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The Western Canon: The Books and School of…
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The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (Original 1994; 1994. Auflage)

von Harold Bloom

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2,603154,316 (3.85)77
"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."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (mehr)
Mitglied:jeffflygare
Titel:The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages
Autoren:Harold Bloom
Info:Harcourt (1994), Hardcover, 578 pages
Sammlungen:Deine Bibliothek
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The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages von Harold Bloom (1994)

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Harold Bloom was an unabashed aesthete and contrarian, an unashamed elitist with working-class roots. He was a passionate advocate for strong, rich reading of imaginative literature, which, he fears, is a dying endeavor.
Twenty-one of the twenty-three chapters are devoted to twenty-six writers who, in Bloom’s consideration, are the strongest in the canon, beginning with Shakespeare at the canon’s center. Shakespeare’s greatness is not his dramatic skill—others, such as Ibsen, surpass him in this—but in his “cognitive acuity, linguistic energy, and power of invention” (p. 44). Shakespeare’s genius reveals itself not only in that his characters speak to themselves (soliloquy), but that they overhear what they are saying, learn from it, and develop. And since for Bloom one of the hallmarks of canonicity is “agon”—the struggle—Shakespeare in a way determines who else belongs in the canon: those writers who can not avoid matching themselves against him, beginning with Milton and extending to Joyce.
I enjoyed and learned from all of the essays (the text reads more like a collection of essays that hasn’t been edited to avoid repetition than a coherent test). Some held my attention more than others, though, for instance, that on Virginia Woolf. Bloom is also very good on Whitman and Emily Dickinson.
It’s in the nature of things, I suppose, that the appendix of this book got more attention than the main text itself. This is a list of three thousand or so titles that Bloom offers as his suggestion for the canon. Anyone who reads the text of the book would discover that Bloom stresses “no one has the authority to tell us what the Western Canon is, certainly not from about 1800 to the present day. It is not, it cannot be, precisely the list I give, or that anyone else might give” (p. 36). Among those who apparently didn’t read this is the author of the text on the back cover of my edition, who refers to the book as “more than just a required-reading list.”
You might miss some of your favorite books from the list and might feel that some on the list don’t belong there. Bloom wouldn’t quibble with your right to do that, but he does set a high bar for challenging his selections: he only includes books that offer sustained pleasure after two or more readings. I won’t make it through all three thousand once.
The book is relatively accessible to the serious reader. It is well-argued and relatively free of the arcane terminology of the guild of literary criticism. I’ll confess, though, that I’m not sure what it means to “perspectivize” something. He overuses the word “preternatural,” which seems to appear in every chapter as his go-to adjective for a writer who is astoundingly good. Some of his terms are illuminating, though: I’d not previously encountered an author who used “contaminate” in a positive sense. And I enjoyed his description of what a desert island list is: a list “against that day when, fleeing one’s enemies, one is cast ashore, or when one limps away, all warfare done, to pass the rest of one’s time quietly reading” (p. 490). ( )
1 abstimmen HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
Summary: A spirited defense of the traditional Western Canon of literature against what Bloom calls the “School of Resentment” and a discussion of 26 representative works Bloom would include.

Harold Bloom wrote this book in 1994 at a time when the “dead white males” who constitute most of the works considered part of “the Western Canon” were under attack. With the continued growth of feminist, anti-racist, post-colonial, and queer criticism, many of the works Bloom treats in this volume have been further marginalized. Alternate reading lists have flourished, classics departments have closed down, and course offerings focused on those in the “traditional” canon have been done away with in many English departments.

This is not without some warrant. The men clearly outnumbered the women. Writers of other cultures were non-existent as were those who were BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and LGBTQ. The perspectives of most represented ruling and affluent classes, and the dominant powers of the world.

Harold Bloom is less diplomatic than I am. He calls the critics the School of Resentment, who want to replace these works with representative modern authors. Bloom’s case is that the works we’ve called “canonical” have survived not because of some hegemonic dominance of white and mostly male proponents, but because of their compelling originality and what he would call their “strangeness.” Coming from a different time and social milieu, they nevertheless pose insights about the human condition that generations of readers, and other writers have wrestled with.

For Bloom, the works of William Shakespeare are at the center of the canon, with Dante and Milton close by. Under the categories of aristocratic, democratic, and chaotic ages, he considers 26 authors representative of those he would include in the canon. A theme running through his discussion of authors from Milton to Whitman to Beckett and Joyce is how they interacted with and defined themselves in relation to the Bard. Their “anxiety” about Shakespeare, Bloom contends, is part of what drives them to their own brand of greatness.

Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, and Virginia Woolf manage to make it into the men’s club. Bloom seems to especially like Dickenson, praising her intellectual complexity, literary originality and own brand of strangeness. Borges, Neruda, and Pessoa also make his list.

Bloom plainly doesn’t care about critics or the academic guild where he spent so many years. What he does care about is the love of reading and the awareness all bibliophiles have of there being so many books and so little time. He wonders how many of the books replacing what once were canonical will be read in a generation or two. He also observes how great authors in later generations wrestled with the greatness of those who preceded them. The inference is, what great influences will our contemporaries have? What does this bode for literature.

Bloom also offers us an extensive list from the Greeks to the present (at least the 1990’s) of books he considers worth reading, going far beyond the works he focuses on. This list alone might keep most of us busy for a lifetime, and expands to include a variety of Latin American and African authors in the recent era.

If you have not read the works Bloom discusses, the book could be a hard, long slog. In that case, read the “Prelude and Preface,” “An Elegy for the Canon” and “Elegaic Conclusion” and you will have the gist of the argument. On the other hand, if you know many of the works, Bloom offers a fascinating intertextual commentary. Beware that Bloom is a curmudgeon who has little sympathy for contemporary authors seeking to develop voices unbeholden to the “dead white males.” Yet I think we must also consider what makes works sufficiently great that they are read long after the authors (and all our literary critics) are dead. Are not these the works we hope to read before we are dead? ( )
1 abstimmen BobonBooks | Apr 27, 2021 |
Now this is probably more the type of book my colleagues back in public school would have approved so many years ago. What can I say? Bloom can be heavy at times, but the guy is very well read and brings a lot to the book. In spite of the heaviness at times, the guy does have a passion for the books that he discusses. This is a book to read a little at a time until you get to the end. Anyone who considers themselves well read probably ought to read it. ( )
1 abstimmen bloodravenlib | Aug 17, 2020 |
Overall it is very easy to hate on Harold Bloom, but he really knows his lit. I think he has some very well thought out ideas on the Canon. IMO he is the final authority. He has obviously read all of it, though many people do not agree w him. I concur that he has an unreasonable attachment to Shakespeare. However, you should be able to disregard that somewhat annoying habit of HB and concentrate on what he actually has to say.

He was a way of identifying the essence of an author, and putting him into perspective,comparing and contrasting.

I could take this book if stranded on a deserted island. Previous owner managed to defile significant potions with a yellow highlighter. I have made some additional under linings in pencil, but the yellow highlighter tapped out in the Elizabeth Browning chapter.

I think Bloom even convinced me to eventually make a run on "Paradise Lost." Enough so that I did not donate my Penguin copy of PL or my Cliff notes. ( )
  delta351 | Apr 5, 2017 |
I leave it to others to discuss how Bloom's "criticism" consists of angry rants against his academic enemies mixed with such tail-swallowing oracles as "George Eliot at her most Wordsworthian...seems curiously Tolstoyan." I just want to say one thing about his list of canonical works in the Appendix.

Bloom's list of canonical works, running from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Angels in America, is 37 pages long. Bloom divides his list into four historical epochs, and further subdivides the list (for some reason) by nationality. This leads to such absurdities as Nabokov being classified as an American and Erasmus being included with the Germans, but never mind. The arrangement does make one thing easy to quantify. About seven pages of Bloom's list are given over to literary works written in the 20th Century by American writers.

7 out of 37 pages. According to Bloom, approximately one fifth of the "Great Books" of the Western World were written in English by U.S. writers between 1900 and the beginning of the Clinton administration.

For a critic who claims to "abhor" extra-aesthetic criteria in elevating a work to canonicity this is a pretty damning manifestation of nationalistic bias. ( )
2 abstimmen middlemarchhare | Nov 25, 2015 |
Harold Bloom at his best is a rewarding and humane critic; one feels obliged to express gratitude for his many passing generosities before dismissing his Western canon with a gentle "Thank you, but no, thank you."
hinzugefügt von jburlinson | bearbeitenNew York Review of Books, Robert M. Adams (bezahlte Seite) (Nov 17, 1994)
 
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"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."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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