Spring 1991 • Vol. XIII No. 2 Book Reviews |

Versions of Revision: Conflict and Community in the American Canon

The Voice in the Margin: Native American Literature and the Canon by Arnold Krupat. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. 259 pages. $30.00; $9.95, paper. New Ground: Western American Narrative and the Literary Canon by A. Carl Bredahl, Jr. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. 195 pages. $29.95. These two books, though very different in methodology and intent, illustrate an axiom of the continuing debate over the American literary canon: the term has always been more important as a metaphor than as a specific list or lists of "great" books to be worshipped, vilified, or ignored. Indeed, as the strange persistence of the ecclesiastical term among academic writers suggests, the canon (or, in the less spiritually charged phrase favored in education circles, the "core curriculum") has always been a kind of theological concept, concerned mainly with such elusive matters as "national heritage," "cultural coherence," and "ethnic identity." The often emotio

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