The Western Canon by Harold Bloom Review By Dan Geddes 11 February See also reviews. The Western Canon. by Harold Bloom. Harold Bloom’s Elegy for the Western Literary Canon. 1. Introduction— Sympathetic viewpoint towards modern literary theory. Yesterday, I did a. It also insists that aesthetic originality is the only qualification for inclusion in the Canon of Western literature. To illustrate his thesis, Bloom selects
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In these lectures on the value and the interpretation of literature Prof.
Arnold Weinstein of Brown University was sympathetic to some of the schools of interpretation such as psychoanalysis following Freud, Marxism, postmodernism, feminism, and New Historicism, among others.
He shows giving examples of how each of these schools produces new insights that were not hzrold before from more traditional forms of literary interpretation.
I wanted to do a post on the opposing viewpoint, that is, someone who is very much unsympathetic with the modern schools of literary interpretation. According to Harold Bloom, why have a canon in the first place? Weinstein used in his lecture. He said that literature can cabon used to. Weinstein was dubious about the first three, and posited the last two as better alternatives for the value of literature.
Bloom come down on these points?
Bloom’s Elegy for Western Literature – The Western Canon – The Satirist
Regarding the first, Prof. Bloom would agree that it shows that you are one of the elite, but rather than seeing this is as a negative, as Prof. Weinstein implied, he unabashedly proclaims this is as a positive. Yes, literature is an aesthetic experience, both in the writing and in the reading of it. Reading a great piece of literature is more daunting and requires more from a reader than reading the average bestseller, and for this reason it is going to be elitist almost by definition.
But along with Joseph Campbell, Prof. Bloom felt that this aesthetic elitism was a positive thing.
Bloom’s Elegy for Western Literature – The Western Canon
However, the fact that great literature is written by the aesthetic elite gets conflated in the modern university system as being written by a product of the socioeconomic elite, and is, under Marxist interpretations of literature, just another tool of that socioeconomic repression of one class by another. This is where Prof.
Bloom draws the line, and refuses to go along with this politicization of literature. As far as helping one how to think, Prof. Bloom would partially agree with that.
On the third point, he is dubious along with Prof. The fourth point is where Thr. Weinstein part company the most, I believe. Reading literature may help you understand the culture in which it was created, but having that as a cabon value of literature is something I think Prof. Bloom would disagree with. This view is something he is vehemently against, the idea that Paradise Lost, for example, can be reduced to an interplay of economic forces.
To use the paired poems by William Blake on the chimney sweep that were quoted in the last post as an example, the economic relations of the various classes may be illustrated by the poems, but the originality and literary genius is took to create those poems are not illuminated at all by a knowledge of those relations.
I think the fifth point, that literature can take you inside a time and place and create an inner world that compels the reader, is probably the point where Prof. Bloom could most readily agree.
To sum up, the reason why Prof. Bloom disagrees with the modern theories of literary interpretation can be shown in this diagram from Integral Theory:.
Each quadrant holds a way of viewing the world. The top two quadrants are the viewpoints of an individual, the bottom two quadrants are the viewpoints of a group. The left two quadrants are the subjective viewpoints, and the right two quadrants are the objective viewpoints. So putting it all together:.
To sum up Prof. However, modern literary theory interprets literature through the lens of the fog and the society, almost to the exclusion of the individual aesthetic. So in my own mind, tne I grant that there may be insights derived about the culture and politics of the age in which a piece of literature is written, as Prof.
Weinstein posits, I much prefer to center the experience of literature within the realm of the individual writer and reader, as Prof. Bloom does, and state that it this dialectic that is the crucial one in deciding whether a book will enter the Western Canon or not. His work remains ths me a touchstone in deepening my appreciation for literature, modern literary theory notwithstanding. You are commenting using your WordPress.
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