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Canon (basic principle)

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(Redirected from Literary canon)

The term canon derives from the Greek κανών (kanon), meaning "rule", and thence via Latin and Old French into English.[1] The concept in English usage is very broad: in a general sense it refers to being one (adjectival) or a group (noun) of official, authentic or approved rules or laws, particularly ecclesiastical; or group of official, authentic, or approved literary or artistic works, such as the literature of a particular author, of a particular genre, or a particular group of religious scriptural texts;[2] or similarly, one or a body of rules, principles, or standards accepted as axiomatic and universally binding in a religion, or a field of study or art.[3]


This principle of grouping has led to more specific uses of the word in different contexts, such as the Biblical canon (which a particular religious community regards as authoritative) and thence to literary canons (of a particular "body of literature in a particular language, or from a particular culture, period, genre").[1]

W.C Sayers (1915–1916) established a system of canons of library classification.[4]

S. R. Ranganathan developed a theory of facet analysis, which he presented as a detailed series of 46 canons, 13 postulates and 22 principles.[5]

There is also the concept of the canons of rhetoric, including five key principles that, when grouped together, are the principles set for giving speeches.[6]

See also[edit]

  • Artistic canons of body proportions – Criteria used in formal figurative art
  • Axiom: a statement that is taken to be true, to serve as a starting point for further reasoning and arguments.
  • Canon (disambiguation)
  • Canon (fiction) – Concept of continuity between different fictional works
  • Canon law – Set of ordinances and regulations made by ecclesiastical authority
  • Canonical – Standard or referential form
  • Der Kanon – Canon of exemplary German literature, chosen by Marcel Reich-Ranicki
  • Norm (philosophy): concepts (sentences) of practical import, oriented to effecting an action
  • Principle: rule that has to be followed or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature
  • Rule of inference: in logic, a logical form consisting of a function which takes premises, analyzes their syntax, and returns a conclusion (or conclusions)
  • Rhetoric: the art of persuasion. The five canons of rhetoric or phases of developing a persuasive speech were first codified in classical Rome: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.
  • Western canon: the body of literature, music, philosophy, and works of art that is highly valued in Western culture


  1. ^ a b Canon. Oxford English Dictionary.
  2. ^ "Canon". Collins English Dictionary. Glasgow: HarperCollins Publishers. 2019.
  3. ^ "Canon". Dictionary.reference.com. Dictionary.com, LL. 2019. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  4. ^ Sayers, W.C. (1915–1916). Canons of classification applied to "The subject", "The expansive", "The decimal" and "The Library of Congress" classifications: A study in bibliographical classification method. Lindon: Grafton.
  5. ^ Spiteri, Louise (1998). "Prolegomena to library classification: A Simplified Model for Facet Analysis: Ranganathan 101". Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science. 23 (1–2): 1–30.
  6. ^ Toye, Richard (2013). Rhetoric A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-965136-8.