In a World With No Classics

In The Western Canon; The Books and School of the Age (1994), Yale literary critic Harold Bloom examines the Western literary tradition by concentrating on the works of twenty-six authors central to the Canon. The “Canon” to Bloom includes the most important classical works in western civilization. This Canon, as it were, establishes a literary tradition. A central component of that tradition is the Homeric Epics, including the Odyssey.  The importance of the Odyssey to the western canon is without dispute.  The problem is, as Bloom laments in his first chapter “An Elegy for the Canon,” no one reads the classics! Or rather, people read any old thing they want and they call it “great literature.” “The Western Canon, despite the limitless idealism of those who would open it up, exists precisely in order to impose limits . . . by its very nature, the Western Canon will never close, but it cannot be forced open by our current cheerleaders.” (Bloom, “An Elegy for the Canon,”)

What does it mean to live in a society and culture that does not read the classics?  It means we have no way to talk to one another.  We no longer have common metaphors and motifs from which to share consensus.  We wonder from one existential moment to another.  Bloom, and I, dread that eventuality.  It is up to you, young people, to be such competent, but Godly writers, that society cannot ignore and then, you will resurrect the old and add to the expanding canon.

My own “classical” list can be found at my website,

Click on “Free Downloads” and then “Classical Reading Lists: Creation to Present.”

What are my top 10 choices:

  1. The Bible
  2. The Odyssey
  3. Confessions, Augustine
  4. Sound and Fury, Faulkner
  5. Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky
  6. War and Peace, Tolstoy
  7. Faust, Goethe
  8. Heart of Darkness, Conrad
  9. Macbeth, Shakespeare
  10. The Wasteland, T. S. Eliot

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