eBook The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to À cheapnikeshoes.co À

Our foremost literary critic on our most essential writers from Emerson and Whitman to Hurston and Ellison from Faulkner and O'Connor to Ursula K LeGuin and Philip RothNo critic has better understood the ways writers influence one anotherhow literary traditions are madeand no writer has helped readers understand this better than Harold Bloom Over the course of a remarkable sixty year career in such bestselling books as The Western Canon Shakespeare The Invention of the Human and How to Read and Why Bloom brought enormous insight and infectious enthusiasm to the great writers of the Western tradition from Shakespeare and Cervantes to the British Romantics and the Russian masters Now for the first time comes a collection of his brilliant writings about the American tradition the ultimate guide to our nations literatureAssembled with DavidMikics Slow Reading in a Hurried Age this unprecedented collection gathers five decades worth of Blooms writings much of it hard to find and long unavailableincluding essays occasional pieces and introductions as well as excerpts from his books It offers deep readings of 47 essential American writers reflecting on the surprising ways they have influenced each other acrossthan two centuries The story it tells of American literature as a recurring artistic struggle for selfhood speaks to the passion and power of the American spiritAll of the visionary American writers who have long preoccupied BloomEmerson and Whitman Hawthorne and Melville and Dickinson Faulkner Crane Frost Stevens and Bishopmake their appearance in The American Canon along with Hemingway James OConnor Ellison Hurston LeGuinAshberyand many others Blooms passion for these classic writers is contagious and he reminds readers how they have shaped our sense of who we are and how they can summon us to be better versions of ourselves BloomMikicswrites is still our most inspirational critic still the man who can enlighten us by telling us to read as if our lives depended on it Because he insists they doFor readers who want to deepen their appreciation of American literature there's no better place to start than The American CanonOur foremost literary critic on our most essential writers from Emerson and Whitman to Hurston and Ellison from Faulkner and O'Connor to Ursula K LeGuin and Philip RothNo critic has better understood the ways writers influence one anotherhow literary traditions are madeand no writer has helped readers understand this better than Harold Bloom Over the course of a remarkable sixty year career in such bestselling books as The Western Canon Shakespeare The Invention of the Human and How to Read and Why Bloom brought enormous insight and infectious enthusiasm to the great writers of the Western tradition from Shakespeare and Cervantes to the British Romantics and the Russian masters Now for the first time comes a collection of his brilliant writings about the American tradition the ultimate guide to our nations literatureAssembled with DavidMikics Slow Reading in a Hurried Age this unprecedented collection gathers five decades worth of Blooms writings much of it hard to find and long unavailableincluding essays occasional pieces and introductions as well as excerpts from his books It offers deep readings of 47 essential American writers reflecting on the surprising ways they have influenced each other acrossthan two centuries The story it tells of American literature as a recurring artistic struggle for selfhood speaks to the passion and power of the American spiritAll of the visionary American writers who have long preoccupied BloomEmerson and Whitman Hawthorne and Melville and Dickinson Faulkner Crane Frost Stevens and Bishopmake their appearance in The American Canon along with Hemingway James OConnor Ellison Hurston LeGuinAshberyand many others Blooms passion for these classic writers is contagious and he reminds readers how they have shaped our sense of who we are and how they can summon us to be better versions of ourselves BloomMikicswrites is still our most inspirational critic still the man who can enlighten us by telling us to read as if our lives depended on it Because he insists they doFor readers who want to deepen their appreciation of American literature there's no better place to start than The American CanonOur foremost literary critic on our most essential writers from Emerson and Whitman to Hurston and Ellison from Faulkner and O'Connor to Ursula K LeGuin and Philip RothNo critic has better understood the ways writers influence one anotherhow literary traditions are madeand no writer has helped readers understand this better than Harold Bloom Over the course of a remarkable sixty year career in such bestselling books as The Western Canon Shakespeare The Invention of the Human and How to Read and Why Bloom brought enormous insight and infectious enthusiasm to the great writers of the Western tradition from Shakespeare and Cervantes to the British Romantics and the Russian masters Now for the first time comes a collection of his brilliant writings about the American tradition the ultimate guide to our nations literatureAssembled with DavidMikics Slow Reading in a Hurried Age this unprecedented collection gathers five decades worth of Blooms writings much of it hard to find and long unavailableincluding essays occasional pieces and introductions as well as excerpts from his books It offers deep readings of 47 essential American writers reflecting on the surprising ways they have influenced each other acrossthan two centuries The story it tells of American literature as a recurring artistic struggle for selfhood speaks to the passion and power of the American spiritAll of the visionary American writers who have long preoccupied BloomEmerson and Whitman Hawthorne and Melville and Dickinson Faulkner Crane Frost Stevens and Bishopmake their appearance in The American Canon along with Hemingway James OConnor Ellison Hurston LeGuinAshberyand many others Blooms passion for these classic writers is contagious and he reminds readers how they have shaped our sense of who we are and how they can summon us to be better versions of ourselves BloomMikicswrites is still our most inspirational critic still the man who can enlighten us by telling us to read as if our lives depended on it Because he insists they doFor readers who want to deepen their appreciation of American literature there's no better place to start than The American Canon


5 thoughts on “The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon

  1. says:

    As with everything that the late Harold Bloom wrote this is a very personal opinionated yet canonical book As the essays go chronologically the book reads like a history of literature in the USA and a superb one at that One by one the essays are sublime with some ranking as the best that Bloom ever wrote those on Emerson Melville Dickinson FaulknerThe essays are very good also with those authors that Bloom admits do not posses the best prose ever as Dreiser or Poe However Bloom praises those two writers and gives us an insight on why beyond a rather pedestrian prose they are very good The same can be said on an author that Bloom has never included in his all time best list not even with one mention in the hundreds of writers cited at the end of his Western Canon and this is James Baldwin Bloom is very generous with the New Yorker praising unconditionally his non fiction works no doubt at the best of the XX Century while not mentioning his novelsOn in all a masterclass of a book a brief introduction to the American literature written by the best reviewer of the last half a century the sourly missed the inimitable Professor Harold Bloom


  2. says:

    In this volume the general chapter by chapter brilliance of the Bloom authored commentary on particular canonized authors is offset by a dubious selection of authors for canonization by editor David Makics Yes this book's canon is Makics' canon not Bloom's Indeed in an email to me this past February Bloom wrote responding to an inuiry by me about whom the book would canonize I have no idea what will be in the book The American Canon For some perspective on Mikics’ selections only 22 novelists of the 35 novelists in Bloom’s 2004 Novelists and Novels are included Thirteen are deleted namely Kate Chopin Upton Sinclair Penn Warren Sinclair Lewis John Steinbeck Richard Wright Saul Bellow Norman Mailer Bernard Malamud William Gaddis Walker Percy Paul Auster and Amy Tan Three novelists Theodore Dreiser Katherine Ann Porter and Eudora Welty are addedIn his “Preface” Makics describes his selection in these words “I have chosen to represent the figures about whom Bloom has made his strongest argument and have omitted some well known figures toward whom he displayed mixed feelings in his criticism” “Tried to represent” might have been candid For example as regards the avoidance of “mixed feeling” the Bloom reading on Edward Albee which mentions only Zoo Story and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf says of the latter that it is “hardly for all time” Regarding omitted “well known figures” of the 9 US Nobel Prize winners only O’Neal Hemingway Faulkner and Morrison are included Readings though almost invariably excellent do not always seem optimally selected as where the Pynchon is represented by a selection that refers only to Gravity’s Rainbow and The Crying of Lot 49 despite Bloom’s reference to Mason & Dixon in his “Introduction” to Novelists and Novels as “one of the four grand narratives composed by living Americans”Both Bloom fans and newcomers will find much to enjoy in The American Canon However those seeking word from Bloom on his favorites in a form free of possibly excessive excisions can proceed to Novelists and Novels and parallel tomes on the epic the short story the play the essay and the poem


  3. says:

    In general I like to read Yale’s late literary critic Harold Bloom 1930 2019 because in my estimate he is a master of the art of critical literary appreciation – but I do not always agree with his estimates of certain authors and works Even so I always find him thought provoking which is why I am writing this essay about his thoughts regarding what he refers to as the American religion of self relianceBut I have mixed feelings about David Mikics’ editing decisions about the chronologically arranged by the year of the writer’s birth 45 selections by Bloom covering 47 writers that he reprints in the book The American Canon Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon Library of America 2019 The title of Mikics’ edited book echoes the wording of the titles and subtitles of three of Blooms’ books 1 The Western Canon The Books and Schools of the Ages 1994 2 Genius A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds 2002 and 3 The Daemon Knows Literary Greatness and the American Sublime 2015Now my biggest complaint about Mikics’ editing is that he does not indicate the date of publication and specific source of each of the 45 selections For example the undated selection about Ralph Waldo Emerson pages 13 38 has been updated presumably with Bloom’s consent to include passing references to President Trump eg pages 13 22 23 and 24 – but other undated selections contain passing references to earlier contemporary presidents of the United States but with no updated references to TrumpIn the first paragraph of the selection about Emerson 1803 1882 Bloom says “Emerson by no means the greatest American writer perhaps an interior orator than a writer is the inescapable theorist of all subseuent American writing” page 13 Later in the selection Bloom says “Emerson’s power as a kind of interior orator stems from this ie his practice of self deification” – that is from his practice of “making thinking and seeing the same activity one that culminated in self deification ie the deification of the self” page 19The American Jesuit Renaissance specialist and cultural historian Walter J Ong 1912 2003; PhD in English Harvard University 1955 details the tendency of “making thinking and seeing the same activity” in his massively researched 1958 book Ramus Method and the Decay of Dialogue From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason Harvard University Press – the published version slightly revised of his Harvard doctoral dissertation Perry Miller in English at Harvard an atheist who happened to be an alcoholic served as the director of Ong’s dissertation which was a follow up study to Miller’s own massively researched 1939 book The New England Mind The Seventeenth Century Harvard University Press In other words the Ramists in seventeenth century Harvard College founded in 1636 and elsewhere in New England were historically the visualist precursors in Bloom’s terminology in American culture of Emerson’s practice of “making thinking and seeing the same activity”Because Ong works with the aural visual contrast in cognitive processing throughout his 1958 book and elsewhere we should note here that the Victorian Jesuit classicist and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins 1844 1889 a convert to Roman Catholicism was deeply attuned to oral aural dimension of language I will discuss Ong’s 1986 book about Hopkins belowFor further discussion of Hopkins’ attunement to the oral aural dimension of language see James I Wimsatt’s 2006 book Hopkins’ Poetics of Speech Sound Sprung Rhythm Lettering Inscape University of Toronto PressIncidentally Bloom has edited a collection of essays by literary critics about Hopkins Gerard Manley Hopkins Chelsea House 1987Now in Bloom’s selection about Emerson he also says “Emerson dismisses the fear that we are nothing and insists upon the necessity of the single self achieving a total autonomy of becoming a cosmos without first ingesting either nature or other selves He wishes to give us to ourselves although these days supposedly he preaches to the converted since it is the fashion to assert that we live in a culture of narcissism of which our President is the indubitable epitome Emerson in the time of Trump should be cited upon the limitations of all American politics whatsoever” page 14After Bloom then uotes a lengthy passage from Emerson about the limitations of American political parties he says “Emerson writes of the Democrats and of the Whigs precursors of our modern Republicans in the early 1840s when he still believes that Daniel Webster foremost of Emerson’s ‘the best men’ will never come to advocate the worst cause of the slaveholders Though his politics have been categorized as ‘transcendental anarchism’ Emerson was at once a believer in pure power and a prophet of the moral law an apparent self contradiction that provoked Yvor Winters 1900 1968 in an earlier time and A Bartlett Giamatti 1938 1989 recently” pages 14 15But let’s pause briefly here Updated Bloom here says that Emerson “preaches to the converted” because we contemporary Americans are already converted to what Emerson is preaching But Bloom does not stop to explore whether or not or to what extent Emerson’s thought may be related to the spirit of political liberalism also known as our American experiment in democratic governance of checks and balances on the one hand and on the other economic liberalism also known as capitalism both of which emerged forcefully in American culture However if we were to disregard American political liberalism and economic liberalism as the cultural matrix out of which Emerson’s American religion of self reliance emerged historically then we would be making a big mistake – as Bloom himself doesSubseuently Bloom says “I think Emerson remains the American theoretician of power – be it political literary spiritual economic – because he took the risk of exalting transition for its own sake” page 17; his italicsSubseuently Bloom ualifies this extraordinary claim “You track him Emerson best as writer and person by learning the principle proclaimed everywhere in him that which you can get from another is never instruction but always provocation But what is provocation in the life of the spirit? Emerson insisted that he called you forth only to your self and not to any cause whatsoever The will to power in Emerson as afterwards in Nietzsche is reactive rather than active receptive rather than rapacious which is to say that it is a will to interpretation Emerson teaches interpretation but not in any of the European modes fashionable either in his day or in our own modes currently touching the nadir in a younger rabblement celebrating itself as having repudiated the very idea of an individual reader or an individual critic” pages 21 22In addition Bloom says “He Emerson has the peculiar dialectical gift of being precursor for both the perpetual New Left of student non students and the perpetual New Right of preacher non preachers The American Religion of Self Reliance is a superb literary religion but its political economic and social conseuences whether manifested Left or Right have now helped place us in a country where literary satire of politics is impossible since the real thing is far outrageous than even a satirist of genius could invent” page 22; his italics and capitalizationsBloom also says “As a poem already written the past was not a force for Emerson; it had lost its power because power for him resided only at the crossing at the actual moment of transition” page 24But Bloom also says “Place everything upon the nakedness of the American self and you can open every imaginative possibility from self deification ie deification of the self to absolute nihilism But Emerson knew this and he saw no alternative for us if we were to avoid the predicament of arriving too late in the cultural history of the West” page 25Now without any explicit reference to Emerson or to the term provocation that Bloom uses here Ong discusses the evocative uality of all kinds of literary texts in his 1958 essay “Voice as Summons for Belief Literature Faith and the Divided Self” that he reprinted in his 1962 book The Barbarian Within And Other Fugitive Essays and Studies Macmillan pages 49 67 His essay is also reprinted in An Ong Reader Challenges for Further Inuiry Hampton Press 2002 pages 259 275For further discussion of Ong’s relevant thought see Thomas D Zlatic’s essay “Faith in Pretext An Ongian Context for Melville’s The Confidence Man” in the book Of Ong and Media Ecology Hampton Press 2012 pages 241 280Incidentally Bloom says “The Confidence Man also now admired is a botch though not a disaster like Pierre” page 103By way of provocation Bloom a bit earlier in the selection about Emerson uotes a passages from Emerson’s journal entry dated October 27 1831 in which he says in part “‘It is God in you that responds to God without or affirms his own words trembling on the lips of another’” uoted on page 18Now because I was in the Jesuit order 1979 1987 in the Roman Catholic Church founded by the Spanish Basue mystic St Ignatius Loyola 1491 1556 I should point out here that the Jesuits have long had a motto about finding God in all things In effect in Emerson’s journal entry dated October 27 1831 he is articulating an insight congruent with the Jesuit mottoIn effect the Dutch Jesuit theologian Frans Jozef van Beeck 1930 2011 explores something like the insight Emerson articulates in his journal entry dated October 27 1831 in his 600page book Christ Proclaimed Christology as Rhetoric Paulist Press 1979By way of further provocation Bloom says “On November 21 1834 he Emerson wrote in his journal ‘When we have lost our God of tradition and ceased from our God of rhetoric then may God fire the heart with his presence’ Our God of tradition then and now is as dead as Emerson and Nietzsche declared him to be He belongs in life to the political clerics and the clerical politicians and in letters to the secondary men and women including Ong? Our God of rhetoric belongs to the academies That leaves the American imagination free as always to open itself to the third God of Emerson’s prayer” page 25Ong an orthodox Roman Catholic priest perceptively discusses Nietzsche’s declaration that God is dead in his 1961 essay that he reprinted as “Post Christian or Not?” in his 1967 book In the Human Grain Further Explorations of Contemporary Culture Macmillan pages 147 164Bloom for one writes triumphantly about a supposed post Christian era For example Bloom says “He Emerson was the true American charismatic and founded the actual American religion which is Protestant without being Christian” page 17 Never mind that many Americans to this day say that they are Christians Bloom to the contrary notwithstandingFor Ong’s most sustained discussion of the self see his 1986 book Hopkins the Self and God University of Toronto Press the published version of his 1981 Alexander Lectures at the University of Toronto In it Ong makes three important statements1 “Hopkins’ experience of the self falls within this same tradition as St Ignatius Loyola however inwardly turned the self in Hopkins is never solipsistic” page 83;2 “The present day subject oriented not simply ‘subjective’ historical minded Catholic theology of Karl Rahner Walter Kasper and the Tubingen school which through the earlier work of Joseph Marechal and others connects at crucial points with the now better understood work of St Thomas though it can hardly be styled ‘Thomism’ if such an ‘ism’ is in fact even possible” page 95;3 “This inward turn of consciousness in Romanticism as explained earlier chap 1 develops in counterbalance with the extreme outward turning implemented by the distancing or ‘objectivizing’ technologies of writing print and computers including now the internet and online social media so that it is clear that self consciousness is not the only feature marking the modern sensibility But it is a major feature It has as concomitant and related phenomena the subjectivity or solipsism with which modern art and literature are often charged the modern sense of alienation the self feels itself in the extreme isolation of the nameless pronominal ‘I’ the sense of loss the world of names has spent its force become secondary to the anonymous self a certain rejection of history the ‘I’ as earlier noted is historically free floating though it can and eventually does bring vast reaches of history into itself the rejection of organized society which relates named people in namable structures in favor of community which relates people personally on an I you basis” page 130But Bloom is not attuned to the distinctions that Ong makes about the self However Pope Francis and practicing Catholics should be attuned to Ong’s distinctionsFor a well informed biography of Hopkins see Paul Mariani’s Gerard Manley Hopkins A Life Viking Penguin 2008Finally because Bloom uses the expression “self deification” ie deification of the self I should call attention to the following nine books about the history of thought about deification in Western culture1 Adam G Cooper’s Naturally Human Supernaturally God Fortress Press 2014;2 Bernhard Blankenhorn’s The Mystery of Union with God Dionysian Mysticism in Albert the Great and Thomas Auinas Catholic University of America Press 2015;3 Daria Spezzano’s The Glory of God’s Grace Deification According to St Thomas Auinas Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University 2015;4 A N Williams’ The Ground of Union Deification in Auinas and Palamas Oxford University Press 1999;5 Norman Russell’s The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition Oxford University Press 2004;6 M David Litwa’s We Are Being Transformed Deification in Paul’s Soteriology De Gruyter 2012;7 Litwa’s Iesus Deus The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God Fortress Press 2014;8 Litwa’s Desiring Divinity Self Deification in Early Jewish and Christian Mythmaking Oxford University Press 2016;9 Litwa’s Becoming Divine An Introduction to Deification in Western Culture Cascade Books Wipf and Stock Publishers 2013


  4. says:

    22 The American Canon by Harold Bloom Whether or not you agree with Bloom’s criticisms of what he asserts are our leading American writers you can hardly deny the power of his intellect sensibility and transparency of communication The essays on Whitman and Dickinson are outstanding Whitman is undeniably our greatest genius as a poet if not as a thinker Dickinson however is credited with a brilliant intellect veiled with a uniue style whose minimalism can disguise the philosophical import of her thinking Bloom using many of her poems as examples reveals her rebellious nature and the gleeful pleasure she took in her self knowledge of her mastery Unfortunately the men of letters that she sought as mentors were ones who recognized her as a double agent and deliberately cut her off at the knees Literary society was not ready for a woman who exhibited self confidence demonstrated by these poems Ultimately Dickinson took refuge in seclusion showing her work to a few acolytes such as her sister in law who took the responsibility after Dickinson’s death to champion her work One contemplates the satisfaction Dickinson would take in today’s acclimation of her talent Bloom’s erudite summation serves as recrimination to her own era Bloom reveres Emerson as the lynch pin of American literature not its greatest poet but its exemplary essayist Bloom’s focus on Emerson reuires one to take a harder look at the Sage of Concord accepted as a dominant figure like George Washington unassailable on their pedestals Bloom’s list does not merely focus on writers he likes but includes those that made an impact sometimes underserved like Poe whom he rightly eviscerates He also recognizes the unfortunate comedian in Twain who let that demon loose to ruin the conclusion to the splendid Huckleberry Finn Twain’s prediliction for broad humor often undercut his cynical irony He achieved wide popularity but often that over shadowed the seriousness of purpose in Huck Finn his major work Bloom’s take on Huck is contrary to the common view by Hemingway and Salinger two writers clearly under Twain’s influence in their coming of age novelsForging on I found the essay on Wharton carefully focused on her strengths and best work Occasionally Bloom chooses obscure examples instead of what is clearly a writer’s masterful and well known piece Except for Miniver Cheever I’m not that familiar with the work of Edwin Arlington Robinson but I soon will be having ordered his collected poems The examples Bloom uses charmed me especially lines from Luke Havengal Bloom skids through Dreiser neglecting what I find intriguing how awkward a wordsman Dreiser was but he had a knack for choosing contemporary topics prostitution murder—you could envision him today as a talented screen writer In Cather he doesn’t mention my favorite The Song of the Lark Instead veering from his tendency to choose the neglected he highlights the overly familiar My Antonia Frost and Williams get a rather perfunctory treatment but he is ravished by Stevens who I have always suspected of word infatuation and possibly saying nothing while putting on a vivid sideshow A telling essay on Eugene O’Neill correctly convicts him of lacking rhetorical complexity and zeros in on the fact that the plays embody one subject O’Neill himself but that is what provides their power—the authors vision of the doomed family Bloom dismisses Fitzgerald as a minor talent as do It His estimation of Faulkner matches my own in considering As I Lay Dying his major work though he overlooks my second favorite The Hamlet in favor of Light in August which I would rank third In any event Bloom appreciates Faulkner’s immense gift not just for epics but for humor Hart Crane’s notable command of language receives a bow as do his nods to mentors like Melville and Shelley There’s a current rejection of enhanced vocabulary Crane’s detractors favor unadorned speech and ignore Crane’s masterly use of lyric and the epic reach of poems like The Bridge Crane is a priest of diction images flowing sensuously as the great river itself “My word I poured” he says in The Broken Tower and one recognizes the experience of being overtaken Bloom credits Crane as having”the spiritual conviction of Dante”unseals her earthand lifts love in its shower” Bloom identifies the native lyricism of Hemingway’s prose as well as his early poetry which Stevens insisted was his real métier In his short stories Hemingway joins the panorama of the greats Turgenev Maupassant Joyce Chekhov None of his novels approach the stories eminence thought The Sun Also Rises is a contender A highly interesting essay on Tennessee Williams finds Bloom ranking him as one of America’s top dramatists “the most articulate and adeuate” he says situating Williams above O’Neill Wilder Albee and Kushner and crediting his major works as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire Bloom evaluates James Baldwin’s essays over his fiction citing the sermon like Go Tell It On the Mountain and The Fire Next Time Flannery O’Connor is revered as the most original story writer since Hemingway A Good Man is Hard to Find remains one of O’Connor’s masterpieces Her other memorable stories include Everything That Rises Must Converge and my own favorite second to Good Man Revelation Bloom also mentions favorably the novel The Violent Bear it Away though I don’t think longer fiction was ever her métier Of modern poets James Merrill rates high marks as he ought along with the flawed visionary Merwin and Ashbery whom Bloom identifies as the heir of Whitman I am further pleased to note that Bloom agrees with my view that Song of Solomon is Toni Morrison’s fictional apex However that Bloom includes Roth on his list and not Bellow mystifies me Surely nothing of Roth’s narcissistic fiction approaches the level of Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift—the first real argument I have with Bloom’s selection I won’t argue about Cormac McCarthy Bloom correctly focuses on Blood Meridian though I would give eual billing to the dystophian The Road—which may have been written after Bloom composed this essay Bloom admires DeLillo’s chilly narratives than I do and I put Pynchon in a similar category But overall one can’t deny the importance of The American Canon and Bloom’s astute and erudite take on our literary traditions


  5. says:

    Harold Bloom is a true master of lyrical dreamy prose Only problem is that few people can understand it In this book Bloom discusses and analyzes the writing of various American writers I was hoping to actually learn something about these writers but Bloom's language got in the way With his incredible bank of literary knowledge Bloom forgot the simple rule Write to be read