The classical canon and the contemporary canon

Essay by LangKawi November 2007

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Technically, for a novel to be accepted into the canon, it must be over 100 years old. This means that the novel has outlived its generation and context and is still as relevant and meaningful as it was when it was first published. The novels in the canon are so much more than just a good story. They have deeper layers which say something about human nature and there are different ways they can be interpreted. Most of the novels in the canon are representations of their context. They can be seen as a part of history and become important to our culture as they reflect the changes in our society. For a novel to be deemed to have literary value it must be unique and different. It must be challenging and make you think about it. Today any novel that wins an award or is short listed for an award is deemed to have literary value.

The literary value of novels in the canon can be seen in the text "Emma" by Jane Austen. This novel was written in 1815 so it is nearly 200 years old and it is still very popular today. Emma has been adapted and appropriated into several films over the years so it is obvious that the appeal of the heroine is so great that each generation wants to recreate the novel in their context.

Emma is not a traditional woman in her context. She is more intelligent, beautiful and more of a free thinker than other women that appear in the novel. As Emma tells Harriet, "I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry". She is the mistress of her father's household and she has had no adversity in life. This has resulted in some minor flaws in her...