I’ve been steadily working my way through Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon, and there is a lot that’s quite brilliant in here. It seems that almost every page has some insightful observation or quotable remark that I’ll try to remember for later.
Which is nice, since there’s also quite a lot of this:
It may be that the new Theocratic Age of the twenty-first century, whether Christian or Muslim or both or neither, will amalgamate with the Computer Era, already upon us in early version of “virtual reality” and “the hypertext.” Combined with universal television and the University of Resentment (already well along in consolidation) into one rough beast, this future would cancel the literary canon once and for all.
If anyone knows what the hell this means, I’d be interested to hear your theory.
Let me try to explain as best I can. As you read through The Western Canon, you begin to develop a working dictionary of Harold Bloom-ese. “Theorcratic Age” more or less makes sense–an age of renewed religious fervor that may very well follow up our current age of chaos (as Bloom puts it) that came with the dissolution of God and secular moral authority. “Computer Era” you are on your own for (this is the first instance). “Universal television” is already becoming less and less relevant with the rise of the Internet (plenty of people I know don’t even watch TV any more; I don’t). And “University of Resentment,” roughly speaking, if Bloom’s caricature for any kind of cultural criticism that postdates Bloom’s own heyday, also known as “The Greatest Age of Criticism Ever, Really.” They are “resentful” mostly because they are feminists who are angry with Bloom for saying acerbic things to them.
Anyway, what gets me isn’t that none of the concepts the Bloom has applied here are valid (that’s debatable); what I simply can’t understand is how they combine into some apocalyptic end-times beast to “cancel the literary canon once and for all.” But, heck, if hatred of the literary canon could unite 99% of the world behind one simple agenda, it couldn’t be all that bad, could it . . . ?
But yes, my single best argument for reading The Western Canon is that despite strange little things like this it’s a very compelling piece of criticism. Or maybe these weird little outbursts are all to Bloom’s point. As he’s fond of saying again and again, strangeness is the single more important quality for canonization.