should consider their worth—including graphic novels, authors from all over the world and haunted houses.

4. “Just a Normal Teen: My Best-Selling YA Novel.” (Mallory Ortberg, The Toast, March 2014)

“Things were going to keep happening to us for at least three books and four movies, but at least we’d realized we were a family now.”

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Photo: Enokson