Period 7: Modern

1730A.D. to 1910A.D.

22 texts in 8 languages

Starts with Hume (1748A.D.) and ends with William James (1907A.D.)

French English  German  Polish, Russian   Arabic, Urdu  Chinese
Voltaire Hume  Kant  Mickiewicz
Shah Walliullah (Arabic) Story of the Stone 



  Tolstoy Ghalib (Urdu) Xu Zizi Tongjian 
  Lyrical Ballads  Goethe   Solovyov    
  Austen  Burckhardt       
  J.S.Mill    Marx      
   Whitman   Nietzsche      
    William James        
2  7 6 3  2 2

In broad stroke, Modern period should be considered to start in 1750; but for this list Hume's Essay on Human Understanding in 1748 makes it inconvenient. 1730 is used as roughly most of the influential authors writers of the Scottish Enlightenment (Hume being a representative) reachd adulthood in the 1730s. And the Modern period probably hasn't ended, though it is much harder to include texts in the last 100 years, as clearly the canonization process has not been completed to any sufficient extent to make a small list possible.


Modern period is clearly dominated by the West. The prominence of English and German authors is probably as much a factor of demographics as the academic bias in the United States (which, however, do affect how canonical significance are perceived as I write in 2012). In the "South", canonical texts were all Islamicate texts written in northern India (which reflects both the demographic center shift of Islam, and the late emergence of modern prominent South Asian languages such as Hindi and Bengali.) In East Asia, the last cultural flowering happened in the reign of Qianlong in the 2nd half of 18th century.


This is a list that I expect would be modified if I am fortunate enough to live till 2050. By then, it would be more clear whether and which Americans should make the list, probably German and English authors would be replaced (e.g. J.S. Mill by Wittgenstein and/or Nietzsche by Heidegger?), which literary achievements considered lasting (James Joyce or Kafka or T.S. Eliot or Wolff or Faulkner or Borges?), and it would be much clearer which late 19th / early 20th century authors from outside the West would be considered canonical. My bets now are with Tagore, Fukuzawa, very likely Gandhi, and possibly Iqbal.


Of course, I have my favorites in the second half of the 20th century, but their clear canonization would only happen beyond my life time.