- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1st Riverhead ed edition (September 1, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1573225142
- ISBN-13: 978-1573225144
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 87 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages Paperback – September 1, 1995
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Discussed and debated, revered and reviled, Bloom's tome reinvigorates and re-examines Western Literature, arguing against the politicization of reading. His erudite passion will encourage you to hurry and finish his book so you can pick up Shakespeare, Austen and Dickens once again to rediscover their original magic. In addition, his appendix listing of the "future" canon - the books today that will be timeless tomorrow - is sure to be the template for future debate.
“Heroically brave, formidably learned… The Western 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.” –The New York Times Book 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
“Harold Bloom’s large-minded and large-hearted book about the great books has many of the virtues that it sees and shows in the works he so fiercely admires.” –Christopher Ricks, The Washington Times
“The list… is what will get all the attention, but it is the text preceding that provides the true pleasure.” –Entertainment Weekly
“[Harold Bloom] has, in a quietly joyous fashion, the chutzpah to put his stamp on the whole of literature from Genesis to Ashbery, rivaling the scope of hero-critics like Sainsbury or Curtius or Auerbach though more giddily adventurous than they were… In one sense the hero of this book, as of all his books, is Bloom himself, modestly bold, genially polemical, dogmatically opposed to dogma, carrying to much in his head and always ready to say what he thinks about it all.” –Frank Kermode, The London Review of Books
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It not only enriched the lives of those so educated, it benefited the world because of the great values and life giving force of the rich ideas they contained. He notes how this notion has not only been rejected by recent generations of academics, but is now almost unknown in the living generations of people who would constitute Western Culture if they knew what it actually was.
He opens with an elegy to the Canon. The book is worth reading just for this essay. The next section examines authors of the Aristocratic Age. All Bloom readers know he is a worshipper of Shakespeare (he calls himself a Bardolater). He opens with an essay titled "Shakespeare: Center of the Canon". This section also includes essays on Dante, Chaucer, Cervantes (another Bloom favorite), Montaigne & Molière, Milton, Samuel Johnson, and Goethe. An impressive list, no?
The next section is the Democratic Age and includes essay son Wordsworth & Jane Austen, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Dickens, George Eliot, Tolstoy, and Ibsen. The Chaotic age follows and includes Freud vis à vis Shakespeare, Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Kafka, Borges, and Beckett.
Obviously, none of these sections is comprehensive. These are only representative writers of the periods Bloom is discussing with us. The final section is Cataloging the Canon and begins with an Elegiac Conclusion. This essay urges that he is not offering us a lifetime reading plan. Rather, he offers us a way to read. He offers advice on how to immerse yourself in certain kinds of reading. He urges us to seek better writing and to develop a taste that will lead us away that which is not worth reading because it takes you away from that which is. He talks about how to develop the taste of a good Critic rather than spewing the politics of resentment or being numb to the great and good.
Bloom then provides extensive lists of works from each of the three periods. You may like to read some things on the list and not others. As I said, agreeing with Bloom is really not the point. It is being exposed to what is worthwhile in our cultural tradition and getting good grounding in why it is important that is critical. Our emphasis on practical education and vocational training has left most of us with insufficient time in school to indulge our cultural education. We have to do the work more or less on our own. This book can be a real help in making headway in that part of our personal education.
Thanks, Professor Bloom!
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20 words or more? At work on lunch break. Great!Read more