Beyond Literary Landscapes—Classic Literature

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column is a bit different from previous weeks.  In this issue, I tackle the all-encompassing topic of Classic Literature.

Before we begin, it may be prudent to define what constitutes Classic Literature, and who determines what is included in the literary canon.

Some common determinants of Classic Literature include expressing artistic quality, standing the test of time, having universal appeal, being informed by history and literature, as well as being relevant to various generations.

A literary canon can be defined as “a list of the most important, influential, or definitive works” in literature, as well as art, music, and philosophy.  To be included, books must be considered essential.  However, debate exists reading who defines what is included in the literary canon, as well as who is excluded.  Indeed, the controversy lies in that “the canon is subjective and determined by a select few.”  Often, in the case of the Western literary canon, many intersecting identities have been—and remain excluded.


Some well-known works of Classic Literature include The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, The President by Miguel Ángel Asturias, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.


These novels are set throughout ancient Greece, Colombia, Guatemala, Imperial Russia, Nigeria, and Great Britain.


Many of these works span from the 8th century to the 19th and 20th-centuries.


These examples may be of interest to AU learners who would like to think critically about who decides inclusion in the Classic Literary canon, as well as who is excluded.  They may also be of interest as a starting point to different literary cannons worldwide.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to Classic Literature are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in ENGL 341: World Literature, a six-credit, senior-level course, which “introduces students to literature from around the world.”  (Note that this course requires several prerequisites, including ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays or a first year English course.)

In addition, students moving on to graduate students may be interested in LTST 551: World Literature, a three-credit, graduate-level course, which “investigates an increasingly influential approach to literary studies—world literature.”  (No prerequisites are required.)  Happy reading!