The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages

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"The Western Canon" redirects here. For the more general concept, see Western canon.
The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages
The Western Canon.png
Cover of the first edition
Author Harold Bloom
Language English
Subject Literature
Publisher Harcourt Brace
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)
Pages 578
ISBN 978-1-57322-514-4

The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages is a 1994 book by Harold Bloom on Western literature. It is his best-known book alongside The Anxiety of Influence, and was a surprise bestseller upon its release in the United States. In the book, Bloom defends the concept of the Western canon by discussing 26 writers whom he sees as central to the canon:[1][2]

The book argues against what Bloom calls the "School of Resentment", in which he includes feminist literary criticism, Marxist literary criticism, Lacanians, New Historicism, Deconstructionists, and semioticians. The book also contained four appendices that listed works that at the time he considered canonical, stretching from earliest scriptures to Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Bloom would later disown the list, saying that it was written at his editor's insistence and distracted from the book's intention.[3]


Norman Fruman wrote that "The Western Canon is a heroically brave, formidably learned and often unbearably sad response to the present state of the humanities".[4]

A. S. Byatt wrote:

Bloom's canon is in many ways mine. It consists of those writers all other writers have to know and by whom they measure themselves. A culture's canon is an evolving consensus of individual canons. Canonical writers changed the medium, the language they were working in. People who merely describe what is happening now don't last. Mine includes writers I don't necessarily like. D.H. Lawrence, though I hate him in a way, Jane Austen, too.[5]


  1. ^ Harold Bloom, The Western Canon, 1994, p. 2
  2. ^ Tucker, Ken (21 October 1994). "Book Review: 'The Western Canon: The Books and the School of the Ages'; Books". Retrieved 2011-05-01. 
  3. ^ Pearson, James. "Harold Bloom [Interview]". Vice Magazine. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  4. ^ Fruman, Norma (9 October 1994). "Bloom at Thermopylae". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Lawrence, Tim; Guttridge, Peter. "Reloading the ancient canon". The Independent (London). 21 November 1994.

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