Jonathan Sacks is right that we need a common culture, but wrong to think it should be based on a canon. Forcing young people to read the Bible won't foster a sense of belonging. Shared references must evolve more organicallyby Richard Jenkyns / December 22, 2007 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2007 issue of Prospect Magazine
Discuss this article at First Drafts, Prospect’s blog
The chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, recently wrote: “Until recently, national cultures were predicated on the idea of a canon, a set of texts that everyone knew. In the case of Britain they included the Bible, Shakespeare and the great novels. The existence of a canon is essential to a culture. It means that people share a set of references and resonances, a public vocabulary of narratives and discourse.” This shared inheritance, he argues, is now being destroyed by multiculturalism and technology, satellite television and the internet in particular. But what is a canon? Do we need one? Are we suffering from “canon anxiety”? And if so, why?