Confronting Our Canons: Spanish and Latin American Studies in the 21st Century

Confronting Our Canons: Spanish and Latin American Studies in the 21st Century

Confronting Our Canons: Spanish and Latin American Studies in the 21st Century

Confronting Our Canons: Spanish and Latin American Studies in the 21st Century

Synopsis

The contents of this book cover what a Canon is and why it matters, the Canon backstory, modern Canons, factors that make a work Canonical, the literary Canon, and much more.

Excerpt

In an early-twenty-first-century episode of the television series “The Sopranos,” mob wife Carmela Soprano—she of the expensive blond highlights on a head that presumably did not process a college education—turned pensively toward her daughter, Meadow. “So,” the mother asked the college sophomore, “What’s in the canon now?” This perfectly calibrated question, coming from such a perfectly unlikely source, gives a glimpse of how thoroughly the idea of the canon has permeated our culture. Beginning with the so-called culture wars associated with diversity in college curricula in the 1980s, through the ubiquitous best-of-the-century booklists of the 1990s, to today’s headlines about curricular contents and learning outcomes in higher education: the canon has become part of our national lexicon. But the underlying paradox or myth of the canon remains unresolved: everyone thinks that he or she knows exactly what is in “the canon,” but no one really, absolutely, does.

What we do know is that canons matter. If a field is significant, then its canon is always significant. Why? Because at its most basic level, any canon is a subset of the best and most important, culled from a larger set of all possible choices. and since “the best” is tantamount to what is worth keeping, this abstraction will always have huge practical consequences. a canon is in effect a belief system that defines a field and shapes what is taught; through transmission to successive generations, a canon determines what ultimately is preserved in the culture. Pedagogy is the locus of power of any canon: the reason why the idea can command column inches in publications that Carmela Soprano might read at the hairdresser’s. This is why, as John Alberti noted, all debate about the canon must be “as much pedagogical as it is theoretical” (Canon in the Classroom, xii).

Pedagogical debates are front and center in today’s academic environment. From an interest in “best practices” and calls for “accountability” to ever-more-explicit connections between outcomes assessment . . .

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