The Global Canon.



This special edition of World Policy Journal has been two years in the making. In the fall of 2008, we assigned the novelist and screenwriter Warren Adler to speculate on the world of literature and creativity in 25 years. Almost as an aside, Adler suggested that whatever the nature of creative expression, there is one certainty--that there will never be a Global Canon. The Western Canon, which has held sway since the time of Chaucer and Shakespeare, will continue to provide inspiration to the world's writers and thinkers for the foreseeable future, Adler wrote, and certainly for the next quarter century.

We had more readers comment on this single, passing remark than any other we have published in recent years. We wanted to take a moment (or, actually, half of this issue) to examine this idea in depth, from the perspective of those who create and are, in turn, influenced by the work of their peers and those who have gone before them. Is there, as World Policy Journal suggests in every issue, a truly global network of creativity--not only in the written word, but in art, drama, music, film, television and beyond? The answers arrived and the results, we believe, will surprise and entertain. For the first time in our quarter century as a publication, we consider poetry, music, painting, internet art, film from Nigeria, plays from Peru--the entire gamut of human creativity--to arrive at the conclusion we suspected from the start: That today, for perhaps the first time in human history, a Global Canon has arrived.

We begin our journey, as always, with the Big Question--a panel of experts address the issue of a Global Canon and wonder if such an odd construct exists, where it arrived from and where might it lead. Our "Anatomy" dissects the making of a music video shot by Philip Andelman, an American film director in Budapest. "Map Room" shows us in vivid, graphic detail the density of library holdings around the world, especially the interconnections and sizes of online digital libraries (the new mantra of the librarian community).

Much of the debate and speculation surrounding the Western Canon vs. the Global Canon revolves around the written word, as observed by Horace Engdahl, a veteran steward of the academy that awards the Nobel Prize for Literature. Joel Whitaker takes on a broader tableau, and as the founding editor of Guernica, an organization devoted to exploring the creative mind across cultures and media...

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