What is included in the literary canon?

I assume that everyone knows what the literary canon is, but if not check out this video that explains all about it.

Amidst the many classics in the literary canon such as Joyce, Shakespeare, Austen, and countless others, I began wondering if digital literature is included in this exclusive society. I came across this article by a German professor, Florian Hartling, who surmised that digital literature is in its infancy of being inducted in the canon because of the uniqueness of the work.

Literary writings have a five step process as outlined in the article to be inducted (put very simply);

  1. Get published
  2. Get people to read it
  3. Critiques in journals, magazines, and newspapers
  4. Academic Scholarly criticism
  5. Work included in encyclopedia’s, university curriculum and schoolbooks

Digital literature has a unique situation because it is based online, the first step to get published is a moot point because anyone can publish their digitized work on the internet. Consequently, there is not extreme competition to have the work available to the general population. Therefore, digital literature has to have its own set of steps in order to be canonized. Hartling designed five requirements for inducting digital literature into the canon, establishing the necessity of imaginary publishing houses and encyclopedias for digital works to be published. However, these fictitious entities are unfeasible at the present, so according to Hartline, no digital literature will be in the canon until the proper criticism outlets are formed. However, I adamantly disagree with his line of thinking. There are already hundreds of digitized hypertext and interactive fiction that are reviewed and scholarly criticized.  A lack of publishing house or involvement in a certain professional journal does not make some works of digital literature any less important.

Hartling states that any literature inside the canon becomes the standard for judging other texts in that genre or time period. The canon serves “primarily as a way to orient themselves not only during their period of development, but also in the process of producing their own texts canons serve as mechanisms for selection and orientation. In the overwhelming range of literary works, canons help to focus on texts which are considered valuable and timeless and can therefore be incorporated into the culture’s memory.”


Though still a relatively new phenomenon there is already an active community evidenced through twitter, digitized literary conferences, and the vast array of produced games. There is already a standard with underlying cultural values that others base their work off of.

In my opinion, a canon for digital literature already exists, as the last requirement for the literature canon is that the work is included in university curriculum. Since our entire class is devoted to this exact subject, there is already a standard to be reached by other game makers. The standard has been created. Value of certain works has been recognized. There is critical analysis of games. Therefore, according to the definition of a canon, the digital literature canon has already been created, and many of the works we have discusses and viewed in class is ultimately part of this elitist group.

What works would you think should be included in this canon?

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