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The Western Canon

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Western Canon.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Prof. Harold Bloom(Author)

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This text is a defence of the western literary canon which the author sees being eroded by the tyranny of cultural studies and political correctness in the academic and literary world. It is at once an eloquent survey of the great authors from Dante to Beckett that make up the canon, with Shakespeare at its centre, as well as a polemical assault on the forces that are trying to diminish it.

Harold Bloom

4.5 (3175)
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Book details

  • PDF | 592 pages
  • Prof. Harold Bloom(Author)
  • Papermac; New Edition edition (25 Aug. 1995)
  • English
  • 6
  • Poetry, Drama & Criticism

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Review Text

  • By A reader on 15 November 2006

    This is an important book which reaffirms the value of aesthetics and the way great literature irreversibly shapes our perceptions of the world. The Introduction and chapter on Shakespeare are ground-breaking and serve as a great start for anyone wishing to widen their awareness of the Western literary tradition. The sheer breadth of Bloom's reading throws up a cornucopia of brilliant comparisons between different writers. His passion is also infectious and really reminds you of just how much power literature can still have in a time when it is so often seen exclusively as a battleground for cultural and political forces.The book is not without its flaws. Bloom falls into the same trap as the ideological critics that he criticizes because he is determined to stranglehold every book in the canon into one idiosyncratic theory. Whilst the Anxiety of Influence is frequently highly illuminating as an idea with respect to authors like Milton and Tolstoy, it often tends to function as an unchallengeable conclusion that forces Bloom into wild exaggerations to make the evidence fit. His reading of Edmund in King Lear as Marlowe himself, for example, is, quite frankly, poorly argued, unrevealing and rather silly.Bloom's capacity to inspire the general reader, however, transcends his questionable argumentation. I love, love, love this book as it made me rediscover so many classic authors. I'd particularly recommend it to anyone who's just finished a literature degree and is feeling frazzled at the way literary theory can take the joy out of reading literature. Bloom, cranky genius that he is, reminded me of why I keep returning to Shakespeare, Dante, Kafka and Dickinson and for this I am truly grateful. This book is certainly at the centre of my own personal canon of books about books. Highly recommended.

  • By Elberry on 6 December 2003

    Bloom structures the book around his personal Canon of Western literature. It IS a very personal selection, and Bloom's tendency to organise literature into hierarchies and types can be off-putting and unhelpful, as can his habit of dismissing any writer but Shakespeare as somehow not quite up to the mark, and any play but 'Hamlet' and 'Henry IV' likewise. His idiosyncrasies aside, the book is extremely enjoyable, and yet of great moment and worth. There are some powerful broadsides at academia, which make for useful reading if one happens to be a confused undergraduate.i would recommend this to anyone as a very loose guide to the stars of the literary sky since Dante. One need not agree with Bloom to enjoy reading him, which i think is sufficient argument for his relevance and skill.

  • By G. A. Reeves on 12 March 2016

    Rereading this bestseller some twenty-two years after publication is a happy experience: although I do not consider it a canonical masterpiece, it holds up pretty well and contains some brilliant observations and ideas. It's literary criticism as survey, and largely genial in tone, like Raymond Williams's best work or W. H. Auden's The Dyer's Hand.What has become slightly tiring is that everything is geared towards Shakespeare, the centre of the Western canon, according to Bloom. It hardly needs a literary critic to tell us that Shakespeare is the greatest poet-playwright who has ever lived, and yet Bloom reminds us of it constantly throughout. He also relies quite heavily on a book that he neglects to reference - Shakespeare in Europe, an anthology of criticism (incl. Tolstoy's) edited by Oswald LeWinter. What ameliorates these problems, however, is the way in which Bloom is not afraid to rate individual plays. Shakespeare's earliest plays are compared somewhat unfavourably to Marlowe's; The Merry Wives of Windsor is poor stuff; Antony and Cleopatra is almost of the eminence of Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth and Othello. What becomes clear is that the man has a hold on his own thoughts and opinions - none of the fluffy non-committal nonsense that you see in lesser critics - and this placing of certain works creates a strong sense of his individuality.Although Bloom has distanced himself from the lists that append the volume - the publisher's suggestion, not his - I would like to offer some amendments and clarifications for any readers struggling to find certain books/translations. So: Seneca's Hercules furens was translated by Jasper (not Thomas) Heywood; the Michelangelo being referred to is R. J. Clements's book The Poetry of Michelangelo; Racine's Phaedra has been translated by Robert Lowell, not Richard Wilbur; Leopardi's Moral Essays should be The Moral Tales, trans. Patrick Creagh (not Howard Norse); Catullus's Other poems... refers to Catullus in English (Penguin); all plays listed for Corneille are contained in The Chief Plays, trans. Lacy Lockert; and Kafka's Parables, Fragments, Aphorisms should actually be Wedding Preparations in the Country and Other Posthumous Prose Writings (trans. Kaiser/Wilkins). Bloom has expressed regret at not including Guido Cavalcanti.

  • By Edgar Livingstone on 2 October 2015

    No review needed. Prof Bloom's reputation speaks for itself.

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