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The Literary Canon and Female Writers

I need to know why there aren't many women included on the list of literary canons. I know that women have been discriminated against, and that many women authors have written great works that are worthy of canonization, but how can more women obtain canonization and what benefits would there be to society if women were included? I need someone to point me to some journal articles that might answer these questions for me. This question will be on my final exam tomorrow, and I am not fully prepared for it. It is open-notes, so I can prepare for it. All I can make are general comments, but do not have specific examples. Right now I am advocating that women should have their own "mini-canon" outside of the male dominated main canon. But doesn't this hurt the argument that women should be treated the same as men and that to not included their work in the main canon would label their works as being of lesser quality? Or should women create their own minority canon in order to "push" their way into the main canon? How can women "push" their way in? Are women just being included in the Norton Anthology because they have to be? Are men's great works being pushed aside for work of a lesser caliber in order to fulfill a requirement to include minorities? Who can decide? What can including women on the canonical list do for women in general? I think it is definitely essential to give women a voice, but what effect will this have on society? Upon school curriculum? What works should be omitted to make room for more of women and minority works? As you can see, I am all over the place. I just know that including women is important because women have quality work to contribute in order to understand them and our society better, and that we should not ignore what half of our population has to say. I suppose I am looking for some evidence as to why women should be included, and it needs to be more specific. My textbook, Debating the Canon, has many critics that say women and minorities should be included, but they seem to talk in circles. I have also located a few articles but they are very difficult to understand what their main ideas are, of they deal with a lot of philosophy. I need some concrete reasons to cite from articles that are somewhat related. I need to take a stance, instead of being all over the place, so I need help with making a decision. It seems that every time I think of a main point, contradictory questions pop in my head. Please give me direction!!! The main idea I have is this:
The idea and acceptance of a solitary, male dominated literary canon should be abolished and replaced with a series of mini canons representing differing elements of society in order to reduce and/or eliminate discrimination, thus giving every area of literature equal opportunity to contribute to "the best that has been said and written." Please see attached document


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Dear Student,
I really like what you have in your thesis. The point which you're arguing is very clearly stated. You're right that women writers' novels don't get taught as often as male writers' novels. That is a fact true till today.

Some examples of what canons are can be found below~

Examples of shorter canonical lists include (in which the selectors have attempted to list only the most important ones):

The Harvard Classics
Great Books
Great Books of the Western World
Harold Bloom's Western Canon link
University reading lists are also good indicators of what is considered to be in the Western canon:

St. John's College reading list
Columbia College Core Curriculum
Longer lists (in which the selectors have attempted to be more comprehensive):

Loeb Classical Library (Greek and Latin authors)
I Tatti Renaissance Library (Renaissance authors)

Everyman's Library (Modern works)

I found this great quote from an awesome website: http://www.victorianweb.org/gender/canon/femcan2.html:

"As an effort to overcome the problems associated with tokenism and supplementation, some feminists have compiled anthologies of women writers. The most striking example is the recently-published The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English (New York, NY: Norton, 1985), edited by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. This anthology, with formatting identical to the other Nortons, consists solely of women writers and so, presumably, is not offered as an alternative to The Norton Anthology proper. Indeed, in their preface, the editors state their intent: "Complementing and supplementing the standard Norton anthologies of English and American literature, NALW should help readers for the first time to appreciate fully the female literary tradition which, for several centuries, has coexisted with, revised, and influenced male literary models. Designed to serve as a "core-curriculum" text for the many courses in literature by women that have been developed over the past ten years, this collection includes examples of women's work in every genre and period; it thus carries on the tradition of a "course in a book" pioneered by the other Norton anthologies of British and American literature which have proved so consistently useful." The editors here seem anxious not to cause any upset with their supplemental anthology, going to lengths as they do to suggest continuity ("carries on the tradition") with the other by now well-established Norton products ("which have proved so consistently useful").

As much as this anthology makes available much literature by women of all kinds -- "the black, the regional, the lesbian, the working-class, and the native-American traditions," as the editors explain -- and as much as it has been praised by feminists for this contribution, this anthology seems to some feminists supplementation writ large. Offering itself as ...

Solution Summary

How can female writers push themselves to be included in literary canon? This posting examines and defends the female writers and their fate in regards to surviving in the literary canon. Why should female writers be included? how can more women obtain canonization?...etc.