CRITICAL PERSPECTIVE In her essay “Teaching Literature: Canon, Controversy, and the Literary Anthology,” Barbara Mujica discusses the way in which literary anthologies (like this one) tend naturally to create lists of works, known as canons, that are considered to be of especially high quality: “Anthology” … is from the Greek word for “collection of flowers,” a term implying selection. The very format of an anthology prompts canon formation … Anthologies convey the notion of evolution (the succession of literary movements) and hierarchy (the recognition of masterpieces). They create and reform canons, establish literary reputations, and help institutionalize the national culture, which they reflect.

How would you characterize the attitude of the speaker in “The English Canon” to the process that Mujica describes? What is your own attitude toward the idea of canons in literature? Do you think some works can be said to be indisputably better than others?

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