What is 'the canon'? Who determines it? How should it be read? These are the questions that preoccupied academics during the 'theory wars' of the late twentieth century and continue to challenge and define literary studies today. Considering why the canon is such an important concept in literary studies, and explaining the key concepts and approaches to the debate, Christopher Kuipers: * examines the history of the Western concept of the canon, illustrating the changing view of 'canonicity' with examples including the scriptures, Homer, and T.S. Eliot * discusses the modern and post-modern evolution of the canon, and how theoretical innovations in literary studies have challenged and redefined the concept * illustrates his argument with specific examples of alternative canons, from oral and popular literature to 'minority' literatures * explores how 'the canon' relates to pedagogy and the publication of materials, such as anthologies, intended for teaching * asks what the digital era portends for the canon. This comprehensive and engaging book emphasises the significance of 'the canon' to literary studies and cultural studies, exploring how the crucial decisions are made about which texts are worth studying and which are not.