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The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages

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The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages Cover

ISBN13: 9781573225144
ISBN10: 1573225142
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Harold Bloom explores our Western literary tradition by concentrating on the works of twenty-six authors central to the Canon. He argues against ideology in literary criticism; he laments the loss of intellectual and aesthetic standards; he deplores multiculturalism, Marxism, feminism, neoconservatism, Afrocentrism, and the New Historicism.

Insisting instead upon "the autonomy of the aesthetic," Bloom places Shakespeare at the center of the Western Canon. Shakespeare has become the touchstone for all writers who come before and after him, whether playwrights poets or storytellers. In the creation of character, Bloom maintains, Shakespeare has no true precursor and has left no one after him untouched. Milton, Samuel Johnson, Goethe, Ibsen, Joyce, and Beckett were all indebted to him; Tolstoy and Freud rebelled against him; and Dante, Wordsworth, Austen, Dickens, Whitman, Dickinson, Proust, the modern Hispanic and Portuguese writers Borges, Neruda, and Pessoa are exquisite examples of how canonical writing is born of an originality fused with tradition.

Bloom concludes this provocative, trenchant work with a complete list of essential writers and books — his vision of the Canon.

Review:

"For lovers of literature, probably nothing more powerful or in an odd way more religious will be written this year." Booklist

Review:

"[A]n elegant and erudite provocation." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"An impressive work...deeply, richly passionate about the great books of the past." Washington Post Book World

Review:

"This book is terribly important — if you believe that literature itself is important, quite noble — if you believe that 'nobility' is still a viable concept in intellectual life." The Boston Globe

Review:

"Heroically brave, formidably learned...The Wester Canon is a passionate demonstration of why some writers have triumphantly escaped the oblivion in which time buries almost all human effort. It inspires hope...that what humanity has long cherished, posterity will also." New York Times Book Review

Review:

"While we read his essays, we are stirred by his love for the subject, and we can hardly wait to finish so that we may reread Austen or Beckett or Shakespeare. Illuminating as Bloom's opponents can be, who among them enhances our enjoyment of literature?" The San Diego Union-Tribune

Synopsis:

The Western Canon is more than a required reading list — it is a vision. Infused with a love of learning, compelling in its arguments for a unifying written culture, it argues brilliantly against the politicization of literature and presents a guide to the great works and essential writers of the ages. The Western Canon was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Synopsis:

More than a required reading list, The Western Canon is a major work of vision by the foremost literary critic in America. In defining the essential masterworks of world literature--the Western Canon--Bloom enlightens and inspires all readers to return to the special joys of reading that our literary tradition offers. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

About the Author

Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University and Berg Professor of English at New York University. The author of numerous books, including The Anxiety of Influence and The Book of J, Bloom is a MacArthur Prize Fellow, a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard University, a member of the American Academy, and the recipient of many other honors and awards.

Table of Contents

Preface and Prelude

I. On the Canon
1. An Elegy for the Canon

II. The Aristocratic Age
2. Shakespeare, Center of the Canon
3. The Strangeness of Dante: Ulysses and Beatrice
4. Chaucer: The Wife of Bath, the Pardoner, and Shakespearean Character
5. Cervantes: The Play of the World
6. Montaigne and Molière: The Canonical Elusiveness of the Truth
7. Milton's Satan and Shakespeare
8. Dr. Samuel Johnson, the Canonical Critic
9. Goethe's Faust, Part Two: The Countercanonical Poem

III. The Democratic Age
10. Canonical Memory in Early Wordsworth and Jane Austen's Persuasion
11. Walt Whitman as Center of the American Canon
12. Emily Dickinson: Blanks, Transports, the Dark
13. The Canonical Novel: Dickens's Bleak House, George Eliot's Middlemarch
14. Tolstoy and Heroism
15. Ibsen: Trolls and Peer Gynt

IV. The Chaotic Age
16. Freud: A Shakespearian Reading
17. Proust: The True Persuasion of Sexual Jealousy
18. Joyce's Agon with Shakespeare
19. Woolf's Orlando: Feminism as the Love of Reading
20. Kafka: Canonical Patience and "Indestructability"
21. Borges, Neruda, and Pessoa: Hispanic-Portuguese Whitman
22. Beckett...Joyce...Proust...Shakespeare

V. Cataloging the Canon
23. Elegiac Conclusion

Appendixes:
A. The Theocratic Age
B. The Aristocratic Age
C. The Democratic Age
D. The Chaotic Age: A Canonical Prophecy
Index

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Wendell Bowerman, September 8, 2011 (view all comments by Wendell Bowerman)
Harold Bloom is one of those astonishing people who seem to have read everything about everything and remembered it all. Unfortunately, his arrogance matches his knowledge, and that makes his book tendentious in many places. But it is an excellent series of essays about 26 major writers from Dante to Samuel Beckett, attempting to explain what makes each of them so unique and so important.
This book is one of Bloom's contributions to the great debate about whether there are books that one HAS to know in order to be "cultured," or whether the definition of culture is relative or even arbitrary. Obviously, Bloom comes down on the side of a permanent canon of "great books" and composes an elegy on the thought that the canon is in danger of being lost/forgotten.
At the end of his book, Bloom provides a list of canonical works. Anyone can pick the list apart, both for items included, such as all of the works of Samuel Johnson, and for items omitted [it’s a Western Canon, so there is no hint of the literatures of Asia]. In general, it’s a useful checklist if you want to know what “great” works of Western literature you’re missing. I’ve been using it as a reading list for the past couple of years.
The list is of literature, not philosophy [although he does include the Pre-Socratics, Plato, a bit of Aristotle, Plutarch (!), Lucretius, one essay of Cicero, Rousseau and Nietzsche] or history [except Herodotus, Thucydides, Froissart and Gibbon], or the social sciences [except Hobbes, Vico, William James, and Freud]. All of these non-literary authors are either highly literary themselves or have had an immense impact on literature of their own and subsequent eras, but their inclusion and the exclusion of so many other philosophers, historians, and social scientists, indicates a major weakness of his list.
I raise this issue of what non-literature is included only because one of the most tantalizing features of Bloom’s book is what he refers to as the “independence of the aesthetic.” He seems to think or imply that the literary experience can serve as the basis for a philosophy of life. I haven’t tried to tease it out but it is an interesting idea, one that especially appealed to the German Romantic writers.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781573225144
Author:
Bloom, Harold
Publisher:
Riverhead Books
Location:
New York
Subject:
Reference
Subject:
Literature
Subject:
History, criticism and surveys
Subject:
Canon (literature)
Subject:
Canon
Subject:
Literature -- History and criticism.
Subject:
General Literary Criticism & Collections
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Series Volume:
87-585
Publication Date:
19950931
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
560
Dimensions:
9 x 6.11 x 1.25 in 1.3 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Product details 560 pages Riverhead Books - English 9781573225144 Reviews:
"Review" by , "For lovers of literature, probably nothing more powerful or in an odd way more religious will be written this year."
"Review" by , "[A]n elegant and erudite provocation."
"Review" by , "An impressive work...deeply, richly passionate about the great books of the past."
"Review" by , "This book is terribly important — if you believe that literature itself is important, quite noble — if you believe that 'nobility' is still a viable concept in intellectual life."
"Review" by , "Heroically brave, formidably learned...The Wester Canon is a passionate demonstration of why some writers have triumphantly escaped the oblivion in which time buries almost all human effort. It inspires hope...that what humanity has long cherished, posterity will also."
"Review" by , "While we read his essays, we are stirred by his love for the subject, and we can hardly wait to finish so that we may reread Austen or Beckett or Shakespeare. Illuminating as Bloom's opponents can be, who among them enhances our enjoyment of literature?"
"Synopsis" by , The Western Canon is more than a required reading list — it is a vision. Infused with a love of learning, compelling in its arguments for a unifying written culture, it argues brilliantly against the politicization of literature and presents a guide to the great works and essential writers of the ages. The Western Canon was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
"Synopsis" by , More than a required reading list, The Western Canon is a major work of vision by the foremost literary critic in America. In defining the essential masterworks of world literature--the Western Canon--Bloom enlightens and inspires all readers to return to the special joys of reading that our literary tradition offers. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
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