A Culture of Text: The Canon and the Common Core


  • Robert Aston Columbia University


literary canon, power relations, Common Core State Standards, the teaching of literature


This paper interrogates the notion of the literary canon in the teaching of literature, examining the potential effects of the Common Core Standards (CCS) on the canon. It outlines the emergence and persistence of the canon in the teaching of literature using an articulation of Michel Foucault’s (1981; 1994a) power relations so as to draw attention to teachers and students as possible subjects of the canon who reify it in literature curricula. Calling into question the possible narrowing effects of the canon on students, this paper suggests that an understanding of Foucault’s (1994a) concept of resistance may help one intervene in operations of the canon and thereby subtly decenter its normalizing processes in the classroom to produce a more dynamic curriculum. Examining several studies on the teaching of literature and the canon, this paper illustrates what acts of resistance might look like and how decentering the traditional practices that structure the canon may be possible even under the CCS.

Author Biography

Robert Aston, Columbia University

Robert Aston is a PhD candidate in English education at Columbia University's Teachers College. He taught secondary English in CA for several years and now teaches English in Brooklyn, NY.