Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the definition of canon?

The definition of canon is a group of written works that have been broadly sanctioned or accepted as representative of a particular course of study, such as the Western literary canon.

Canon

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Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 165

Canon - a standard of judgment or a criterion. It is also an approved list of books belonging in the Christian Bible, in addition to being the accepted list of any given order, and the list of books accepted as Scripture. The term is increasingly used to refer to those works of literature that have come to be considered standard in any anthology or course of study. In addition, it refers to the works of an author which are accepted as genuine, such as the Chaucer Canon.

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The term is derived from the Middle French canon, which was adapted from the Italian cannone, meaning “large tube.” This definition evolved from the Latin canna, which meant “cane or reed.” Common usage eventually led to the term being defined as a straight rod or bar, a carpenter’s rule, or a standard of excellence. Greek authors were known as kanones or “models of excellence.”

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Melville’s canon consists of Moby-Dick and Billy Budd.

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Latest answer posted October 17, 2010, 10:01 am (UTC)

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