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“Throw the book at ’em!” and the Literary Cannon

I created the Literary Cannon to allow readers to literally, “Throw the book at sexual violence,” but of course this idea runs deeper.

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Over the years I’ve taken note of “cultural texts,” films, works of literature — even a rock opera released by The Who in 1969 — that discuss Gender-based Violence that impacts males.  Fascinating, how a survey of these texts in chronological order reveals a continuum, as this topic gets discussed as a gradient that begins with hints and suggestion in the eighteenth and nineteenth century with increasing specificity, ending with literal dramatizations of men reclaiming their lives from what changed them as boys.

My figurative “book,” which I find so in need of throwing therefore seems more a collection, a work in progress as I discover and add new titles to my list. For the moment this canon begins, roughly, with the diaries of literary critic Samuel Johnson, to The Telltale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe, to James Joyce’s Dubliners, through to Deliverance by James Dickey, and up through the film Australia, starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackson, and Nullah, the boy who survives.

In a culture in which avoidance of this topic too often takes the form of discrimination, I regard my discovery of this collective text a useful blessing, very special “literary cannon,” that resounds again and again: “You’re not alone.”

Truth be told, I beleive I’m in good company, finding myself refreshed by my work.

Since the Literary Cannon is driven by compressed air, like many scholarly endeavors, please allow me to continue . . .

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This idea of “throwing the book at ‘em” has more to do with taking ownership than laying blame. For me, “throwing the book” has had as much to do with the process or reading and learning, discovering what’s not readily available — through higher education, and self-education.

To attribute cause is a necessary process for victims prone to self-blame, a means of replacing defeat with the fact of having faced ones greatest fears. These get replaced as personal development, opting in socially and ascribing meaning to what was once the gulf of loss. Regardless of our relationship to a community’s trauma history, that community cannot move past its trauma until members have taken ownership in the process of moving past it.

Rituals like “throwing the book” can serve this purpose. They make people feel good in the collective experience, and at the same time afford the individual a private, interior relationship to participation. To host or facilitate such an event is a first step toward ownership.

I look forward to seeing you at one of my events, so you, too, can experience the Literary Cannon.

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CLICK ON THE SPYCAR To see the Literary Cannon in action at Bryan Hall, University of Virginia!

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