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The Western Canon, by Harold Bloom

- Abstract

As has been recorded in dispiriting detail by numerous observers, the wholesale embrace of multiculturalism in our universities has mainly led not to an opening-up of the curriculum to other cultures, but to a denigration of the products of our own Western tradition. Worse, the multiculturalists have been joined in spirit by two other academic movements: the gender-feminists, and the “new historicism.” The gender-feminists aim to undo the Western “canon”—the commonly accepted great works—as the cultural traces of male privilege or “patriarchy” (to use the agitprop slogan). The new historicists reduce literary works to ideological manipulations; in this reading, the great books of the West amount to a sorry parade of racist, sexist, chauvinist, and hyper-rationalist apologetics.

To be sure, there have been counteroffensives to these attacks on the Western cultural tradition, but most of them have been confined to arguing with the philosophical premises of the radicals, or to exposing the solecisms and irrationality hiding behind the scholarly veneer of multiculturalist “theory.” Valuable as such fusillades have been, there has been a missing dimension, and that is why one approaches the latest work by the eminent literary critic Harold Bloom with high expectations.

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