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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: September ::
Re: Bloom and *The Western Canon*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0676.  Friday, 8 September 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Sep 1995 16:54:28 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0673  Re: Bloom
 
(2)     From:   Gregory McSweeney <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Sep 1995 18:57:27 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   The Western Canon
 
(3)     From:   Charles Adler <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Sep 1995 23:04:58 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0673  Re: Bloom
 
(4)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Friday, 08 Sep 1995 00:43:06 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0673  Re: Bloom
 
(5)     From:   Terrence Ross <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Sep 1995 09:02:22 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Bloom
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Sep 1995 16:54:28 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0673  Re: Bloom
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0673  Re: Bloom
 
It is wonderful -- but no longer revealing to me -- that so may critics of
Bloom's "effusion" condemn it without having read it.  I assume that the
effusion in question is "The Western Canon."  If so, one listener to BBC's
evaluation of it seems totally wrong to me.  There is much more to the book
than the marketable assertion that Shakespeare etc. were geniuses -- and it
would be odd indeed (given the oddness of Bloom's appeal to "strangeness" as
that quality that makes for a place in the Canon--a concept called into
question by Bloom) if the listener had heard precisely this argument in
secondary school.  It is also odd that, without reading the book, one would
feel comfortable being guided by the evaluation of T. Hawkes: an evaluation
that provides no specific argument but merely makes assertions while bringing
up the name of the usual bogeyman. Of course, room must be made for expressions
of solidarity but I am looking forward to the post that attempts to prove some
of the charges made against Bloom.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gregory McSweeney <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Sep 1995 18:57:27 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        The Western Canon
 
My problem with Bloom in this outing isn't in his treatment of Shakespeare, but
rather in his apparent contempt for some of the current approaches to that
writer. He casually (and inaccurately, I think) lumps together Barthes and
Foucault as conspirators in the killing of the author as an individual, and the
replacing of him with a collection of social forces that produces texts. He
then omits both of these thinkers from his wish-list canon that seems to
include everything but the glyphs on Mesopotamian pottery.
 
At the same time, it's unfair to condemn the man for a writing style that is
accessible and compelling; certainly, epithets like "Paglia" are unwarranted.
If Bloom is starting to feel like one of the dead, white, European males he
defends, who can blame him? That monopoly is eroding - and so is the cordon
sanitaire between what is canonical and what is not.
 
The most puzzling of Bloom's observations so far, for me, is that Dickens,
"more than Cervantes, is Shakespeare's only rival as a worldwide influence and
so represents, with Shakespeare, the Bible, and the Koran, the authentic
multiculturalism already available to us." (320)
 
Multiculturalism? I know many people who would replace that word with
"colonialism" or even "imperialism." It's obviously reckless to take snatches
of _The Western Canon_ out of context (this chapter says much that is
illustrative and fresh about Dickens and Eliot), but to speak of Dickens as
multicultural in any context is patently absurd.
 
Nor do you have to delve very deeply into the Shakespearean oeuvre to identify
it as Anglocentric. As a reader I consider this no limitation - but as a critic
I'm forced to ask myself, "Who's English?  What's western?" And most important:
"What are the criteria of canonicity?" Then, finally, "Whose canon?"
 
And how seriously should a reader take the recommendations of some one who
includes Atwood's _Surfacing_ in the canon and who obstinately ignores
Foucault's _Les mots et les choses_? Or Barthes' _S/Z_?
 
Somewhat, but not too.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Adler <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 Sep 1995 23:04:58 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0673  Re: Bloom
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0673  Re: Bloom
 
Bloom has two strings in *The Western Canon* which he plucks relentlessly.
First, that W.S. not only *is* the canon but literally invented who we are by
presenting us with a full range of characters so richly described that we
literally learned how to be people from his blueprints.
 
His second point is that the combined forces of feminists, multiculturists, new
historicists, et al. is succeeding in destroying the very notion of a western
canon.
 
As an amateur, I found some mildly tasty morsels in the book (hunger is the
best sauce) but I doubt it would repay the effort of most SHAKSPEReans.
 
Charles D. Adler

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(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Friday, 08 Sep 1995 00:43:06 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0673  Re: Bloom
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0673  Re: Bloom
 
Am curious exactly what Hawkes comments on BLOOM referred to-- I assume the
WESTERN CANON, but maybe there was something else-- Does Mr. Hawkes think that
Shakespeare isn't big enough for him and Bloom---the latter who is turning to
Shakes. late after dismissing him early--Bloom will be speaking at my college
next week and it will be interesting to see (I think he's talking on Shakes)--
and though i could guess what Hawkes' objections would be-- ahistorical,
character-based, even (gag) humanism-- maybe he could spell them out a little
more--- so the lines are drawn clearer, and all that.....chris stroffolino
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terrence Ross <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Sep 1995 09:02:22 -0400
Subject:        Re: Bloom
 
How delightful to find SHAKSPERians boasting simultaneously of their contempt
for Harold Bloom and their ignorance of what they contemn.  Why read what Bloom
has to say?  For that matter, what good is all this reading anyway, when it's
so much more fun to play dogpile on the rabbit.
 

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