Literary Canon – Once More, with Feeling!

At a forum where I post occasionally, one of the other posters asked us yesterday what our personal literary canon would look like, if we were to make one? The list should include a maximum of 25 works; novels, poetry, dramas, whatever was important to us. I took up the challenge immediately, loving the idea!


Now, I’d like to stress that I disagree with the concept of literary canons, mainly because I think that a canon tends to serve as a kind of guidebook, taking away the joy of the exploration and all the great little findings that roaming randomly through the history of literature can give you. But of course this only makes me love the idea of each of us making our own canon even more!

So I’ve made my list and I thought I’d post it here! If anyone feels like adding their personal canon in the comments, they are more than welcome to do so.

1. James Joyce – Dubliners (short stories)

2. Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse (novel)

3. Ovid – Metamorphoses (epos)

4. Georg Büchner – Woyzeck (play)

5. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Faust (play)

6. Shakespeare – Hamlet (play)

7. Søren Kierkegaard – Either/Or (novel)

8. Paul Celan – ”Todesfuge” (poem)

9. Tony Kushner – Angels in America (play)

10. Stendhal – Le Rouge et le Noir (novel)

11. Thomas Mann – Der Tod in Venedig (novel)

12. Søren Ulrik Thomsen – “Tilgiv at jeg ser dine knogler før kødet” (”Forgive me for seeing your bones before your flesh” – poem. Yeah, obscure little Danish thing… but it’s so good! J )

13. Marie de France – “Laüstic” (poem)

14. August Strindberg – The Father (play)

15. Oscar Wilde – Salome (play/libretto)

16. Hugo van Hoffmansthal – Elektra (libretto)

17. Gerhart Hauptmann – Bahnwärter Thiel (short story)

18. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Die Leiden des jungen Werther (novel)

19. Heinrich Heine – “Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten” (poem)

20. Graham Greene – The Quiet American (novel)

21. Jakob Knudsen – “Se, nu stiger Solen” (”Behold, the sun is rising” – poem)

22. Lawrence Sterne – Tristram Shandy (novel)

23. Rainer Maria Rilke – Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (novel)

24. Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland + Through the Looking-Glass (novel)

25. J. D. Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye (novel)


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