What Is a Canon in American Literature?

In American literature, a canon refers to a collection of published works that scholars consider to be most influential in the country's culture. The term often extends beyond written works and includes art or music that meet similar criteria.

A literary canon is considered essential to fostering education and developing high culture. However, the American canon consistently sparks debates about both the authors who wrote the works and the meaning their respective texts convey. Critics particularly disapprove of the lack of multiculturalism represented in the canon, as well as the nationalities of the authors who wrote them. Despite different viewpoints, many universities and scholars still consider the canon crucial to liberal arts studies and the American culture at large.