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The Nobel Prize in Literature: Changes in the Literary Canon

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The Literary Canon has evolved and changed over the years. It has differed with time, changing from one era to another. It’s mainly influenced by society, cultural events, and history. Whatever is going on in the world, the canon relates to it. For centuries it was populated primarily by white men and In the last 60 years, many people worldwide have questioned the canon and its effectiveness of the canon due to its lack of variety. Some important questions asked about the canon are like what is canon today? Should we read canonized books? And How has the canon evolved?

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Since the 1960s there has been many different perspective and opinions about Canon, and what should be classified as Canon worthy. The canon has changed dramatically, the texts that were classified canon then are a lot different from what students and readers read now. Postmodern studies have shown that the Canon was inherently biased because the main focus traditionally of the academic studies of history and western culture has primarily been on European-dominated men.

In the 1970s, the canon started to include more works of literature by different types of people rather than just white men. People began to reflect the diverse demography of the modern world, as more women’s and minorities entered the canon. Many women activist researchers tried to find the ‘mother of the novel’ and different texts by gay and lesbian writers just like the working classes were considered to be included. Efforts of the social equality developments acknowledged black authors. For example, when Gwendolyn Brooks, the first black American author was to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1950, and Toni Morrison was the first black lady to win the Nobel prize for literature in 1993. Black authors began to get important and well-deserved recognition for their work.

The Canon also expanded to include works from different areas like Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. This gave a sense of culture to the canon. The highest level awards such as the Nobel Prize for Literature were given to people from different places in the 20th century. Yasunari Kawabata was the first Japanese author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, Nigerian Wole Soyinka was the first African to win the coveted award in 1986, an Egyptian writer, Naguib Mahfouz was the first Arab writer to win the prize in 1988.

To think of the Canon only as of the same body of texts by privileged white men from a long time ago is truly scarring and unfortunate. This evolved and changed to be the canon we know today, the canon agreed to allow a variety of works from different sexualities, ethnicities, and genders to be included in today’s literature. There are more multicultural and ethnic authors involved, expanding the Canon and its views from people worldwide.

Thus, in conclusion, it’s still important to read the texts part of the ‘Original Canon’ as they tell us about the society in which they were made and have influenced a majority of other great texts too. The Canon today suggests what works are influential and should be studied in schools. It includes texts from places and by writers from every point of the globe. Literature is subjective and is always changing from one era to another. It’s determined by whatever is happening in the world, and what views people have at that time. Canon literature has always been similar in one way, it must include many works that are representative of society, providing a snapshot of a given time.   

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