The Western canon as guerrilla reading

Readability

The Western canon as guerrilla reading

Yes, I know you’re busy and don’t have time to read, and this list is so hoity-​toity you could puke, but please bear with me.

We are endur­ing a long-​term warn against West­ern cul­ture and val­ues. Uni­ver­si­ties are throw­ing out rig­or­ous cur­ric­ula for vic­ti­mol­ogy “stud­ies” while mak­ing sure any dis­sent­ing views are not merely dis­cour­aged but down­right expelled. Not even the long-​gone Puri­tans are safe.

And the sad thing is that those who value West­ern cul­ture are fre­quently unfa­mil­iar with it.

Enter the West­ern canon: A list of the world’s lit­er­ary tra­di­tion since antiq­uity, divided in four eras,
A. The Theo­cratic Age: 2000 BCE-​1321 CE
B. The Aris­to­cratic Age: 13211832
C. The Demo­c­ra­tic Age: 18321900
D. The Chaotic Age: 20th Century

That’s four thou­sand years of literature.

The list itself has an inter­est­ing his­tory, and it came about from the pub­lish­ers of Harold Bloom’s book The West­ern Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. Bloom’s book presents his (empha­sis added),

argu­ments for a uni­fy­ing writ­ten cul­ture, it argues bril­liantly against the politi­ciza­tion of lit­er­a­ture and presents a guide to the great works of the west­ern lit­er­ary tra­di­tion and essen­tial writ­ers of the ages

That is, Bloom was argu­ing against the politi­ciza­tion of lit­er­a­ture in 1994, twenty three years ago. As Wikipedia cor­rectly describes,

Bloom argues against what he calls the “School of Resent­ment”, which includes fem­i­nist lit­er­ary crit­i­cism, Marx­ist lit­er­ary crit­i­cism, Laca­ni­ans, New His­tori­cism, Decon­struc­tion­ists, and semi­oti­cians.

In prac­ti­cal terms, read­ing lit­er­a­ture has now become a form of guer­rilla war­fare against Marx­ists, decon­struc­tion­ists and their destruc­tive pals.

So where to start?

You may have read a few already with­out real­iz­ing it, such as the Bible, which the Vat­i­can recently removed from its web­site, Dickens’s A Christ­mas Carol, which is part of his Christ­mas Sto­ries, or Orwell’s 1984. So browse through the list and pick one you haven’t read. Many of the books are avail­able for free in Kin­dle editions.

Once you do, com­mit fif­teen min­utes a day to read­ing it. If you are able to lis­ten while you com­mute, most of the titles are avail­able in audio­books for free at your local pub­lic library.

If you like to watch movies, Shake­speare plays have come to life on film for over a cen­tury. I rec­om­mend Much Ado About Noth­ing for a com­edy, and both of The Hol­low Crown series for the tragedies.

(A cau­tion: Watch the movie, read the book doesn’t always work. Beowulf was a disaster.)

If you pre­fer to build up your list, start with short books.

You can’t win a war if you don’t under­stand what you’re fight­ing for. I sug­gest you start with read­ing from the West­ern canon to focus your understanding.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin Amer­ica at Fausta’s blog

Yes, I know you’re busy and don’t have time to read, and this list is so hoity-toity you could puke, but please bear with me.

We are enduring a long-term warn against Western culture and values. Universities are throwing out rigorous curricula for victimology “studies” while making sure any dissenting views are not merely discouraged but downright expelled. Not even the long-gone Puritans are safe.

And the sad thing is that those who value Western culture are frequently unfamiliar with it.

Enter the Western canon: A list of the world’s literary tradition since antiquity, divided in four eras,
A. The Theocratic Age: 2000 BCE-1321 CE
B. The Aristocratic Age: 1321-1832
C. The Democratic Age: 1832-1900
D. The Chaotic Age: 20th Century

That’s four thousand years of literature.

The list itself has an interesting history, and it came about from the publishers of Harold Bloom’s book The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. Bloom’s book presents his (emphasis added),

arguments for a unifying written culture, it argues brilliantly against the politicization of literature and presents a guide to the great works of the western literary tradition and essential writers of the ages

That is, Bloom was arguing against the politicization of literature in 1994, twenty three years ago. As Wikipedia correctly describes,

Bloom argues against what he calls the “School of Resentment“, which includes feminist literary criticismMarxist literary criticismLacaniansNew HistoricismDeconstructionists, and semioticians.

In practical terms, reading literature has now become a form of guerrilla warfare against Marxists, deconstructionists and their destructive pals.

So where to start?

You may have read a few already without realizing it, such as the Bible, which the Vatican recently removed from its website, Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which is part of his Christmas Stories, or Orwell’s 1984. So browse through the list and pick one you haven’t read. Many of the books are available for free in Kindle editions.

Once you do, commit fifteen minutes a day to reading it. If you are able to listen while you commute, most of the titles are available in audiobooks for free at your local public library.

If you like to watch movies, Shakespeare plays have come to life on film for over a century. I recommend Much Ado About Nothing for a comedy, and both of The Hollow Crown series for the tragedies.

(A caution: Watch the movie, read the book doesn’t always work. Beowulf was a disaster.)

If you prefer to build up your list, start with short books.

You can’t win a war if you don’t understand what you’re fighting for. I suggest you start with reading from the Western canon to focus your understanding.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog