Sat

30

Jul

2011

What is the measure of influence?

In the Concept of the List, I have written:

 

"Prioritize texts that have continuous substantial real (i.e. not imaginary) influence in the history of the tradition(s) up till the present day."

 

It turns out it is much contested what "influence" is meant for a text, and thus how a world canon list should in theory be constructed (provided that one agrees that a list is needed in the first place!). There are at least three broad ways people can understand "influence":

1) How much a text has been read - e.g. number of people, across periods, in educational system, etc.

2) How much a text has been "ingrained" in the culture - e.g. words / phrases coined or derived by the text, how it has influenced art forms, how many derivative cultural products like TV series, movies, paintings, music are available, etc.

3) How much a text has influenced other texts - e.g. how much a form or style has been followed in subsequent texts, how much literary influence was acknowledged in subsequent key works (e.g. Dante acknowledges Virgil), etc.

 

When you are thinking about what is meant by "influence' in a canon list (Western, Worldwide or Nationally, does not really matter), which of the above sense of "influence" do you think matter the most?

 

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