Synopses & Reviews
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.
"For lovers of literature, probably nothing more powerful or in an odd way more religious will be written this year." Booklist
"[A]n elegant and erudite provocation." Kirkus Reviews
"An impressive work...deeply, richly passionate about the great books of the past." Washington Post Book World
"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
"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
"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
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.
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
V. Cataloging the Canon
23. Elegiac Conclusion
A. The Theocratic Age
B. The Aristocratic Age
C. The Democratic Age
D. The Chaotic Age: A Canonical Prophecy