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By L. Morrissey

Over the prior 20 years, the controversy over the 'Great Books' has been one of many key public controversies about the cultural content material of upper schooling. Debating the Canon presents a primary-source evaluate of those ongoing arguments. lots of those contributions to this debate have completed 'canonical' prestige themselves; in the course of the specialize in the canon, the complete spectrum of methods to literary reports may be obvious within the essays. for this reason, this assortment areas the new debate inside of a bigger context of literary criticism's improvement of a canon, going again to the eighteenth century.

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Extra resources for Debating the Canon: A Reader from Addison to Nafisi

Sample text

It is no more intense, furthermore, than Canto XXVI, the voyage of Ulysses, which has not the direct dependence upon an emotion. Great variety is possible in the process of transmution of emotion: the murder of Agamemnon, or the agony of Othello, gives an artistic effect apparently closer to a possible original than the scenes from Dante. In the Agamemnon, the artistic emotion approximates to the emotion of an actual spectator; in Othello to the emotion of the protagonist himself. But the difference between art and the event is always absolute; the combination which is the murder of Agamemnon is probably as complex as that which is the voyage of Ulysses.

This is one of the most remarkable things about human beings, and it may actually be the major difference between homo sapiens and the others [sic] animals, which do not seem to grow mentally beyond a certain stage in their development. But this great advantage that man possesses carries with it a great peril. The mind can atrophy, like the muscles, if it is not used. Atrophy of the mental muscles is the penalty that we pay for not taking mental exercise. And this is a terrible penalty, for there is evidence that atrophy of the mind is a mortal disease.

I have said earlier that culture has always been in minority keeping. But the minority now is made conscious, not merely of an uncongenial, but of a hostile environment. “Shakespeare,” I once heard Mr. ” True: there were no “highbrows” in Shakespeare’s time. It was possible for Shakespeare to write plays that were at once popular drama and poetry that could be appreciated only by an educated minority. Hamlet appealed at a number of levels of response, from the highest downwards. The same is true of Paradise Lost, Clarissa, Tom Jones, Don Juan, The Return of the Native.

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