Harold Bloom’s list of the Great Books from the Western Canon. Read a free sample or buy Il canone occidentale by Harold Bloom. You can read this book with Apple Books on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch. Information is endlessly available to us; where shall wisdom be found?” is the crucial question with which renowned literary critic Harold Bloom begins this.
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Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Literary critic Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon is more than a required reading list-it is a vision. Paperbackpages. Published September 1st by Riverhead Books first published August 31st National Book Cabone Circle Award To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about The Western Canonplease sign up. Lists with This Book. Feb 09, Paul Bryant rated it liked it Shelves: Danone Dickens novel on the ravages caused by tuberculosis, Great Expectorations 3. Mary Shelley on the current crisis in capitalism Investment Bankenstein 5. Dickens again on the jarold topic Our Mutual Fund 6.
Why aren’t these better known? View all 35 comments. Feb 25, Darren rated it did not like it. He is the parasite suckling the sweet nectar of the gods out of the wide expanse of literature. We are all very, very lucky that he has never deigned to notice any canonf the most obvious modern authors Pynchon, Roth, Occifentale, and McCarthy. Of course, that would involve writing about people who are alive and could defend themselves, and Bloom has the courage of a dozen Grail knights when it comes to making the most far-spanning assumptions about very great, very intelligent, very talented, very dead men.
I’m not quite sure how it is that Bloom has become so highly regarded in the study of literature, because he basically has one weapon in his arsenal which ovcidentale pulls out at nearly every juncture.
The man writes “Shakespeare” often enough to demand a drinking game. In the very first paragraph of his essay on Milton, he writes “Shakespeare” 9 times. This is a rare moment of restraint for Bloom.
Okay, okay, I am not simple. I understand that Bloom has chosen to frame his western canon through the prism of Shakespeare.
Occidsntale this way, Bloom’s writing is very strikingly similar to the writing of one of my favorite non-fiction novelists, David Thomson, who, in “The Whole Equation,” views the history of Hollywood through the double lens of F.
Bloom. Western Canon
There is another important difference between Thomson and Bloom: Thomson would have been a great novelist if he weren’t so obsessed with the movies he says as much, or comes close to saying that, very often in his writing ; Bloom would have been a second-rate used car salesman if someone, somewhere, hadn’t given him the awful idea that he should write about writing.
I realize Bloom knows more about literature than practically anyone on the face of the earth. This does not hide the fact that he understands literature less than your average ten-year-old and, moreover, that he is so unremittingly insistent upon some unchanging interpretation of literature, and so humorless in his consideration of writers and their writing, that his continued presence in the literary world is an insult to every single author he claims to praise in the book, Will Shakespeare included.
Over and over again, like a king besieged by madness in an empty castle, he rails against the numerous people and forces who are arrayed against him – feminists, marxists, culturists he references African-American academics specifically and all non-white academics generally. This at first seems peppy and un-PC, then lightly racist and sexist, before it settles in that Bloom simply has very little interest in most non-Caucasian, non-male, non-Bloom concepts.
And there’s the Shakespeare. You could argue Bloom doesn’t, but strongly implies to the point of embarrassment that Shakespeare’s influence has trickled down through the ages and social strata, so that an illiterate Sudanese orphan or a third-generation Turkish “guest worker” immigrant in Berlin or Paris Hilton all live and breathe in his influence, just as you can argue that a butterfly in Brazil flaps a hurricane into existence on the other side of the world or that, when no one is around, trees that fall in forests hum “Stairway to Heaven” on their way down.
Because you can’t really prove anything, you can say everything. David Thomson gets away with this kind of thing because he is witty, because he carries himself like a fellow traveler, and because he has a certain British self-deflation which gives his most madcap suggestions a twinkle – as when, in his biography of Orson Welles, he casually notes that young Orson was racing through local Irish lassies in a small province just about nine months before Peter O’Toole was born.
Il canone occidentale
Above all, David Thomson and I am talking about him so much only because there bloo, so little to say about Bloom is daring, and perhaps self-loathing, enough to question whether or not his primary influence – the filmic art – is actually rather silly, if not ruinous. Bloom, conversely, declares, “We owe to Shakespeare not only our representation of cognition but much of our capacity for cognition.
Too bad the tigers would just spit him back out. View all 26 comments. Sep 19, Roy Lotz rated it really liked it Shelves: Tradition is not only a handing-down or process of benign transmission; it is also a conflict between past genius and present aspiration, in which the prize is literary survival or canonical inclusion.
This makes harolx something of an apocalyptic occidejtale. With great solemnity, he predicted this was in that the Western world was about to enter into a new cultural era, a new Theocrat Tradition is not uarold a handing-down or process of benign transmission; it is also a conflict occirentale past genius and present aspiration, in which the prize is literary survival or canonical inclusion.
With great solemnity, he predicted this was in that the Western world was about to enter into a new cultural era, a new Theocratic Age, wherein dogmatism would drive out aesthetic criteria from literature departments. Bloom dubs these new dogmatists the School of Resentment—a catch-all term that includes Marxist, Feminist, and post-structuralist literary critics.
The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages by Harold Bloom
All of these approaches, says Bloom, seek to replace an aesthetic motive for a social or political one, and thus miss the point of literature. Bloom sets out to defend his familiar Western Canon, and does so by analyzing twenty-six writers to see what makes them canonical. Why do we keep reading Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, and Tolstoy? The answer, Bloom finds, is because these works are strange: How do artists achieve this exquisite strangeness?
Every writer feels anxiety about what they owe to their predecessors, so they attempt to find a weakness or a shortcoming—a place where there is still room for originality. But almost no author is original enough to outperform every one of their literary forebears. I would add a few others to the list, personally. While Dante is given his due, Shakespeare is the real center of this book. Bloom is obsessed with Shakespeare: For Bloom, Shakespeare invented the modern human.
Thus all writers after Shakespeare are forced to misread and misunderstand him in order to find a space for creativity. Since Bloom thinks Shakespeare is so inescapably central, he discusses Shakespeare in every chapter—even the chapters on writers who predated Shakespeare: Dante, Chaucer, Cervantes, and Montaigne.
But Shakespeare is not the only writer whose influence Bloom discusses. One of his favorite activities is to trace out literary ancestries, saying which writer descended from which. It is hard for me to know what to make of all this. But it is clearly the theory of an avid reader, not a writer. He mentions scores of poets, playwrights, and novelists on every page, often in long lists, and sometimes this seems to be for purposes of intimidation rather than illumination. There is something incantatory about it.
He repeats similar observations, drops the same names, inserts the same quotations, and asserts the same points in different contexts and to slightly different purposes.
How to Read and Why
His mind occidenyale always to be swirling and buzzing rather than traveling in a straight line. He also has the bad habit of arguing canne authority rather than with reasons. His treatment of the so-called School of Resentment is dismissive at best. He does not address their arguments, but rather talks of them as lost souls, blinded by worldly things. Another fault is that he makes assertions about authors that are not properly substantiated. I found Bloom to be consistently good in his criticism, but not great.
There are many excellent and thought-provoking observations about writers and books here. To question the motivation of your opponents which he does and to position yourself as an oracle and a prophet which he also does are not healthy attitudes for an intellectual.
And although I am not so convinced of the autonomy of the aesthetic, I also think that aesthetic criteria are ultimately the most important in literary judgments. View all 20 comments. I read this while doing Literary Studies in bbloom.
Bloom’s work was introduced to us piecemeal as a foil, a series of quotes here and there to wind up into a tight straw-man and then knock down. I read further and discovered there occidenfale much more to him, the last genuine Literary Critic.
It was harlld a few years blooom, so I will have to reread at some stage to provide a proper review, but some of the commentary on here, so full of facile assumptions and Resentment I remember not always agreeing with him, but always being challenged by his ideas and his own beautiful and engaging style.
It’s also worth noting, re. The list was not my idea.
It was the idea of the publisher, the editor, and my agents. I finally gave up. I did it off the top of my head. I left out a lot of things that should be there and I probably put in a couple of things that I now would like to kick out.
We will not mention the list. View all 15 comments. Harold Bloom really is a cantankerous old thing, so hard to please and yet so seemingly pleased with himself. I actually enjoy reading Bloom, if only because I like arguing with him in my head. He makes plenty of good points in this massive exploration of Literature with a capital “L,” but he also highlights many of the reasons the “dead white male” pantheon persists, and why he thinks it should.
Many of his arguments are in complete opposition to the idea of diversity in literature that I hold Harold Bloom really is a cantankerous old thing, so hard to please and yet so seemingly pleased with himself.