I was going to comment, too, something along the lines of being utterly dumbfounded by the fact that most of my students had not read The Scarlet Letter in high school. I teach early American lit, and before finding out that my students hadn't read the Hawthorne, I taught Billy Budd, Sailor. I felt like I had to decide which work was more important for a student coming out of an American college/uni literature survey course, and I chose The Scarlet Letter. [NB: It also fits in better with my course as a whole, since I also teach Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation, along with Winthrop's A Model of Christian Charity.]
This leads to my question:
Q. What works do you consider foundational for your discipline (i.e. any major should have read at least X)? If you teach general survey courses, is there anything you include that's not quite "canon" and if so, why?
A. Comments below.