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The Western Canon
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Table of Contents

Preface and Prelude
I. On the Canon
1. An Elegy for the Canon
II. The Aristocratic Age
2. Shakespeare, Center of the Canon
3. The Strangeness of Dante: Ulysses and Beatrice
4. Chaucer: The Wife of Bath, the Pardoner, and Shakespearean Character
5. Cervantes: The Play of the World
6. Montaigne and Moliere: The Canonical Elusiveness of the Truth
7. Milton's Satan and Shakespeare
8. Dr. Samuel Johnson, the Canonical Critic
9. Goethe's Faust, Part Two: The Countercanonical Poem
III. The Democratic Age
10. Canonical Memory in Early Wordsworth and Jane Austen's Persuasion
11. Walt Whitman as Center of the American Canon
12. Emily Dickinson: Blanks, Transports, the Dark
13. The Canonical Novel: Dickens's Bleak House, George Eliot's Middlemarch
14. Tolstoy and Heroism
15. Ibsen: Trolls and Peer Gynt
IV. The Chaotic Age
16. Freud: A Shakespearian Reading
17. Proust: The True Persuasion of Sexual Jealousy
18. Joyce's Agon with Shakespeare
19. Woolf's Orlando: Feminism as the Love of Reading
20. Kafka: Canonical Patience and "Indestructability"
21. Borges, Neruda, and Pessoa: Hispanic-Portuguese Whitman
22. Beckett...Joyce...Proust...Shakespeare
V. Cataloging the Canon
23. Elegiac Conclusion
Appendixes:
A. The Theocratic Age
B. The Aristocratic Age
C. The Democratic Age
D. The Chaotic Age: A Canonical Prophecy
Index

About the Author

Harold Bloom is a Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University and a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard. As The Paris Review has pointed out, "no critic in the English language since Samuel Johnson has been more prolific." His more than thirty books include The Best Poems of the English Language, The Art of Reading Poetry, and The Book of J. He is a MacArthur Prize Fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, including the Academy's Gold Medal for Belles Lettres and Criticism, the International Prize of Catalonia, and the Alfonso Reyes Prize of Mexico.

Alfred Kazin has said, "Bloom is all literature, (he) positively lives it," and The New York Times called him "the most original literary critic in America." He lives in New Haven and New York.

Reviews

Any new "real" book by Bloom (humanities, Yale Univ.), as opposed to one containing recycled essays, is a major event. This salvo in defense of the Western canon is particularly important. Bloom pulls few punches in arguing the importance of influence and tradition. Shakespeare is the centerpiece here, and 25 other pivotal authors are considered in relationship to him, each other, and their respective genres in a way too complex to explain. Coverage is multinational and multigenerational. To get much out of this work, readers will have to have read very broadly and deeply. The main authors are only touchstones; any given page is likely to reference four or five authors, and hundreds are actually discussed. Some will see this as reactionary, others as visionary; it should cause some stir in the literary establishment. Essential for most academic and large public libraries.-Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.

"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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