ROOTING OUT BLOOM 2: The Western Canon

 

 

The Western Canon: The Books and School of the AgesScary title. I won’t lie to you. It’s intimidating.  The Table of Contents alone is enough to do me in.  It slaps me in the face with everything I don’t know, everything I’ve neglected.  Multi-course dinner once again.  When the entry for Appendixes reads like a short poem, with its perfect rhyme scheme and tight construction, I’m so in trouble!  I’m like Uma Thurman coming face-to-face with Hatori Hanzo.  I’ll just shut up and bow already.

As fond as I am of Mr. Bloom, his "Prelude and Preface" (why wasn’t one of those words good enough? Or find a single one that is?) is full of PhD-style writing.  Monumentally abstract labels abound: new historicist, cultural materialist, neo-Marxist, School of Resentment.  Remember, this is just the — for the sake of simplicity — I’m going to refer to it as  — the preface.  There’s six other sections.

In the section on Chaucer, he chose to write about the Wife of Bath and The Pardoner, two characters somewhat distant from the top of the Boetian totem pole.  And I can see why he mentions Chaucer and Shakespeare together so often.  They created characters of flesh and blood, and nerves and heart.  And screw-ups.  Hamlet was a prince of Denmark, but he didn’t act like any of the Windsor boys.  Romeo and Juliet were nobility by blood but acted like a couple of kids from The O.C.  And Henry V was George Gipp.  Don’t scoff.  I know you want to.  But that’s why these writers stand the test of time.  They understand that any philosophical/literary abstraction has its roots in "human" beings.  In people.  It’s "soylent green" — and we all know what soylent green is…

He mentions Freud more often than I’m comfortable with.  Freud linked a lot of psychological conditions to the condition of one’s sex life. Do Bloom-style scholars feel saucy and maybe a little wicked by mentioning him?  Does it give them a tingle?

BTW, p. 426 — James Joyce is an adjective! EPIC!

The Aristocratic Age~~

Shakespeare, William

Alighieri, Dante

Chaucer, Geoffrey

Cervantes

Montaigne, Michel

Moliere

Milton, John

Johnson, Dr. Samuel

Goethe

The Democratic Age–

Wordsworth, William

Austen, Jane

Whitman, Walt

Dickinson, Emily

Dickens, Charles

Eliot, George

Tolstoy, Count Leo

Ibsen, Henrik

The Chaotic Age**

Freud, Sigmund

Proust, Marcel

Joyce, James

Woolf, Virginia

Kafka, Franz

Borges, J.

Neruda, Pablo

Pessoa

Beckett, Samuel

 

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