The Anticanonical Lessons of Huckleberry Finn

26 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2012

See all articles by Sharon E. Rush

Sharon E. Rush

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Date Written: 2002


Some books included in the canon of American literature no longer belong there, because they presently lack normative approval. Adapting concepts found in constitutional law, an anticanon of American literature functions the way the anticanon of constitutional law would operate and explicitly removes books from the canon. In law, the anticanon identifies outdated interpretations of the constitution. In education, it is time to consider removing from the canon and placing in an anticanon books that are inconsistent with multicultural education. One such book is Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, which is part of the canon of American literature and viewed as the "quintessentially American book." However, because most teachers do not question the view that the novel is antiracist, they are unable to present it in a way that promotes multicultural education even though they think they are accomplishing this goal by studying the book. The value of Huckleberry Finn is not that it is an antiracist novel worthy of canonization. Rather, the value of Huckleberry Finn lies in its anticanonical lesson: White society should no longer accept the normative value of the novel's message, a message that is far more complex and racist than whites understand.

Keywords: canon, anticanon, constitutional law, racism, education, Huckleberry Finn

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Rush, Sharon E., The Anticanonical Lessons of Huckleberry Finn (2002). Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 11, p. 577, 2002, Available at SSRN:

Sharon E. Rush (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States

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