America has long been fans of the superior writers, such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald for their various works including “The Great Gatsby” and “The Old Man in the Sea”, America has been known for its fondness of short stories. American literature aims to embody the values and morals of the American culture. The foundation of American values include the rights to liberty, justice, freedom, equality, love, and family, American literature usually will be centered in one or more of these ideals. American literature incorporates the story of an American character and their encounters with the land and the people, exemplifying the human need to control and understand their environment. “Whitman emerges here both as an exemplar of the dominant literary theory and as a precursor of our contemporary value schema, with its enshrinement of the “me” (San Francisco Chronicle (Pre-1997 Fulltext)). Whitman was known for his fresh perspectives of the past and domination of literary theories. What is literary canon? How does literary canon relate to what is going on in society? Literary canons are the classifications of books and their influence upon the culture and society of a specific region or country. Literary canons outline the influential literature of a culture, society, country, or secular community. Society looks to literary canons to understand cultural influence and to research the issues that are most important to the people of the country.
“A canon need not include all writing that gets over a basic definitional threshold, just that which is considered crucial to preserve , venerate and invest with authority (to invoke the old religious term from which our secular sense of valuing text and of canonicity seems to derive)” (Hunter, J. Paul (1997)). What special challenges do ethnic writers have within the American literary experience? American literature is assumed to embody the ideals of the country, as ethnic writers enter the American literary experience they must be aware of their audience of readers and uphold the values and beliefs on a positive light. Ethnic writers may have a difficult time relating to American ideals and cultural references since they will be different from the cultural references and ideals of their own country. Ethnic writers are challenged to explore different cultures and their traditions to try to understand the American mindset and what it means to be an American citizen. “Perceptions of social belongingness and autonomy have been described in self-determination theory (Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991) as fundamental needs that support life happiness and success” (Clark, C. R., Mercer, S. H., Zeigler-Hill, V., & Dufrene, B. A. (2012)). How do ethnic writers define literature? How does that differ from the canon of traditional American literature? Ethnic writes define literature as a work that encompasses ideal of humanity and life. Literature in itself identifies and describes in detail the lives and the objectives of human beings and the world as they experience it. Ethnic writers look for stories that tell of cultural traditions and the ideals of ancient society such as loyalty, and triumph over oppression.
Ethnic literature gives intimate details of the lives of a specific culture telling the readers about the life that their character lives and the country from which they come from. According to Phinney (1996) there are three identifying traits of ethnicity, the people of the culture will share common (a) attitudes, behaviors, and values; (b) a subjective sense of membership and belong to an ethnic group (i.e. ethnic identity) (c) experience that are a direct result of their minority status, that include but should not be limited to feelings of powerlessness, acts of discrimination as a result of prejudice. What historical, socio-political, and cultural topics might be covered by ethnic writers? How does this differ from the canon of traditional American literature? Ethnic writers devote their time and artistry to dispelling stereotypes and telling the stories of their people. Ethnic writers will usual recount historical stories from the point of view of the people of their ethnicity. The canon of traditional American literature usually incorporates the stories of struggle in triumph of obtaining the American dream, and represents Americans as a unity people with common goals and aspirations. Ethical writers might cover topics of oppression and the chain reaction of mass genocide or of fighting against those who would stereotype people for simply belong to one race or religion different from their own.
A favorite point of interest for the ethical writers is any situations that cause a person to question their moral stance, such as the question of inter-racial love or friendship. The traditional American canon promotes traditional love and marriage, with the notion of self-reliance and self-prosperity, America is known for their unique perspective of innate human right to the pursuit of liberty, freedom, and general happiness and wellbeing, few country provide their citizen the right to happiness as part of their constitution or citizen charter. How are the American literary themes of liberty, opportunity and equality addressed in ethnic literature? Ethnic literature will usually focus on a specific ethnicity triumphs over adversity whilst obtaining the liberties, opportunities, and equalities of the American life-style. Ethnic literature usually will focus on the story of someone of a group of people who fight to obtain personal or social freedoms such as equal opportunities and a free pursuit of liberty and justice. The American spirit of freedom to liberty, opportunity and equality spread far and wide since the start of the country giving many people who once believed that they had no hope of happiness and freedom the strength to fight back against their oppressors.