Harold Bloom's Western Canon: What's the Use?
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Contemporary academics writing on value and the humanities have largely left the frantic and apocalyptic rhetoric of the “canon wars” behind, returning to more nuanced arguments about literature’s political and social utility or readdressing fundamental questions of definition. In the public sphere, however, pronouncements about the irrelevance of the humanities remain constant, and apparently persuasive. This paper revisits Harold Bloom’s 1994 surprise bestseller The Western Canon, investigating the possibility that his ideas around the use and value of literature are not inherently apolitical, as he claims, and that they might even be reoriented towards a broadly appealing, positive argument for the study of literature.