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Thread: The Western Canon

  1. #61
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander III View Post
    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.
    Well, the great poet in esteem up until recently was Virgil - literature was Virgil and Ovid, and then Cicero in prose. Petrarch for 100 years was regarded as a great Latin prose stylist and not the vernacular poet who would recreate Western verse in his image. The actual attitude of Western literature was more in line with Mortalterror's general aesthetic than with Bloom's up until, well, Bloom's time (1950s or so). Homer was revered, respected, and unread until a Greek resurgence, and even then it was Plato who was turned to first turned to (especially Erasmus).

    As for when it did come, well, the language people were writing was already from Virgil - the invention of Blank verse itself was in a translation of Virgil - Hamlet is haunted by Virgil, not Homer. Homer until even after the Renaissance, and in terms of quality of verse, Virgil was still, and arguably is still, seen as the supreme artist, over Homer.

  2. #62
    just now reading Bloom's Genius written in 2001 at age 71. More brilliant stuff from Bloom. Is there anyone writing today that will wind up in the Western Cannon? am thinking we may be overlooking the obvious as possibly this would be Bloom himself. Has there ever in history been one who read everything, retained more, and wrote as brilliantly with as much insight as those he reviews?
    Last edited by fb0252; 04-12-2011 at 01:36 PM.

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    Yes, easily... Borges and Eliot walk over Bloom as if he was not there. With the disavantage of being dead.

    Of course, Virgil is the "canon" more than anyone. The idea of Classic was a bit the idea of Virgil. He is representative, amazingly representative. But this popularity of Shakespeare and Homer? I do not see the point (popularity does not measure anything, we all know it. But even wikipedia ranking stabilishes the difficultty to provide numbers for old authors, even Cervantes I think) of such thing. If Homer wasn't popular enough, he would not survive the change of oral to written society. He was.

  4. #64
    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    Chinese poetry essentially absorbed Persian influences in the 9th through 13th centuries despite being far more distant (at that point China didn't even extent into Sichuan)
    This is an interesting aside ... is this true? I doubt at least some of the facts:
    1) If Shanameh is a true beginning in New Persian literature, the dating would start only from 11th century onwards. (But, maybe Persian influence was something older, like the Hu-style music in Tang? But the timing would most be 7-8th century in that case)

    2) 12th - 13th century ... 12th century is Northern Jin and Southing Song, can't, upsurge of Persian influence? 13th century more likely with Mongol empire encompassing both. Maybe the effects are on the yuan qu? I am particularly ignorant about those ...

    3) China didn't extend into Sichuan? That can't be right, if I recall correctly, Mongke (THE emperor in history that owns the largest land-based empire EVER in history) died during a siege of a Southern Song city in Sichuan! (Maybe you are talking about Shu during the Five Dynasties, but to say Chinese have not yet extended to Sichuan would still be very misleading ... even before China gets united, Qin got Sichuan and in fact was one of the reason why it gets to own the resources to unify the whole realm, according to some modern interpretations).

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Yes, easily... Borges and Eliot walk over Bloom as if he was not there. With the disavantage of being dead.

    Borges is a monster. You just stirred me about reading Eliot.
    My blog about literature (in spanish): http://otrasbentilaciones.wordpress.com/

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    But do not expect the same style of text, just similar ideas about the influence of classics, the aesthetic reading pleasure, etc. It was a thrend on Twitter back on first half of XX century. Bloom just represents it, with a freudian twist (ignored, for me wisely, by Borges) and a late one.

    And then, he just write worst than both and cann't deal well with Eliot shadow over all american criticism that he was born.

  7. #67
    I find those canons great, even when I always criticize them all. The first thing I always do, though, is looking at the source. If it's made by an English reader, I know that there are going to be more English-language authors than there should be, but it is still interesting to see those writers he has considered better and what authors he's included from other cultures. Same thing when the source is not English. In the end, it is better to know what authors each culture considers canonical and then judge by oneself if they're worth figuring in an 'international list'.

    Translations and publicity play a big role in the decisions. The latter being also a political tool. For instance, my vibrant Catalan literature is ignored by most good readers usually because of simple ignorance of its existence given the lack of political statehood. To a point that masterpieces like Tirant lo Blanch, regarded by those who read it and studied it as the best fifteenth-century novel, and which should figure in most canons of the big European novels, is usually ignored or forgotten, left out even by Bloom. The same could likely be said about a few masterpieces from some other middle-sized languages/literatures.

    In honour to Bloom's canon, though, I congratulate him for having included six modern Catalan authors, even if four of them were poets. But I can't help resting surprised by the total absence of Catalan or Occitan authors for the Middle Ages.

  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by lawpark View Post
    This is an interesting aside ... is this true? I doubt at least some of the facts:
    1) If Shanameh is a true beginning in New Persian literature, the dating would start only from 11th century onwards. (But, maybe Persian influence was something older, like the Hu-style music in Tang? But the timing would most be 7-8th century in that case)

    2) 12th - 13th century ... 12th century is Northern Jin and Southing Song, can't, upsurge of Persian influence? 13th century more likely with Mongol empire encompassing both. Maybe the effects are on the yuan qu? I am particularly ignorant about those ...

    3) China didn't extend into Sichuan? That can't be right, if I recall correctly, Mongke (THE emperor in history that owns the largest land-based empire EVER in history) died during a siege of a Southern Song city in Sichuan! (Maybe you are talking about Shu during the Five Dynasties, but to say Chinese have not yet extended to Sichuan would still be very misleading ... even before China gets united, Qin got Sichuan and in fact was one of the reason why it gets to own the resources to unify the whole realm, according to some modern interpretations).
    Sorry missed this post until now.

    As for the Persian influences, the original Song lyrics are driven by Persian musical styles. What that basically marked was the decline of court-style verse and the emergence of both popular and private song lyrics as you would know. But the actual genre is highly Persian.


    As for Chinese control. The country or authority was cOnstantly changing throughout history. Contemporary china is extensively regional with tons of minorities. But up until 150 years ago or so all these groups were far more autonomous. Even literary traditions were regional, as seen by the divergence of rhyme tables regionally. As for political control, it was always weak and oblique in most places of china. I can write a longer follow up post if you want when I get on a computer if you are still interested in discussing this.

    Sichuan has always been a strange one as it always is in and out of political control. The vast majority of it however has been part of Tibet for the longest time. The south was basically owned by yi slave factions, with sub-Tibetan groups moving around the south. Chongqing controlled by remoter groups and the locals, now mostly extinct through violent genocidal wars and famine were an enigmatic minority. The Chinese political control was just a cover of the pendi basin area which is a tiny fraction of the geography. And even then. Until 200 years ago it was still remote and out of capital control.
    Last edited by JBI; 08-25-2012 at 11:50 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fb0252 View Post
    just now reading Bloom's Genius written in 2001 at age 71. More brilliant stuff from Bloom. Is there anyone writing today that will wind up in the Western Cannon? am thinking we may be overlooking the obvious as possibly this would be Bloom himself. Has there ever in history been one who read everything, retained more, and wrote as brilliantly with as much insight as those he reviews?
    Writing today and good enough for the canon? Javier Marias. Thomas TranstrÝmer. John Banville.

  10. #70
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    Who???

  11. #71
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    Snob

  12. #72
    Dante is the only real canonical western writer.

  13. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Snob
    welcome back.

  14. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by conartist View Post
    ...Also, of course Bloom rejects Poe! The only people ever not to reject Poe were the French! Have you read Poe? He's the most appalling-jingly-jangly-unintentially hilarious poet in history.
    I've not read the Western Canon, & it's not been revised for some years, has it? Bloom's standard Canon reading list (the list I like) of 1994 doesn't include Delillo's Underworld (1997), which Bloom thinks is one of the premier novels ever.

    There's an interview on YouTube where Bloom says that altho Poe had an astounding imagination, he wrote horribly sentence by sentence. I do have trouble getting thru a lot of Poe (The Gold Bug, Into the Maelstrom); even The Tell-Tale Heart, for its great ending, is senseless really: the narrator "loved the old man" but obsessed over killing him for weeks (rather than just flee the scene the escape the eye).

  15. #75
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    >>>he say's that Freud is the father of psychology because he translated what Shakespeare was saying. <<<

    I understand that Bloom's fascination w/ Shakespeare & Freud is their originality in recounting what people actually to: doubt, change their views, question their motives. There's an interview somewhere on the 'Net, from 1991 or so w/ the Paris Review where he insists that there was none of this presentation of human complexity in the Bible (except for the occasions when Moses or David question God, the Bible characters, including God & Jesus, are pretty much stock characters) & very little in Chaucer: it was Shakespeare & much later Freud that made the agony of being human integral to the characters & stories.

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