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Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past1660-1781$
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Richard Terry

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198186236

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186236.001.0001

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The Progress of Poesy: Making an English Canon

The Progress of Poesy: Making an English Canon

Chapter:
(p.35) 2 The Progress of Poesy: Making an English Canon
Source:
Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past
Author(s):

Richard Terry (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186236.003.0003

The constitution of a literary heritage brings into play two axes: those of selection and combination. It depends on the veneration of select authors and works (that is, their adoption into a canon) and on the combination of these into an intelligible ‘tradition’ or creative genealogy. In this book, the word ‘canon’ refers to a list of books maintained by personal or public opinion to be illustrious, rather than in the more ideologically hard-edged application of it as a corpus of texts accredited and promulgated by some force of authority (such as a school, university, or publishing house). This definition allows for a distinction between canon-making as involving a principle of selection, and the exhaustive recovery of the cultural past undertaken by some antiquarians. When the English literary canon comes into being remains unclear. In recent times, it has become the norm for a relatively late date, usually falling in the 18th century or Romantic period, to be accorded to its inception.

Keywords:   literary canon, poesy, English literature, Thomas Gray, Alexander Pope, poetry, Michael Drayton, progress-of-poesy poems, literary heritage

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