Accessibility statement

Were we right to fire the canon (if we ever did)?

Thursday 19 May 2016, 12.30PM to 19.30

An interdisciplinary symposium

This symposium revisits issues of value and canonicity, from both a theoretical and a historical point of view. The late twentieth century saw the 'culture wars' as well as the dominance of high theory and the 'hermeneutics of suspicion' (the investigation of the occluded ideological work texts and artefacts supposedly perform). There were fierce arguments about the canon, often presented as a tool of oppression, though the canon also had distinguished defenders, including Harold Bloom (who dubbed practitioners of the 'hermeneutics of suspicion' the 'School of Resentment') and, more sympathetic to continental theory, Frank Kermode, who constantly returned to the issue. Those were exciting times, in which critics of the canon on the whole prevailed within the academy, but the arguments or assumptions have since become rather stale and routinized. Moreover, issues of value will not go away.

Today, with the humanities and arts in many people's eyes under greater threat than ever before from instrumentalists and from those who believe that economic benefit should be the main driver for cultural activities, it may be particularly important for academics to demonstrate the excellence of their objects of study. And at the same timed league tables and other rankings have become obsessions in the wider culture ('the 100 best…'). We have asked contributors to this symposium to look afresh at the issues around the idea of the canon in today's world in the light of history. The issues involved affect all the humanities, but we will be concentrating on Classics, English literature, and the visual arts.

Symposium Programme (PDF , 173kb)

There is no charge for attending the symposium, but numbers are limited owing to the size of the room, so you will need to reserve a place.  Please email Charles Martindale with your details.  Early booking is recommended.

Organisers: Tania Demetriou (English); Charles Martindale (English); Liz Prettejohn (History of Art). 

We would like to thank the following for financial and other support: the Department of History of Art; CREMS; the Humanities Research Centre.



Location: K/111, King's Manor, Exhibition Square, York