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The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,703 ratings  ·  115 reviews
Literary critic Harold Bloom's 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 ofthe western literary traditionand essential writers of the ages. The Wester ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Riverhead Books (first published August 31st 1994)
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Paul Bryant


I think these are probably not in Mr Bloom's book, and I want to know why!

1. Ray Bradbury’s history of British sport Something Wicket This Way Comes
2. Charles Dickens novel on the ravages caused by tuberculosis, Great Expectorations
3. Dostoievski’s biography of George Bush, The Idiot (I prefer that one to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Creep)
4. Mary Shelley on the current crisis in capitalism Investment Bankenstein
5. Dickens again on the same topic Our M
"The only spirit in 'Ulysses' is Shakespeare."
"In conversation with John Dryden, [Milton] once confessed rather too readily that Spenser was his 'Great Original,' a remark that I have come to understand as a defense against Shakespeare."
"Oedipus, I suggest, was hauled in by Freud and grafted onto Hamlet largely in order to cover up an obligation to Shakespeare."
"Except for Shakespeare, Chaucer is foremost among writers in the English language."
'Knowing more English would not have enlightened Tol
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 ...more
I read this while doing Literary Studies in university. 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. And burn.

I read further and discovered there was much more to him, the last genuine Literary Critic.

It was quite a few years back, 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...

...required some so
Mar 19, 2008 Dan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: literary folks
I finally had to read Bloom because he seems to irritate so many people. He is the torchbearer of literary aesthetics, or rather an aesthetic literary canon. He repeatedly denigrates and teases the contemporary schools of thought: feminism, new historicism, deconstructionism, etc. As such, mention of this book most frequently invokes a scoff, usually by someone who hasn’t read it. I urge you to. Bloom has read with extraordinary breadth and depth and seems to remember it all. I cannot vouch for ...more
One of the most useful works of non-fiction to be published in recent decades, written by the sturdy Yale professor Harold Bloom. Camille Paglia said that this work was as much about Bloom himself as it was about the "best that has been written"(one of many phrases that Bloom is quite of fond of using again and again), and this is certainty true, as the irascible scholar's personality comes through in every supple sentence. If there is a flaw in Bloom's work, it is repetition, as the reader is b ...more
This book is half brilliant, a quarter nonsense, and a quarter defensible but repetitive and angry venting at deconstructionists, New Historicists, neo-Marxists, queer theorists, feminists, etc. Okay, art should be judged on its esthetic and conceptual merits and not as it accords with someone’s political or social agenda. Fair enough, and enough said already, Harold. He idolizes Shakespeare, and makes an almost convincing case for us to do the same. He’s incredibly well-read and knowledgeable, ...more
Harold Bloom is like your ornery grandpa: he's very old-fashioned, and goes on uncomfortable rants about the blacks and the feminists a lot, but if you keep listening you realize that he has real wisdom and an experience that you can learn something from. You always complain about him when he's not around, but when he's gone*, you wish you had stayed in his world a little longer.

*This is referring to the end of the book, not Bloom's undoubtedly iminent death by rage-induced heart attack. What I
Reading literary criticism is like having a tour-guide to a book. And having someone passionate about the subject makes it that much more enjoyable. Prof. Bloom is an unabashed lover of literature with none of the disdain for "dead white male Europeans" that many academics have (he calls them the "school of resentment"). His passion for Western literature is so fierce that it is inspiring.

In the book, he walks us through the ages of literary history, pointing out great authors and great works. H
In the (unlikely) event that literary theory again becomes relevant to mainstream society, or even mainstream academia for that matter, should there ever be a FOX News of theory, Harold Bloom would be the ideal candidate for the role of anchor.

The Western Canon is just so antiquated and conservative, in the very worst way. It's as if one's great-grandfather is lecturing from beyond the grave. For instance:

Finding myself now surrounded by professors of hip-hop; by clones of Gallic-Germanic theory
What's fascinating to me is that even though there is all the unfortunate blather and fulmination against his critical antagonists in the academy, most of whom appear to have completely ignored him, and there is also a lamentable amount of the Because I Say So school of argument, Harold Bloom, when he actually gets down to talking about the authors he loves and why he loves them, makes a certain amount of sense. He has what would have been called, in the era he should have lived in, good taste i ...more
Boria Sax
Bloom offers an array of highly idiosyncratic opinions, which are often entertaining and sometimes quite insightful. But it is utterly pretentious of him to assume, as he constantly does, that he is the voice of Western culture. Despite the vastness of his learning and the intensity of his passion, his view of literature as a sort of competitive sport, if taken seriously, would render the culture he loves trivial, a bit like football or even pro-wrestling. If it is competition he wants, he could ...more
To some Harold Bloom might just be a pompous critic, but if I can have an ounce of literary knowledge that this man has in his brain, I would consider myself lucky. I admire Harold Bloom, which makes me a bit bias when reading any of his criticisms. Unfortunately, I cannot help to admire a man that has an extensive knowledge of literature. Literature is my passion and it his unending passion to read and to celebrate the art and styles of literature, which I cannot overlook.

The School of Resentm
What a blowhard!

Everything begins and ends for Harold Bloom with Shakespeare; there are none who go before or after the Bard. If you share this mantra, then you will enjoy The Western Canon. If you don’t, or if, like me, you are willing to concede that there may be other great writers along with Shakespeare, you may find it a bit hard to enjoy this. Bloom is an important critic, obviously, but he made me cranky. Some of the essays were more educational and insightful than others (I enjoyed his
DNF after a good 100 pages and the final chapter.

Wow, this is an ode to the preservation of cishet white male supremacy if ever I've seen one. It's almost hilarious how offended Bloom is by the allegation that the Western literary canon is made up of dead white European males. (Seriously, he's so outraged with that term. HOW DARE YOU, "FEMINISM, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURISM, AND ALL THE OTHER POLITICALLY CORRECT ENTERPRISES OF OUR MOMENT" (p. 27). THAT'S JUST SO OFFENSIVE.) So he decides to fight
This has basically been my literary bible for the past year or two. I'm not finished, but then I don't think I ever will be. It's introduced to to more good books than I can count and I'm sure it will continue to do so.

Bloom gets a lot of bad rap for being 'sexist' and 'racist', but I think those claims are dubious at best. He's just a man who thinks a book is more important than its author. If he values the dead-white-European-male, it's because dead-white-European-males were the best authors
Bloom's writing style is overly lofty, and extremely hard to read. As someone who has read many of the books he has listed as important for reading, I'm not opposed to his choices of texts. What I am opposed to is his idea that everyone needs to read them, and that this generation is lacking because values are changing. He seems to think that new forms of text are going to eliminate the older literature that he views as more important. On the contrary, I think the newer texts often use elements ...more
Ian Zimmerman
Harold Bloom is one of the most well known literary critics in the US, and in my opinion an unfortunate national embarrassment. One problem with him is that he sees literature as a precise and objective science rather than an art. In Bloom's world, books and authors are not only objectively good or bad, but can be easily ranked from best to worst like runners in a race. For Bloom, there is only 1 possible interpretation of a work and that is what the author intended. If Cervantes was being truth ...more
I read a lot of Bloom's criticism of Shakespeare (for classes), and I seemed to remember finding him helpful. I wonder if it's because I wasn't doing the reading, because this time around reading him makes me tired and even angry. He spends a lot of time making value judgments of writers in comparison to other writers, even when he admits these writers were attempting/addressing different things. Although he proves that he reads and thinks about the reading, I don't know if he actually illuminat ...more
Terrific overview of the western canon

20 words or more? At work on lunch break. Great! Can't get enough of Harold Bloom.

20 words or more? At work on lunch break. Great! Can't get enough of Harold Bloom.

Darran Mclaughlin
I haven't read any literary criticism for a while and when I was deciding what to read next this book (which I've had sitting on the shelf for years) jumped out at me. Harold Bloom is a major name in literary criticism, bearing a reputation for being a singular, cantankerous super reader and defender of aesthetic and literary values in the face of the conquest of literature departments by Gallic postmodern and poststructuralist theories. This book basically fulfilled every expectation I had of h ...more
Στο βιβλίο αυτό εξετάζονται 26 συγγραφείς, με μία δόση νοσταλγίας κατ' ανάγκην, αφού στόχος μου είναι να διερευνήσω τα χαρακτηριστικά τα οποία κατέστησαν αυτούς τους συγγραφείς κανονικούς, δηλαδή συγγραφείς αναγνωρισμένου κύρους για τον πολιτισμό μας.

Στις περισσότερες περιπτώσεις αυτών των 26 συγγραφέων, προσπάθησα να προσεγγίσω το μεγαλείο τους ευθέως: να θέσω το ερώτημα τι είναι αυτό που κάνει τους συγγραφείς και τα έργα τους μέρος του Κανόνα. Η απάντηση, τις περισσότερες φορές, είναι ότι εκεί
JJ Cross
Wonderful as a resource for what to read within the more traditionally formulated "Western Canon", and some quite astute analysis of Dante, Woolf, and Kafka, among others, but the constant asides (jabs?) towards who Bloom sees as his cultural opponents become quite old quite quickly. Yes, these books are brilliant, they will outlive ALL of the critics, including you, HB, now stop reminding us of that on EVERY SINGLE PAGE. (Can't you just allow the many varied readings to be a testament to the in ...more
This book was great! Nothing in it will surprise a reader familiar with Bloom. Without any equivocation he makes a case for Shakespeare as the greatest writer of all time and center of the Canon, and along the way he lays into the "school of resentment" (aka feminist/marxist/deconstructionist critics and academics) who deny the almighty AESTHETICS.

Some of the chapters were uneven, but the good chapters far outweigh the mediocre ones. The best part about this book is that it will get you excited
At last - it is finished. What a tome! My favorite sections being the introduction, the chapter on Shakespeare, the one including Jane Austen, the chapter on Virginia Woolf, and the conclusion. Probably because they're the authors I'm most familiar with...but a good introduction to and overview of Dante, Cervantes, Milton, Goethe, George Eliot, etc.

Bloom seems to have read every notable book in print, perhaps the result of a precocious childhood and an extending age and the ability to have a car
Bloom's view of canonicity is conservative and unsurprising, and his conception of the evolution of the canon (or the canon as he sees it) is agonistic. This does not prevent him from reasoning that with the rise of Marxist thought, deconstructive thought, and various isms (feminism principally), and with TV, video and rap music, the canon probably will not survive. He identifies in contemporary seats of learning -- i.e. the university -- nurture and tuition in what he calls the 'School of Resen ...more
I came across this tome during my children's homeschooling years and it proved useful in our literary selections during their highschool years. This is just one in a cadre of classical literature guides and the procurement of western canon. Anyone homeschooling according to the Trivium, or even Adler's Paideia or Hirsch's Core Knowledge Sequence, will find this text to be a welcome assist. If you merely want a college prepatory reading list, Bloom's text will well inform your choices.

Harold Bloo
This book has had mixed reviews, but I thought it was relatively awesome in comparison with some others. It's just an overview of Western literature from its beginnings up to Joyce, etc.

I hate to sound like a university professor, but these are the sorts of things I've been reading for the past thirty years. Besides, nobody's listening. This is an awesome book club. Such vibrant exchange of ideas, such rapier-sharp critique, such a rich and rewarding cultural exploration, such electrifying and
Gustav Klimt
Bloom attacks the usual Conservative straw-men of "identity politics" and "ideological criticism," clearly without having taken the time to understand the current state of literary studies. The guy has a photographic memory, which makes him a a great storage house of cross references, but his critical apparatus is primitive to say the least.

I have no problem with acknowledging a canon, but it is hardly a fixed and monolithic structure. Bloom's efforts to tell us what we should be reading amount
To be perfectly honest, I bought a used copy of this primarily so I could have the list of canonical titles at the back of the book. However you feel about Bloom, and the rest of his writing, the list is a great reference. Fortunately, I also decided to take a look at the book itself.

I'm fairly certain that, if I had any significant training in literary criticism, Bloom would irritate me a lot more than he does. His views, right or wrong, are strongly stated, and he is mostly dismissive of those
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Bloom is a literary critic, and currently a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than 20 books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He has edited hundreds of anthologies.
More about Harold Bloom...
Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle (Modern Critical Interpretations) Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (Bloom's Guides) Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (Bloom's Guides) How to Read and Why

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“Real reading is a lonely activity.” 52 likes
“Reading the very best writers—let us say Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Tolstoy—is not going to make us better citizens. Art is perfectly useless, according to the sublime Oscar Wilde, who was right about everything. He also told us that all bad poetry is sincere. Had I the power to do so, I would command that these words be engraved above every gate at every university, so that each student might ponder the splendor of the insight.” 19 likes
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