The canonic classics of the Western tradition have only become such because they were susceptible to reproducibility in print. Do you agree? .
This essay aims to identify some of the factors which have combined to generate this reproducibility, by trying to clarify what is meant by a classic and how and why these texts should be elevated to the ranks of the literary canon. .
The canon is often debated in relation to the biblical canon. For the purposes of this essay it is not strictly relevant to dwell on this comparison. However, the definitions of the two are intertwined historically because the literary canon has taken on a similar nature to the biblical canon. The word originates from kanon' a Greek word meaning instrument of measure and has developed to connote a list of important authors and their works, concerned with sorting the "orthodox from the heretical- . If this metaphor is applied to the literary canon it would suggest, sorting the wheat from the chaff: this means that a decision is taken at some point in a text's life as to its value or inherent worth. The problem seems to be a common one where assessing values in history are concerned, in What is History? Carr asserts that history is "the biography of great men-, yet the definition for whom makes this category is surely subjective. It must be the same for literary works too, there is no necessity to ascribe to the commonly held viewpoints on authors and their works, yet it is not easy to escape their stronghold over literature.
Certain texts are indeed recognised subconsciously as belonging to a more respected class of literature than others. For example, the lofty status of the medieval poetry of Chaucer, of Shakespeare and Marlowe's renaissance plays, of Dickens and Hardy's austere Victorian novels might be among those cited by what society might consider a well read citizen. These works represent something of the culture and tradition in which they were produced, since "some works do appear to have a tenacious prestige in western history- , or become part of the heritage itself, "they are that which we know- .