1. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    The Literary Canon

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Lemex, Apr 13, 2014.

    Here is a list of the 50 essential books you need to read to be comfortably acquainted with human culture as it has developed.

    This 'canon' I have decided ends pretty much with Dante to avoid the list becoming too heavily 'English' or leaning too much toward any other nation that would stop it being universal which is my goal.

    It is my opinion that any student of literature would be extremely well served by reading at least most of these titles, and it would instill a grounding in and appriciation for some of the best quality/most important literature mankind has ever produced.

    *Please note: this started as an attempt to chronicle the entire tradition of 'great books'*

    The Canon

    1)The Epic of Gilgamesh by ? (Date unknown, standardized version: between the 13th and 10th centuries BC) – Epic poetry - Summerian - first known
    written epic poem.​
    2)The Classic Chinese Poetry - (11th-7th centuries BC) -poetry- Chinese
    3)Pre-Socratic Philosophers – various authors (635 BC(?) To 470 BC) - Non-fiction – Ancient Greek – Possible first written philosophical thought.
    4)The Illiad by Homer(?) (Date unknown, usually attributed to 8th century BC) – Epic poetry – Ancient Greek
    5)The Odyssey by Homer(?) (Date unknown, usually attributed to 8th century BC) – Epic poetry - Ancient Greek
    6)The works of Hesiod (Date unknown, usually thought between 750 BC and 650 BC) - Poetry - Ancient Greek
    Theogony (Unknown, around 700 BC) - Epic poem
    Works and Days (Unknown, around 700 BC) - Epic poem​
    7)The poems of Theognis (approximately 6th century) – Poetry – Ancient Greek
    8)The Torah (Date composed 7th BC century, compiled 5th century BC) – Religious text – Rabbinnic
    9)The Art of War by Sun Tzu - (6th century BC) -Non fiction, Philosophy- Chinese
    10)The poems of Sappho (630 BC to 570 BC) - Poetry - Ancient Greek)
    11)Fables of Aesop (Date 620 BC to 560 BC) - Fiction - Ancient Greek
    12)The works of Pindar (522 BC to 443 BC) - Poetry - Ancient Greek
    13) Mahabharata (4th century BC) - Epic poetry, religious text - Sanskrit
    14) Ramayana (4th century BC) - Epic poetry, religious text - Sanskrit
    15)The Oresteia by Aeschylus (Date 458 BC) - Drama, Tragedy - Ancient Greek
    Agamemnon
    The Libation Bearers
    Eumenides
    16)The Three Thebian Plays of Sophocles - Drama, Tragedy - Ancient Greek
    Antigone (Date 441)
    Oedipus Tyrannus (Date 429 BC)
    Oedipus at Colonus (Date 401 BC)​
    17)Histories by Herodotus (Date 450 BC and 420 BC) – Non-fiction, history - Ancient Greek
    18)The Frogs by Aristophanes (Date 405 BC) – Drama, Comedy - Ancient Greek
    19)The work of Plato (428 BC to 347BC) - Non-fiction, philosophy - Ancient Greek
    The Republic (Date attributed to around 380 BC)
    Symposium (and other dialogues), (Date between 385 and 380 BC)​
    20)The work of Aristotle (384 BC to 322 BC) - Non-fiction, philosophy - Ancient Greek
    Politics by Aristotle (Date 350 BC) - Philosophy, Political theory
    Poetics by Aristotle (Date 335 BC) - Non-fiction, Literary theory​
    21)History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides (Date ?) - Non-fiction, history (possible bias identified by scholars) – Ancient Greek
    22)The Classic of Changes - (approx. 3rd-2nd centuries BC) -religious- Chinese
    23)Idylls/Bacolics by Theocritus (Date around 3rd Century BC) - Poetry - Ancient Greek
    24)The Analects of Confucius - (221 BC) -philosophy- Chinese
    25)Work of Cicero (106 BC to 43 BC) - Non-Fiction, various - Latin
    26)The poems of Catullus (84 BC to 54 BC) - Poetry - Latin
    27)Lives by Plutarch (Date 1st century) - Non-fiction, history - Ancient Greek
    28)On the Nature of Things by Lucretius (Date ? - possibly 1st Century BC) – Epic poetry - Latin
    29)The Works of Virgil - Latin
    The Eclogues/Bucolics (Date between 42 BC and 37 BC(?)) - Poetry
    The Georgics (Date between 37 BC and 31 BC)- Poetry
    The Aeneid (Date 19 BC) - Epic poetry​
    30)The poems of Horace (65 BC to 8 BC) - Poetry - Latin
    31)Metamorphosis by Ovid (8 BC) - Epic Poetry - Latin
    32)On the Sublime by Longinus (?) (Date unknown, between 3rd and 1st Century AD) – Non-fiction, Literary Criticism – Ancient Greek
    33)The Bible (Compiled using Jewish and ‘New Testament’ material, Date of ‘definitive’ Latin compilation by 400 AD) - Religious text - Various
    34)Confessions by St Augustine (Between 397 AD and 398 AD) - - Non-fiction, religious philosophy – Latin
    35)City of God by St Augustine (5th Century AD) - Non-fiction, religious philosophy – Latin
    36)Poems of Du Fu (712-770) - Poetry - Chinese
    37)Poems of Li Po (701-762) - Poetry - Chinese
    38)The Qur’an (Compiled approximately 7th century AD) – Religious text – Arabic
    39)Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong (early 1300's AD) - Prose, History/fiction - Chinese
    40)The Poetic Edda (Unknown and various, before 13th century AD) – Poetry/Epic poetry – Norse
    41)The Prose Edda (Unknown and various, before 13th century AD) – Prose, mythological – Norse
    42)Beowulf by unknown (date unknown, between 8th Century AD and 12th Century AD) – Epic poetry – Angle-Saxon
    43)Poems of Rumi (1207-1273) - Poetry - Persian
    44)The works of Dante Alighieri –
    Rime
    The New Life/La Vita Nuova (Date 1295) - Poetry & non-fiction, autobiography – Italian
    The Divine Comedy/La Commedia (Date 1321) – Epic poetry – Italian
    De Monarchia (1313 - 1314) – Non-fiction, Political Theory - Latin​
    45)Decamerone by Giovanni Boccaccio (circa 1353) - Fiction, Short Stories - Italian
    46)The Canzone of Petrarch (1304 to 1374) – Poetry – Italian
    47)The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (Date 1400 – unfinished) – Epic poetry - Middle English
    48)The plays and narrative poems of William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) Drama and Poetry – English
    49)The King James Bible (completed 1611) – Religious Text – English
    50)The works of John Milton (1608 – 1674) – English
    English Minor poems – Poetry
    Lycidas
    (1638) – Poetry
    Areopagitica (1644) – Non-fiction, political theory
    Paradise Lost (1664)– Epic poetry
    Paradise Regained (1671) – Epic poetry
    Samson Agonistes (1671) – Drama, tragedy​




    _______________________________________________________________________________________

    Updated: 13/04/14 - 18:13 - entry numbers and Du Fu, Li Po, and Rumi added.

    Updated: 13/04/14 - 20:52 - Some itallics added, 'Hesiod' entry broken up. Minor textual corrections.

    Updated: 14/04/14 - 12:49 - Added entry: 'Aphra Behn' and minor textual corrections.

    Updated: 15/05/14 - 10:25: Added entries Sun Tzu and First Chinese poetry, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Decamerone, also removed Tom Jones and expanded to 1808 with Faust. Minor textual corrections.

    Updated: 10/07/14 - 21:06: list expanded to 1910 AD.

    Updated: 50 titles remain, after heavy consideration. Remaining is a list of essentual human literature
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2014
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The first thing I realized when I read this thread is that you have way too much time on your hands. :p

    I'll gladly join in, though I'll have to think about what books I would include and get back to you. If you want to include Eastern literature, I will gladly suggest a few books/names to add. That way, we'll have a World Canon.
     
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  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    To be honest, a world canon is what I'm looking to build here.

    And yeah, it's a Sunday, nothing better to do, and it'll keep this rascal off the streets for a bit. :p
     
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  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Here are some Eastern literature names/works I could think of:

    Poems of Du Fu (712-770) - Poetry - Chinese
    Poems of Li Po (701-762) - Poetry - Chinese
    Poems of Rumi (1207-1273) - Poetry - Persian
    Yoga Vasistha by Sage Valmiki - Spiritual Text - Sanskrit
    Mahabharata by Vyasa - Epic Poetry - Sanskrit
     
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  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Thanks! ^^ Those are great.

    Edit: I'll check out the dates on the last two before I add them.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2014
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Sorry, I should have included the dates. The oldest parts of the text of the Mahabharata date back to 400 BC, though the origins are somewhere between the 8th and 9th centuries BC.

    It's a little harder to find the date for the Yoga Vasistha because the earliest manuscript is from the 10th century AD but the author, Valmiki, lived somewhere between 500 BC and 100 BC. Haha.
     
  7. We Are Cartographers
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    We Are Cartographers Active Member

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    .
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I'll admit I based this list off of Harold Bloom's, so how would you define 'canonical'? Admittedly I don't have a great definition of it myself. I guess the entries I have are pretty typical and popular, and that's one quantifier I guess.
     
  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Harold Bloom's canon is nothing but dead white males. We can do much better.
     
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  10. MLM
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    MLM Banned for trolling

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    There is no canon unless we are admitting that the Literati is a cult.
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    @Lemex, are you still planning on updating this thread?
     
  12. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Yeah, I am. Sorry I've not been up dating recently, have a lot to do. My teacher training course is quickly coming to an end. :eek:
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Isn't it Samson Agonistes and not Simon Agonistes? And I thought Le Morte D'Arthur was a prose work - at least, my copy is in prose. Am I missing something?
     
  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Damn, you actually read through the whole list? :p You're right on both counts.
     
  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I'm a nerd that way. ;) I probably missed a few other errors - maybe I'll catch them tomorrow.
     
  16. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    I didn't catch a couple of important ones (well, they are all ouside of English canon, but if we are talking about the World "canon"...):

    Giovanni Boccaccio, Decamerone, circa 1353
    Erasmus of Rotterdam, In Praise of Folly, 1511
    François Rabelais,
    La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel, circa 1564
    the works of Pedro Calderón, especially La vida es sueño, 1635
    the works of Lope de Vega
    the works of François Villon
     
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  17. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm also wondering whether a list such as this should, beside The King James Bible, include other influental translations of the Holy Word - I think at least the Luther Bible (1522), which made the crucial contribution to what is modern German (as well as the history of Reformation) and the 9th century Old Church Slavonic translation by Cyril and Methodius, which made the late Byzantine "commonwealth" possible (as well as introducing literacy to Slavic peoples). :)
     
  18. Xueqin-II
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    Xueqin-II Member

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    The Classic of Poetry - (11th-7th centuries BC) -poetry- Chinese
    The Classic of Changes - (approx. 3rd-2nd centuries BC) -religious- Chinese
    The Classic of Rites - (?) - Chinese
    The Classic of History - (?) - Chinese
    Spring and Autumn Annals - (722 - 481 BC) - Chinese

    The Analects of Confucius - (221 BC) -philosophy- Chinese
    Mencius - (?) -philosophy- Chinese
    The Doctrine of The Mean - (?) -philosophy- Chinese
    The Great Learning - (?) -philosophy- Chinese
    The Art of War - (6th century BC) -Sun Tzu- Chinese

    Outlaws of The Marsh - (1200's) -Luo Guanzhong- Chinese
    Romance of the Three Kingdoms - (early 1300's) Luo Guanzhong - Chinese
    Journey to the West - (1600's) - Wu Cheng'en - Chinese
    Dream of Red Mansions - (1740-91) - Cao Xueqin and Gao E - Chinese

    The Story of The Western Wing - (Yuan dynasty) - Wang Shifu - drama - Chinese
    The Peony Pavillion - (Ming dynasty) Tang Xianzu - drama - Chinese

    Hope that was in any way useful.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2014
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  19. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Wow! A big thank you goes out to @Burlbird and @Xueqin-II for helping with those! As soon as I get an afternoon free I'm adding them. :)
     
  20. Xueqin-II
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    The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, 11th century Japanese. Very important, as it is the very first novel.

    I will certainly contribute more later. I am only too busy reading.
     
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  21. tupbup
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    tupbup Member

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    To me a literary canon seems to be an agreed upon reading list decided by a group of educated people who have a read a lot of books. Through this list a certain culture or time period is represented. Reading the list should give the reader a sense of what literature from that culture and/or time was like.

    At uni I had to read some of the Norton Anthology of English Literature which content's page could be taken to be a canon of sorts. It also does an anthology on world literature. I found a PDF of its contents page here:

    http://media.wwnorton.com/cms/contents/NAWOL_TOC_new.pdf

    It's a pretty extensive list, I don't know if anyone would have the time and patience to read it all but it may be interesting to see how it compares to your list so far.
     
  22. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Thanks again for the help everyone. I've been spending my morning updating this, adding a few entries. More should come over the weekend.
     
  23. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Dude, once you hit the 20th century, this list is going to double in size.
     
  24. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @tupbup you didn't do the whole Iliad? or Oresteia?
     
  25. tupbup
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    No, I only had to read some of the anthology. I think I had this for my Seventeenth Century module. I probably should go back and read the classical pieces but I've never been a fan of poetry. Very uncouth of me :)
     

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