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The American Classics – A Personal Essay - Yale Scholarship Online
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The American Classics: A Personal Essay

Denis Donoghue


How is a classic book to be defined? How much time must elapse before a work may be judged a “classic”? And among all the works of American literature, which deserve the designation? This book presents a short list of “relative” classics—works whose appeal may not be universal but which nonetheless have occupied an important place in our culture for more than a century. These books have survived the abuses of time—neglect, contempt, indifference, willful readings, excesses of praise and hyperbole. The book bestows the term classic on just five American works: Melville's Moby-Dick, Hawthorne's ... More

Keywords: classics, American literature, Moby-Dick, The Scarlet Letter, Walden, Leaves of Grass, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, American culture

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2005 Print ISBN-13: 9780300107814
Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013 DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300107814.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Denis Donoghue, author

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