General Introduction
– The end of an era
– What we want on our statues
– What’s on the blog?
– Freshman comp clichés
– More on DVD players in cars

What is a Canon?
– The Biblical Canon
– Inclusion and exclusion
– The Western Canon
– The six types of criticism and canons
– Lack of communication
– The relationship of canons and universities
– The element of suppression
– Multiple canons

The Biblical Canon
– Canons within canons
– The Lectionary as a cure
– The deuterocanonical books

Shakespeare! Shakespeare! Shakespeare!
– The center of the British canon?
– Poet or dramatist?
– Decentering Shakespeare
– Can we say who’s “better”?
– We take on the Shakespeare cottage industry
– Shakespeare and the “performative”

The American Canon
– Who’s our Shakespeare?
– Taking down Twain
– Creating the American canon (yes, I meant World War I)
– Modifying the canon
Longfellow’s disappearance
– The broadening of American-ness

And Now…David Grubbs Talks Beowulf
– How Beowulf misleads the masses
– The dearth of copies and references
– Possible replacements/supplements
– The tyranny of anthologies
– Chaucer’s similar situation
– Exilic literature

Blank Studies and the Canon
– Affirming specialized studies
– Do studies courses go too far?
– Biting the hand that feeds you
– Using studies tools in service of the canon
– A whiter shade of pale

The Canon and the Classroom
– How to shove it all in?
– Make them do the work
– Derrida and core curriculum
– Advice for laymen


Anglo-Saxon Poetry. Ed. S.A.J. Bradley. New York: Everyman, 1995.

Beowulf. Trans. Seamus Heaney. New York: Norton, 2001.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. New York: Oxford UP, 2008.

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Norton, 1993.

Derrida, Jacques. Deconstruction in a Nutshell. Ed. John D. Caputo. New York: Fordham UP, 1996.

Dickinson, Emily. Collected Poems. New York: Barnes and Noble, 2003.

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. New York: Tribeca, 2011.

Felix. Felix’s Life of Guthlac. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985.

Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Tribeca, 2011.

Freer, Coburn. The Poetics of Jacobean Drama. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1982.

Frost, Robert. The Poetry of Robert Frost. New York: Holt, 2002.

Gower, John. Confessio Amantis. Trans. Andrew Galloway. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Western Michigan U Medieval P, 2006.

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics. Trans. Bernard Bosanquet. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Hemingway, Ernest. Green Hills of Africa. New York: Scribner, 1998.

Lauter, Paul. Canons and Contexts. New York: Oxford UP, 1991.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Poems and Other Writings. New York: Library of America, 2000.

Lydgate, John. The Troy Book. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Western Michigan U Medieval P, 1998.

Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus. New York: Norton, 2004.

Shakespeare, William. The Norton Shakespeare. New York: Norton, 2008.

Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Seattle: CreateSpace, 2008.

—. Pudd’nhead Wilson. Lawrence, Kansas: Digireads, 2005.

Wilson, Harriet. Our Nig. Seattle: CreateSpace, 2010.

19 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #48: Canons (Within Canons)”
  1. Really enjoyed the show guys. I was wondering Michial what your take is on Bloom placing Whitman as the center, or Shakespeare, of the American Canon? Do you think he is best candidate if one had to choose? Looking forward to next week Nathan, one request tho: can I get one plug for Andrew Marvell? 🙂 keep rockin’ it fellas

    chris w

  2. Chris:

    You have scooped the subject of the blog post I’m working on. Stay tuned.

  3. “Taking the question at hand utterly seriously and ourselves not at all”

    You’re a new and pleasant discovery for me and as I’ve been listening through your archives I’ve found it easy, even essential, to take the same tack.

  4. Chris,

    Had I gone into Renaissance poetry, the show would have been another twenty minutes longer! 🙂 David’s prompt steered me towards Renaissance Drama, so that’s where I stayed.

  5. So is the Car DVD player used all the time, or only for long trips? If it is on everytime the car moves than Gilmour should be ashamed.

  6. We do not have a car DVD player. We promised before we had kids that we would never have one. After having a child I totally want a DVD player for our car (only for long trips). It was so easy to say, before having a child, that it is simply wrong to have one. But when you have a child bored on long trips, everyone is miserable. Before we had kids we had all kinds of fantasies about how we would be different, but considering the shear exhaustion of life you do the best you can.

  7. Honestly, I can’t remember any promises that Mary and I made when Micah was on his way. Perhaps we’re just lazy that way, but I think that the aim of maintaining peace with the kids’ grandparents and our friends at church and folks in our neighborhood has somewhat steered us away from trying to make their childhoods in our own image. The way I figure it, although Mary and I have a larger claim on these years, we don’t have an exclusive claim, and being an incorrigible Campbellite, I’d just as soon have our kids undergo conversion to become no-TV people or vegetarians or pacifists or whatever they become. Obviously part of parenting is checking excesses (and kids will pursue excess unchecked), but I do tend to distinguish between checking excess and instituting a home-monastery.

    I know that none of those things has directly to do with in-car DVD players, but I think the same mentality rather transferred over that direction.

  8. I vote for no DVD player. I agree that kids need to be bored. I cring whenever I see a commercial on TV where the kids have those big headphones on watching a movie instead of enjoying the ride, or having some quality time with the parents. No DVD.

  9. I don’t have kids, so I know exactly how to raise them! I am can theorize all day long and never have to deal with kids for any longer than I choose.

    I love movies and would have a DVD player in the car. The great thing about movies, you can control the content. The commercials on Children’s TV shows are what I see as being a real danger.

  10. Well, David and Michial, do we now re-record the intro to this week’s episode, in which we noted that nobody has responded yet to the car-DVD question?

  11. On a more serious note…

    I would love to hear a podcast devoted specifically to the analysis you hinted at regarding Shakespeare vs. Marlowe, etc.

    Even as a lover of Beowulf I nonetheless appreciate David’s remarks about better choices for selections in a general canon of literature. Much smaller and emotionally gripping works like the Wanderer or the Seafarer give a better picture of the values of pre- or at least para-Christian culture in England (which is what Beowulf is often misconstrued as providing). Guthlac’s a great choice, and I’d even suggest that if you’re wanting better historical bona fides than Beowulf can provide, even the incomplete Battle of Maldon is at least corroborated to some degree in the AS Chronicles, and replete with the melancholy Anglo-Saxon outlook. Anyway, I adore Beowulf, but agree that it is probably not the best option for a more generic reading list.

  12. Those are some strong picks, Steve: especially Wanderer and Maldon, which are two poems I try to live by. I had 2 reasons I went with Guthlac for a recommendation: 1) Wanderer, Seafarer, and Maldon all tend to get SOME love in a lit survey, while Guthlac gets none; and 2) Guthlac’s story exists in multiple forms — both Latin and Old English, both poetry and prose — and so can represent not only typical A-S “life” or typical A-S worldview, but also a more popular A-S story.

    Really, though, I think your suggestions point us even more strongly to the folly of letting one work speak for a whole culture, as Beowulf is often made to do for A-S England. We need elegies, proverbs, naughty riddles, biblical epics, along with the better-known heroic poetry of Beowulf and Maldon. But is there time to do that in a sophomore survey? Usually not.

    (Unless it’s mine, in which case pre-Conquest Britain gets three weeks of class time, though OE lit has to share the stage with Boethius, Augustine, post-Roman Britons, and Norse sagas. I miss that three weeks.)

  13. Do you ever get to Chaucer, David?

    [edit: I’m sorry. I thought by “pre-conquest” you meant before the Battle of Badon, not before the Battle of Hastings. I thought a fifth of your semester was gone before you ever got to Anglo-Saxon literature.]

  14. Yeah, we got to Chaucer, though all we looked at was “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.” The post-conquest medieval unit was centered on Arthurian romance in general and “Gawain + Green Knight” in particular, and “WoBT” is the only Canterbury tale in the Arthurian vein.

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