Studies in Literature, Film and New Media
Edited By Anna Kędra-Kardela and Andrzej Sławomir Kowalczyk
CHAPTER ONE: The Gothic Canon: Contexts, Features, Relationships, Perspectives
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The Gothic Canon: Contexts, Features, Relationships, Perspectives
ANNA KĘDRA-KARDELA ANDRZEJ SŁAWOMIR KOWALCZYK
The term “canon” can be succinctly defined as “a body of writings or other creative works that are acknowledged as authentic or important” (Ross 2006: 367). Canonical works are held to represent “the texts which authentically define an area of literature, either on grounds of historical importance, literary merit or influence” (Dennis 2008: 124). The concept’s history is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of distinguishing those Biblical texts which were believed to have been divinely inspired and accurately copied down (thus “authentic”) from the apocryphal and thus non-canonical ones. Likewise, different universities compiled lists of literary works “worthy” of study/research in academia, establishing thereby literary canons, which maintained relative stability for decades (Goring et al. 2001: 211).
In the contemporary literary/critical discourse, however, characterized by flexibility, plurality, and indeterminacy in establishing (generic) boundaries, the term “literary canon” may sound at least dated, if not objectionable. This controversy is reflected in a polemic between critics like Harold Bloom, who swear by the literary canon as an “ageless self-governing tradition” and others, who reject the concept of the canon as exclusive and conservative (Ross 2006: 367). Between these two opposite views there are the moderates, who claim that “the literary canon [. . .] has always been open to adjustment and expansion” (367, emphasis added). In our understanding of the concept it is precisely this...
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