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Thread: The Western Canon

  1. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    Perhaps we are having a misunderstanding about what each of us believes to be the definition of imitation. When I say that Virgil imitates Homer I mean that he uses dactylic hexameter, the first half of his poem parallels point for point the Odyssey and the second half does the same for the Iliad. He fills his poem with characters, events, themes, and diction meant to evoke the earlier poet. Virgil had previously imitated Hesiod in the style and subject matter of the Georgics and likewise imitated Theocritus when he wrote his Eclogues.
    So, in the end, there was Virgil influences, not just Ovids around.
    But still, of course, Virgil is model of all nationalistic epics of medieval age (Bewoulf, Roland, El Cid), his Dido, he is quoted, his verses, metric, etc. He is the model of excellence, no doubt.

    Dante will be too, his metric, his terza rhyme, his Beatrice... But meanwhile the ambition of Comedy, nobody can copy. The sonnets of Petrach, the tales of Bocaccio, the tales of Ovid, his lyrics poems, etc.

    One of failures of Bloom is not just western, is how he split it only from Shakespeare. This is a way to not deal with the millenar Homer, Esquilo, Sophocles, Ovid, Virgil... They have survived on top for almost 2000 years, while Shakespeare didnt got even clsoe of that. It would be bad for Bloom's arguments.

    As the canon, it is not easy to get in, leave impossible. I think if Shakespeare is safe, Ovid is safe, because the canon is build more with relations. Virgil grants Homer, Dante grants virgil, Bocaccio grants Dante...

    D.Johnson is certainly a good to remember, because he washes Bloom. He, without needing to build a theory, did more for the Canon and to preven the school of resentment than Bloom. In his case, the merit is not a correct judgment, but his culture to defend it. He will bash Hamlet? But Hamlet can obviously defend itself, it will swap a Coleridge to his side. What sometimes people don't see is for example, how much Tolstoy bashing of Shakespeare is strong. It is not ridiculous - it talks loud about Tolstoy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    Perhaps we are having a misunderstanding about what each of us believes to be the definition of imitation. When I say that Virgil imitates Homer I mean that he uses dactylic hexameter, the first half of his poem parallels point for point the Odyssey and the second half does the same for the Iliad. He fills his poem with characters, events, themes, and diction meant to evoke the earlier poet. Virgil had previously imitated Hesiod in the style and subject matter of the Georgics and likewise imitated Theocritus when he wrote his Eclogues.

    Milton imitates Virgil 1) in his latinate grammar and rhetoric. 2) in the 12 book structure of Paradise Lost. Spenser likewise structured his epic into 12 books of 12 cantos each to draw the comparison to Virgil's Aeneid, whether he survived to finish it is immaterial. Camoes is imitating Virgil by trying to write a heroic epic glorifying the Portuguese people.

    Just look at how each introduction is reminiscent of the earlier poems.

    Anger be now your song, immortal one,
    Akhilleus' anger, doomed and ruinous,
    that caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss
    and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
    leaving so many dead men-carrion
    for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done.
    Iliad Fitzgerald translation

    Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
    of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
    the wanderer, harried for years on end,
    after he plundered the stronghold
    on the proud height of Troy.
    He saw the townlands
    and learned the minds of many distant men,
    and weathered many bitter nights and days
    in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only
    to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.
    But not by will nor valor could he save them,
    for their own recklessness destroyed them all —
    children and fools, they killed and feasted on
    the cattle of Lord Hêlios, the Sun,
    and he who moves all day through the heaven
    took from their eyes the dawn of their return.
    Odyssey Fitzgerald translation

    Arms, and the man I sing, who, forc'd by fate,
    And haughty Juno's unrelenting hate,
    Expell'd and exil'd, left the Trojan shore.
    Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore,
    And in the doubtful war, before he won
    The Latian realm, and built the destin'd town;
    His banish'd gods restor'd to rites divine,
    And settled sure succession in his line,
    From whence the race of Alban fathers come,
    And the long glories of majestic Rome.
    O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate;
    What goddess was provok'd, and whence her hate;
    For what offense the Queen of Heav'n began
    To persecute so brave, so just a man;
    Involv'd his anxious life in endless cares,
    Expos'd to wants, and hurried into wars!
    Can heav'nly minds such high resentment show,
    Or exercise their spite in human woe?
    Aeneid Dryden translation

    My intention is to tell of bodies changed
    To different forms; the gods, who made the changes,
    Will help me-or I hope so-with a poem
    That runs from the world's beginning to our own days.
    Metamorphoses Humphries translation

    Wars worse than civil on Emathian plains,
    And crime let loose we sing; how Rome's high race
    Plunged in her vitals her victorious sword;
    Armies akin embattled, with the force
    Of all the shaken earth bent on the fray;
    And burst asunder, to the common guilt,
    A kingdom's compact; eagle with eagle met,
    Standard to standard, spear opposed to spear.

    Whence, citizens, this rage, this boundless lust
    To sate barbarians with the blood of Rome?
    Did not the shade of Crassus, wandering still,
    Cry for his vengeance? Could ye not have spoiled,
    To deck your trophies, haughty Babylon?
    Why wage campaigns that send no laurels home?
    What lands, what oceans might have been the prize
    Of all the blood thus shed in civil strife!
    ...
    First of such deeds I purpose to unfold
    The causes -- task immense -- what drove to arms
    A maddened nation, and from all the world
    Struck peace away.
    Pharsalia by Lucan tr. Ridley

    I sing of knights and ladies, of love and arms, of courtly chivalry, of courageous deeds- all from the time when the Moors crossed the sea from Africa and wrought havoc in France. I shall tell of the anger, the fiery rage of young Agramant their king, whos boast it was that he would avenge himself on Charles, Emperor of Rome, for King Trojan's death. I shall tell of Orlando, too, setting down what has never before been recounted in prose or rhyme: of Orlando driven raving mad by love- and he a man who had been always esteemed for his great prudence-
    Orlando Furioso Waldman translation

    I sing the reverent armies, and that Chief
    who set the great tomb of our Savior free;
    much he performed with might and judgement, much
    he suffered in the glorious victory;
    in vain hell rose athwart his path, in vain
    two continents combined in mutiny.
    Heaven graced him with it's favor and restored
    his straying men to the banner of the Lord.

    O Muse, who do not string a garland of
    the fading laurel fronds of Helicon,
    but far in heaven among the blessed choirs
    wreathe deathless stars into a golden crown,
    breathe into my heart the fire of heavenly love,
    illuminate my song, and if I have sewn
    embroideries of the truth in any place,
    I ask forgiveness for their lesser grace.
    Jerusalem Delivered Tasso tr. Esolen

    ARMS and the Heroes, who from Lisbon’s shore,
    Thro’ seas where sail was never spread before,
    Beyond where Ceylon lifts her spicy breast,
    And waves her woods above the wat’ry waste,
    With prowess more than human forc’d their way
    To the fair kingdoms of the rising day:
    What wars they wag’d, what seas, what dangers pass’d,
    What glorious empire crown’d their toils at last,
    Vent’rous I sing, on soaring pinions borne,
    And all my country’s wars the song adorn;
    The Lusiad by Camoes tr. Mickle

    Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
    As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds,
    Am now enforst a far unfitter taske,
    For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
    And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds;
    Whose prayses having slept in silence long,
    Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
    To blazon broade emongst her learned throng:
    Fierce warres and faithfull loves shall moralize my song.

    Helpe then, O holy Virgin chiefe of nine,
    Thy weaker Novice to performe thy will;
    Lay forth out of thine everlasting scryne
    The antique rolles, which there lye hidden still,
    Of Faerie knights and fairest Tanaquill,
    Whom that most noble Briton Prince so long
    Sought through the world, and suffered so much ill,
    That I must rue his undeserved wrong:
    O helpe thou my weake wit, and sharpen my dull tong.
    The Faerie Queene Spenser

    OF Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
    Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
    Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
    With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
    Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
    Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
    Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
    That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
    In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and Earth
    Rose out of Chaos. Or if Sion Hill
    Delight thee more, and Siloa's Brook that flow'd
    Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
    Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
    That with no middle flight intends to soar
    Above th' Aonian Mount, while it pursues
    Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.
    And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
    Before all Temples th' upright heart and pure,
    Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the first
    Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
    Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss
    And mad'st it pregnant: What in me is dark
    Illumine, what is low raise and support;
    That to the highth of this great Argument
    I may assert th' Eternal Providence,
    And justifie the wayes of God to men.
    Say first, for Heav'n hides nothing from thy view
    Nor the deep Tract of Hell, say first what cause
    Mov'd our Grand Parents in that happy State,
    Favour'd of Heav'n so highly, to fall off
    From their Creator, and transgress his Will
    For one restraint, Lords of the World besides?
    Who first seduc'd them to that fowl revolt?
    Paradise Lost Milton

    WHAT dire Offence from am'rous Causes springs,
    What mighty Contests rise from trivial Things,
    I sing -- This Verse to C---, Muse! is due;
    This, ev'n Belinda may vouchfafe to view:
    Slight is the Subject, but not so the Praise,
    If She inspire, and He approve my Lays.
    Say what strange Motive, Goddess! cou'd compel
    A well-bred Lord t'assault a gentle Belle?
    Oh say what stranger Cause, yet unexplor'd,
    Cou'd make a gentle Belle reject a Lord?
    And dwells such Rage in softest Bosoms then?
    And lodge such daring Souls in Little Men?
    The Rape of the Lock Pope
    How much of that is Virgil, and how much copying Homer through Virgil? Either way, the books themselves are very different, or at least the ones that matter. The same way Milton himself early on in his career began and abandoned a book dominated by Spenser's Faerie Queene. But the "conventions of the epic" if you will do not in themselves justify copying - the beginning of Ariosto follows the same pattern, as does Tasso, but are we going to even begin to call them Virgilian? Even something detached like Beowulf contains similar elements.

    If you want to look at imitation, Petrarch would be the imitated poet, that is real imitation. English renaissance verse is until probably Spenser imitating Petrarch (more often than not, quite well, and in beautiful verse). The conceits, the ideas, all imitated in the same medium - an epic though, can only be paralleled and parodied, and only convention can really be "imitated".

  3. #48
    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post

    One of failures of Bloom is not just western, is how he split it only from Shakespeare. This is a way to not deal with the millenar Homer, Esquilo, Sophocles, Ovid, Virgil... They have survived on top for almost 2000 years, while Shakespeare didnt got even clsoe of that. It would be bad for Bloom's arguments.
    It's not just about time, otherwise a few scratchings on cave walls would beat Homer... To quote Bloom:

    "Shakespeare and Dante are the center of the Canon because they excel all other Western writers in cognitive acuity, linguistic energy, and power of invention."

    So, to prove your thesis, you need to show that Homer et. al. beat Shakespeare and Dante for "cognitive acuity, linguistic energy, and power of invention."

    More on "Shakespeare as the centre of the canon":

    http://people.bridgewater.edu/~atrup...m_excerpts.htm

  4. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    If you want, you can see where he mentions it at the tail end of the interview he gave when The Western Canon came out. http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/7132 Skip to about 19:35 in the video... Bloom says something about it being important in light of modern tensions in Chechnya. I don't own a copy of The Western Canon and it's been years since I read anything out of it; so I can't quote you anything he says there.
    Just listened... he doesn't say it is his "best book".

    A good point about "The Western Canon" is that it doesn't often dwell on obvious books, like W&P, so it's a good guide to reading further into the canon, once you have read the obvious...The stress on HM's current importance, given the situation in Chechnya, is a good one. If that appeals, then "The Cossacks" is also very good on this aspect.

  5. #50
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    cognitive acuity, linguistic energy, and power of invention.
    Not only are those pretty vague categories, but there are only 3 of them. That's no basis for a critical analysis.

    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    So, to prove your thesis, you need to show that Homer et. al. beat Shakespeare and Dante for "cognitive acuity, linguistic energy, and power of invention."
    I don't think the onus is on me. I have 3,000 years of critical theory on my side from Aristarchus to Nagy. Every generation has struggled under his influence, down to the modern day. Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, Tennyson's Ulysses, Joyce's Ulysses, Cavafy's Ithaka, Pound's Canto 1, Kazantzakis' Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, Auden's The Shield of Achilles, Walcott's Omeros, The Coen Brothers' O Brother Where Art Thou. He's ubiquitous. To paraphrase Alfred Whitehead, the history of western literature largely consists of footnotes to Homer. It's up to you to prove that your new comers should displace Homer's centrality.
    Last edited by mortalterror; 04-11-2011 at 08:28 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    Not only are those pretty vague categories, but there are only 3 of them. That's no basis for a critical analysis.



    I don't think the onus is on me. I have 3,000 years of critical theory on my side from Aristarchus to Nagy. Every generation has struggled under his influence, down to the modern day. Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, Tennyson's Ulysses, Joyce's Ulysses, Pound's Canto 1, Kazantzakis' Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, The Coen Brothers' O Brother Where Art Thou. He's ubiquitous. To paraphrase Alfred Whitehead, the history of western literature largely consists of footnotes to Homer. It's up to you to prove that your new comers should displace Homer's centrality.
    While I agree with you as to Homer

    The phrase was actually " The history of western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato"

    In regards to Bloom, I enjoy his opinions, however I have to agree with others here that his overestimation of Shakespeare is almost as dismissible as Tolstoy's underestimation of Shakespeare.

    In one of his interviews he say's that Freud is the father of psychology because he translated what Shakespeare was saying. I utterly disagree with this, Freud owes most of his theories to Kierkegaard not Shakespeare.

  7. #52
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander III View Post
    While I agree with you as to Homer

    The phrase was actually " The history of western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato"
    I'm aware of the saying, which is why I said I was only paraphrasing not quoting. It seems to me that the central texts of Western Literature have to be Homer and The Bible much more than Shakespeare or Dante. Does Shakespeare have the same pride of place in German and Russian lands as in English? They might make their case for Goethe or Tolstoy, and with good reason.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    I'm aware of the saying, which is why I said I was only paraphrasing not quoting. It seems to me that the central texts of Western Literature have to be Homer and The Bible much more than Shakespeare or Dante. Does Shakespeare have the same pride of place in German and Russian lands as in English? They might make their case for Goethe or Tolstoy, and with good reason.
    Hmmm, yes, I see your point, but Homer and the Bible aren't Western literature, per say. They are the foundation of the tradition, but do not give it its western quality, that is an isolation onto itself. The Bible, we must remember, had as profound an influence on the lands beyond the so called "West," as did Greek thought (especially with the conquests of Alexander). If you are looking for the centre of the Western Canon, you must determine what we want to call a canon. Surely Indo-European as an idea informs both Latin and Germanic languages, but we call French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, amongst others, romance languages not Indo-European languages when we discuss them in a practical setting (that is, in an educational setting). Indo-European as a discussion is way to removed.

    That being said, I will not disagree that Homer and the Bible are at the top, I just do not think they constitute a Western Tradition -where is it that the idea of a West comes from - one can point to the conflicts between Persia and Greece, but that does not create the divide any more than the conflicts between Rome and northern barbarians did. Can we say there is a particular Western tradition until the divide of the Roman empire? if so, what does that imply in terms of the pillars (given the emergence of the Bible and Virgil as supreme, and later Ovid and others, and Greek work all but gone from the conversation except as footnote).

    Likewise, within the Western notions itself, there are internal hegemonies.

    My question though is, who do we count as the founder of the Western tradition, not as the tradition that was appropriated by Western writers.

  9. #54
    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    ... It seems to me that the central texts of Western Literature have to be Homer and The Bible much more than Shakespeare or Dante. Does Shakespeare have the same pride of place in German and Russian lands as in English? They might make their case for Goethe or Tolstoy, and with good reason.
    Goethe admitted Shakespeare's superiority. There are more performances of Shakespeare in Germany each year than in the UK. The oldest Shakespeare society is German. So he perhaps has more pride of place in Germany than the UK!

    http://german.about.com/od/literature/a/Shakespeare.htm

    "A Russian critic once observed that Russians treat Shakespeare as their own ... any given month one can find a dozen Shakespearean productions in St. Petersburg and at least twice as many in Moscow. This number is greater than all Chekhov productions (including all short-story adaptations) combined, with Ostrovskiy coming in a distant third. Back when the population of the Soviet Union was approximately equal to that of the English-speaking world, Soviet cultural propaganda was fond of citing a statistic according to which more copies of Shakespeare were bought by Soviet readers than by their capitalist counterparts. A more palpable achievement in the process of making Shakespeare Russian is the impressive array of film adaptations: at least three-quarters of the plays have been turned into films, which are still shown with some regularity on state television."

    http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journ...25.1eyber.html

    As a quick Google search will show - Homer sells far fewer books than Shakespeare, and he certainly doesn't fill the playhouses!

    For myself, I found reading a full translation of Homer's works far less enjoyable and straightforward than reading any of Shakespeare's 30 or so masterpieces. Given the relative paucity of sales, and Homer not being a set text in schools, I think this is a common experience...
    Last edited by mal4mac; 04-11-2011 at 11:08 AM.

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    I do not see the Canon as a center. It is a big of Pascal's sphere. I see more as a chain of reactions, with continual reactions. You do not need to study the canon as object, but rather canonical writers. If we study Dante, we must talk about Ovid, Agostine, Virgil, Cicero, etc. Just like we ended doing. And eventually about what came after him, because it is Bocaccio who made the comedy divine after all.

    I can understand Bloom methodology, I would rather "nitpick" on his application. He fails on his critery, someone trying to imply a long line of continuity, cann't pretend Shakespeare came and said "there be light", after all, Hamlet must survive as Oedipus King did, yet. Did he wanted to reduce the size of the book? Nice, so do not bring me Beckett in the end. In the end, everytime we, for a reason or another, build a canon, we will fail from one or another perspective, so, I think it is rather pointless to determine Homer or not Homer.

    Mal4mac

    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    It's not just about time, otherwise a few scratchings on cave walls would beat Homer... To quote Bloom:

    "Shakespeare and Dante are the center of the Canon because they excel all other Western writers in cognitive acuity, linguistic energy, and power of invention."

    So, to prove your thesis, you need to show that Homer et. al. beat Shakespeare and Dante for "cognitive acuity, linguistic energy, and power of invention."

    More on "Shakespeare as the centre of the canon":

    http://people.bridgewater.edu/~atrup...m_excerpts.htm
    Like Mortal pointed, those cathegories are meaningless. What bloom is doing is replacing the religious jewish approach for Yaweh for Shakespeare. He tries to erase the past, create a center and end falling on marxism (I wonder how much Bloom will be blind that Freud conflict of generations between Father and brother is similar to Marx materialism and both born from the darwinism, but that would give his conservative self shivers). Claims towards the genius of Freud are exagerated (I think Freud is a genius, but his scientific discoveries are questionable, his contribution no different from Lamark contribution to evolution) and it is so exagerated that he has a tendency to underestimate all authors who may endanger Freud or Shakespeare.

    He more than once claimed the essay were not about authors who are the best, but those he saw as more influential or unique, and when you see it, we see a considerable bias on his method. He do reckonize the vallue of Dostoievisky, Poe, Voltaire, Flaubert, Blake, Eliot... but heck, it is almost as if someone is eating an aubergine. Poe is the very essence of democratic writter, not Whitman, not Dickinson, as Poe is the one who define ,thinks and works in a format for the everyday reader and, amazing as this would please Bloom, having aesthetic pleasure in mind. But Poe didnt needed Freud and it is very hard to find traces of Shakespeare to build his psychological approach on short stories. The Russians either, Dostoievisky and Tchekhov were first hand writers of Freud's sources and it is of course, more interesting to see Tolstoy reaction to Shakespeare as a matter of "Oedipus conflicts" than deal with Dostoievisky construction of characters, that could rival (in the sense it gave identidy apart from Drama) Shakespeare construction. Just like he ignores Melville's obvious genius, since Melville in one whale, bring all that Shakespeare has of best, without needing Freud or jewish tradition (as the bible was apart by then). Kafka (which can be read from his jewish roots and style) and Borges (one of the worst chapters in the book, but unavoidable, as Borges intellectualism is the kind of personagem Bloom wanted to be), clear antagonists of Freud are reduced to a freudian interpretation.

    The funny thing is Bloom knows Freud is not a great reader and misread Shakespeare, but he dismiss this, admiring Freud's ego as avatar of Yaweh ego.

    In the end, the thing I can say is that of all champions of aesthetic merits, he is the worst writer. He cann't deal with his own agnst towards Eliot (who was more keen, as erudite, better writer) and didn't gave a single reason why guys like Derrida werent doing something right. If I need someone to explain to me classics have a perssuasive dialogue with present writers, who try to bring originality from their reading of great writers, and imitative technique, I do not need anything more than Borges explaning his relation with Kafka. We create our own precussors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    Goethe admitted Shakespeare's superiority. There are more performances of Shakespeare in Germany each year than in the UK. The oldest Shakespeare society is German. So he perhaps has more pride of place in Germany than the UK!

    http://german.about.com/od/literature/a/Shakespeare.htm

    "A Russian critic once observed that Russians treat Shakespeare as their own ... any given month one can find a dozen Shakespearean productions in St. Petersburg and at least twice as many in Moscow. This number is greater than all Chekhov productions (including all short-story adaptations) combined, with Ostrovskiy coming in a distant third. Back when the population of the Soviet Union was approximately equal to that of the English-speaking world, Soviet cultural propaganda was fond of citing a statistic according to which more copies of Shakespeare were bought by Soviet readers than by their capitalist counterparts. A more palpable achievement in the process of making Shakespeare Russian is the impressive array of film adaptations: at least three-quarters of the plays have been turned into films, which are still shown with some regularity on state television."

    http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journ...25.1eyber.html
    His point is not that they thread Shakespeare as a genius or not, but if he is the "top notch", he is not. Goethe is certainly the GUY in germany. In Russia, all XIX writers kind off suffer with the communist period persecution a little, they are almost from another universe and Gogol, Pushkin, Dostoievisky, Tolstoy and Tchekhov split the universe so the sittuation is another. If you go to Italy, Dante will be the guy. In Portugal will be Camoes, in Spain Cervantes. Shakespeare is certainly universal, but in some houses he is a guest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    Not only are those pretty vague categories, but there are only 3 of them. That's no basis for a critical analysis.
    Bah, that's just the type of easy dismissal I would expect from someone with adroit perspicacity and dexterous verbosity.

    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    As a quick Google search will show - Homer sells far fewer books than Shakespeare, and he certainly doesn't fill the playhouses!
    I should hope not given that Homer didn't write plays.

    For myself, I found reading a full translation of Homer's works far less enjoyable and straightforward than reading any of Shakespeare's 30 or so masterpieces. Given the relative paucity of sales, and Homer not being a set text in schools, I think this is a common experience...

    Where did you get the information that Homer doesn't sell as well as Shakespeare? Or even more dubious information like there is a paucity of sales for Homer? I'd be interested in knowing what you googled exactly.

    The Amazon bestseller rank of Fagles' translation of The Iliad is #9,845. The closest in selling rank of Complete works of Shakespeare in print was the Oxford Shakespeare which had a rank of # 35,519. The various other complete editions were even further back. On Kindle's free book rankings the Odyssey were #84 and #100 respectively. Now I don't honestly know if Shakespeare sells better than Homer or vice-versa (since Amazon doesn't account for all sales and Shakespeare complete plays on Kindle that you need to pay for do much better in sales). However, looking quickly at just these numbers I am pretty sure your paucity claim is just you making stuff up.

    Homer is in fact a required and taught text in many schools. In the state I live in the US, the Odyssey is a required text for the English Literature 10th grade curriculum. Of course, so is Romeo and Juliet.
    Last edited by Drkshadow03; 04-11-2011 at 08:09 PM.
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  13. #58
    Quote Originally Posted by Drkshadow03 View Post
    Where did you get the information that Homer doesn't sell as well as Shakespeare?
    It's more of a general observation + drawing obvious conclusions - my school didn't have a copy of Homer, and we never read him, but every child got to read several of his plays. Bookshops & libraries have bookcases full of Shakespeare plays, with only odd copies of Homer here and there. But if you want figures:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...iction_authors

    Homer doesn't make the list, but reading more closely, he may have been left off by accident... So fans might like to dig deeper to get him on the list... But I very much doubt he'll get anywhere near Shakespeare, who tops the list with 4 billion copies -a copy for every family on Earth!

    The next "serious" author is Tolstoy, with a tenth of the sales.

    Penguin are always boasting that Rieu's Odyssey, the first 'penguin classic', sold 3 million copies. But for every copy of that sold, Shakespeare has sold a thousand!

  14. #59
    Bloom is notable because he has read a lot, or at least a lot more compared to some of his critics or readers in general. That makes his assessment of literary works very relevant.

    In general, professional critics who are also well-informed should always be heeded, as most readers will not always have sufficient time to assess works themselves. This makes the idea of a canon very helpful.

  15. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    It's more of a general observation + drawing obvious conclusions - my school didn't have a copy of Homer, and we never read him, but every child got to read several of his plays. Bookshops & libraries have bookcases full of Shakespeare plays, with only odd copies of Homer here and there. But if you want figures:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...iction_authors

    Homer doesn't make the list, but reading more closely, he may have been left off by accident... So fans might like to dig deeper to get him on the list... But I very much doubt he'll get anywhere near Shakespeare, who tops the list with 4 billion copies -a copy for every family on Earth!

    The next "serious" author is Tolstoy, with a tenth of the sales.

    Penguin are always boasting that Rieu's Odyssey, the first 'penguin classic', sold 3 million copies. But for every copy of that sold, Shakespeare has sold a thousand!
    When I was growing up, me and my parents went to Phuket for most x-mass vacations. And most of my friends at school and their parents went their too or other parts of Thailand. So quite clearly Thailand is the most popular vacation destination in the world.

    As for your list, it cannot be used when judging homer for several reasons.

    Firstly it uses Numbers rather than percentages, this is a problem as lets say that if 20,000 of london's literate population read Homer in the year 1600 and 20,000 of London's literate population read homer now - according to your numbers measurement both values would be equal. But they are not 20,000 people in 1600 london is roughly 100% of it's literate population, 20,000 london people now is less than 1% of it's literate population. Thus all statistics which use numbers rather than percentages have an incredibly heavy bias as they are largely determined by the people of the last 100 years as there was a huge population boom last century.

    Also we have no way of calculation how many people heard/read Homer in classical times, which was when he was at the peak of his popularity, as until Virgil came no other poet was deemed greater than Homer.

    Lastly Wikipedia is not the most reliable source of information.

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