The Politics of Poetics

Creative Writing Programs and the Double Canon of Contemporary Poetry


Literary canonization, most simply put, involves the selection of those texts which deserve to be read by present and future readers. Perhaps in an ideal world this selection would be based solely on the texts’ greatness; in the real world, however, once we begin to question what greatness means and for whom it so means, the political nature of the very process of canonization becomes clear. When Chinua Achebe argues Conrad’s Heart of Darkness should not remain in the canon1 because of Conrad’s racism, he takes a political position, but no more so than the critic who responds that the novel should remain for the quality of its novelistic ...

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