The Classic Club’s question for this month is as follows:
“Dead white guys” are all too often the focus when it comes to discussions of the Western Canon. We’d love to see members highlight classic works or authors that are overlooked in the canon that deserve recognition. Pick one/or more and tell us how their work resonates for our century and/or for you. As always, you determine what is a “classic” in your point of view, including works from 2000+, and works from anywhere in the world. // Or, if you have trouble thinking of an author/work to highlight, you could simply discuss the topic itself: What is “The Western Canon” — have you thought about who/what determines which works are recognized from human history?
I was first introduced to the concept of the “canon” in one of my first classes as an undergraduate English major. Every day we discussed what was considered “good literature” or “important works” and how racism, sexism and social issues have been affecting who or what gets included in the canon. A readers I believe it’s important that we’re aware of the prejudices that go into lists of “good books” and try to be critical of such lists. Nowadays there are numerous lists of books to read, which I’m happy to say do tent to include a wider variety of authors. Slowly but surely I think we’re all becoming more aware and more interested in reading works by diverse authors, which I think is a good way to open your mind to new cultures and ideas. To answer the second question, history is always written by those in power, ignoring the voices of the oppressed and powerless. In order to completely understand the world, we need to hear all voices, and literature is one way of doing that.
As for who I believe should be included in the canon, one author comes to mind simply because for so long he’s been denied official recognition of literary society despite his popularity and, in my opinion, the perspective and unique nature of his work. Haruki Murakami is a popular Japanese author whose works have affected me personally for years now. There’s a running joke among his fans about how he’s never received the Nobel Prize for literature, though there’s always a tinge of genuine dismay. Murakami is open with his distaste for literary society and he doesn’t much care about how other people view his work, but as a reader and a fan, I’d like to see him earn the recognition I think he deserves.