Decorative Initial In most cases, the addition of women writers to the canon has proceeded by arguing that a particular woman writer meets the standards generally applied to male authors, that she evinces similar values, that she contributes something important to an understanding of (white, male) Western culture.

The major drawback of this strategy is its suggestion of tokenism -- that adding a handful of women authors solves the problem of the vastly unequal representation of women in the canon. Thus we find The Norton Anthology (3rd edition, 1974) making this statement to its readers: "And [in this edition] the literature by and about women has been substantially supplemented so that it now includes, among other items. . . ." We learn that of 84 authors in the second volume of this anthology the number of women has been increased to (!) 8. This is a rather small supplement. Another negative of this strategy is the fact that women writers are still being judged by male standards-- they are admitted to the canon if they play the established melody. No real challenge to the standards and criteria of the canon result from this practice of supplementation.

The Literary Canon

Last modified 1989