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May 16, 2024

The Literary Canon Today, Part 3: The State Of Publishing Canonical Literature

Book Chronicles / Essay

Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost
my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of
myself, and what remains is bestial.

– Cassio (Othello, Act 2, Scene 3)

So far, my focus in this series of essays (see part 1 here and part 2 here) has been how we write and talk about the literary canon. The canon is a rather abstract subject, but when we talk about how the canon has changed, we are wont to talk about something even more abstract: a writer’s reputation. 

“Reputation” – read enough literary essays, and you’ll see that word appear again and again. “In recent years Kipling’s reputation has taken such a beating that it’s a wonder any sensible critic would want to go near him now,” a writer in the New Yorker explains. “A century after his birth, and more than half a century after his death, Wilde continues to enjoy a reputation that can hardly be justified by his mere literary achievement,” alleges another writer in the New Republic. “In the 32 years since Bellow won the Nobel, there has been exactly one American laureate (not counting writers from other countries who became American citizens), Toni Morrison, whose critical reputation in America is by no means secure,” a third writer in Slate asserts. 

Read the full article here.

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