English literary canon

Comprehensive canon edit

The following is a list of canonical authors and canonical works. Names bolded represent highly significant authors or works.

Medieval edit


  • The York Cycle
  • Everyman


  • Beowulf
  • Brunanburh
  • Cædmon: Cædmon's Hymn
  • Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde
  • William Langland: Piers Plowman
  • Cynewulf: The Ascension
  • Deor
  • Discourse of the Soul to its Body
  • Dream of the Rood
  • Pearl Poet: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl
  • The Battle of Maldon
  • The Seafarer
  • The Wanderer
  • Widsith


Renaissance edit


  • Frances Beaumont and John Fletcher: Philaster
  • Thomas Dekker: The Shoemaker's Holiday
  • Robert Greene: Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, James the Fourth
  • John Lyly: Endimion
  • Ben Jonson: The Alchemist, Bartholomew Fair: A Comedy, Volpone, Every Man in His Humour
  • Christopher Marlowe: The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus
  • Philip Massinger: A New Way to Pay Old Debts
  • George Peele: The Old Wives' Tale
  • William Shakespeare
  • Nicholas Udall: Ralph Roister Doister
  • John Webster: The Duchess of Malfi


  • John Donne
  • George Herbert: The Temple
  • William Shakespeare
  • Edmund Spenser: The Fairie Queen
  • Alexander Pope


  • Francis Bacon: New Atlantis
  • Robert Burton: The Anatomy of Melancholy
  • Thomas Deloney: Jack of Newbury
  • George Gascoigne: The Adventures of Master F. J.
  • John Lyly: Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit
  • Thomas Malory: Morte D'Arthur
  • Thomas More: Utopia
  • Thomas Nashe: The Unfortunate Traveller
  • Henry Neville: The Isle of Pines
  • Philip Sidney: Arcadia

English Civil War and Restoration edit



  • Thomas Carew: The Rapture
  • John Cleveland: The Rebel Scot
  • Abraham Cowley: The Mistress
  • Richard Crashaw: 'Delights of the Muses
  • John Denham: Cooper's Hill
  • John Dryden
  • Robert Herrick: Hesperides
  • Andrew Marvell
  • John Milton: Paradise Lost
  • Francis Quarles: Emblems
  • Thomas Traherne: The Wonder
  • Henry Vaughan: Silex Scintillans
  • Edmund Waller: The Bud, Go, lovely Rose, On a Girdle


  • Richard Baxter: Saints' Everlasting Rest
  • Aphra Behn: Oroonoko
  • Thomas Browne
  • John Bunyan: The Pilgrim's Progress
  • Thomas Fuller: The Worthies of England
  • Jeremy Taylor: Holy Living, Holy Dying
  • Thomas Urquhart
  • Izaak Walton: The Compleat Angler

Romantic edit


  • Henry Fielding: The Modern Husband
  • David Garrick and George Colman: The Clandestine Marriage;
  • John Gay: The Beggar's Opera
  • Oliver Goldsmith: She Stoops to Conquer
  • John O'Keeffe: Wild Oats
  • Percy Shelley: The Cenci, Prometheus Unbound


  • William Blake: Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Jerusalem
  • Robert Burns
  • George Gordon Byron: Don Juan, Child Harold's Pilgrimage
  • Samuel Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan, Cristabel
  • William Collins
  • William Cowper
  • Thomas Gray: Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
  • Leigh Hunt
  • John Keats: Sleep and Poetry, Lamia, Hyperion, Odes, Fall of Hyperion
  • Samuel Johnson: The Vanity of Human Wishes
  • Charles Lamb
  • Edgar Allan Poe: "The Raven"
  • Alexander Pope: Dunciad, Rape of the Lock
  • Walter Scott
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley: Mont Blanc, The Cloud, Ozymandius, Adonais
  • Christopher Smart: A Song to David
  • James Thomson
  • William Wordsworth: The Prelude, "Lucy" poems, "Matthew" poems, Tintern Abbey


  • Jane Austen
  • Frances Burney: Evelina
  • Jane Collier:
  • James Fenimore Cooper
  • Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders
  • Thomas De Quincey: Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
  • Maria Edgeworth: Belinda
  • Henry Fielding: Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones
  • Charlotte Lennox: The Female Quixote
  • Matthew Lewis: The Monk
  • Henry Mackenzie: The Man of Feeling
  • Ann Radcliffe
  • Samuel Richardson: Pamela, Clarissa
  • Walter Scott: Waverley
  • Mary Shelley: Frankenstein
  • Tobias Smollet: Humphrey Clinker
  • Lawrence Sterne: Tristam Shandy, Sentimental Journey
  • Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels
  • Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto

Sarah Scott, Sarah Fielding

Victorian edit


  • Gilbert and Sullivan
  • George Bernard Shaw (continuing into 20th Century)
  • Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest


  • Emily Dickinson
  • Matthew Arnold
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • Robert Browning
  • Thomas Carlyle
  • Lewis Carroll: Jabberwocky, The Hunting of the Snark
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • A. E. Housman: Shropshire Lad
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Ulysses, Idylls of the King, In Memoriam A. H. H., The Lady of Shalott
  • Joanne Slack " A man and his dog"


  • Mary Elizabeth Braddon: Lady Audley's Secret
  • Charlotte Brontë
  • Emily Brontë
  • Lewis Carroll
  • Wilkie Collins
  • Charles Dickens
  • Benjamin Disraeli: Sybil
  • George Eliot: Middlemarch, The Mill on the Floss, Adam Bede
  • Elizabeth Gaskell: Mary Barton, North and South
  • George Gissing: The Odd Women, New Grub Street
  • Thomas Hardy
  • O. Henry
  • Washington Irving
  • Henry James
  • Herman Melville "Moby Dick"
  • Margaret Oliphant: Miss Marjoribanks
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Bram Stoker: Dracula
  • William Makepeace Thackeray: Vanity Fair
  • Mark Twain
  • H. G. Wells
  • Edith Wharton
  • Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray'
  • Ellen Wood: East Lynne

20th century edit


  • Samuel Beckett
  • Harold Pinter
  • J. M. Synge
  • William Butler Yeats


  • W. H. Auden
  • Rupert Brooke
  • T. S. Eliot
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Dylan Thomas
  • William Butler Yeats
  • Ezra Pound
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Hart Crane


  • William Faulkner "Light in August", "The Sound and the Fury", "Go Down Moses", "As I Lay Dying", "Absalom, Absalom!"
  • James Joyce "Ulysses", "A portrait of the artist as a young man", "Finnegans Wake", "Dubliners".
  • Virginia Woolf "The Waves", "Orlando", "To the Lighthouse", "Mrs Dalloway".
  • Saul Bellow
  • Thomas Mann
  • Robert Fitzgerald
  • Agatha Christie
  • Felipe Fernández-Armesto
  • E. M. Forster: A Passage to India
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • D. H. Lawrence
  • C. S. Lewis
  • George Orwell - Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • J. R. R. Tolkien

Other canons edit

Great books edit

Developing novels edit

Novel development

Historic novels

  • Walter Scott: Waverley (1814)
  • Walter Scott: Rob Roy (1817)
  • Walter Scott: Ivanhoe (1819)
  • R. D. Blackmore: Lorna Doone (1869)

Gothic novels

  • Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (1764)
  • Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
  • Matthew Lewis: The Monk (1796)
  • Ann Radcliffe: The Italian (1796)
  • Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
  • Jonathan Chappell: Jane Slayer (2014)

Sensation novels

  • Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White (1860)
  • Ellen Wood: East Lynne (1861)
  • Mary Elizabeth Braddon: Lady Audley's Secret (1862)
  • Wilkie Collins: Armadale (1866)
  • Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone (1868)

Sentimental novels

  • Henry Mackenzie: The Man of Feeling (1771)

African American Literature

  • Robert Hayden
  • Jay Wright
  • Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon, Beloved, Jazz
  • Jean Toomer
  • Maya Angelou
  • Lucille Clifton
  • Rita Dove
  • Nikki Giovanni
  • Michael S. Harper
  • Yusef Komunyakaa
  • Carl Phillips

Major plays edit

- William Shakespeare complete works - Knot of the Heart by David Eldridge - Equus by Peter Shaffer - Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

See also edit

  Type classification: this is a reading list resource.