The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon

The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon


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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 Roth.

No critic has better understood the ways writers influence one another—how literary traditions are made—and 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 CanonShakespeare: 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 nation’s literature. 
Assembled with David Mikics (Slow Reading in a Hurried Age), this unprecedented collection gathers five decades’ worth of Bloom’s writings— much of it hard to find and long unavailable—including 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 across more than 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 spirit.  
All of the visionary American writers who have long preoccupied Bloom―Emerson and Whitman, Hawthorne and Melville, and Dickinson, Faulkner, Crane, Frost, Stevens, and Bishop―make their appearance in The American Canon, along with Hemingway, James, O’Connor, Ellison, Hurston, Le Guin, Ashbery and many others. Bloom’s 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. Bloom, Mikics writes, “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 do.”  

For readers who want to deepen their appreciation of American literature, there's no better place to start than The American Canon.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781598536409
Publisher: Library of America
Publication date: 10/15/2019
Pages: 435
Sales rank: 177,719
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Harold Bloom (1930-2019) was Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University and America's foremost literary critic. He was the author of more than thirty books, including the New York Times best sellers The Western Canon, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human and The Book of J as well as A Visionary Company, The Anxiety of Influence, and Possessed by Memory: The Inward Light of Criticism. He was a MacArthur Prize Fellow, a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees.

David Mikics is the Moores Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Houston. He is the editor of The Annotated Emerson and the author, most recently, of Bellow's People and Slow Reading in a Hurried Age. His reviews and articles have appeared in Tablet, the New Republic, and the New York Times.


New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut

Date of Birth:

July 11, 1930

Date of Death:

October 14, 2019

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Cornell University, 1951; Ph.D., Yale University, 1955

Table of Contents

Preface David Mikics ix

Introduction David Mikics 1

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) 13

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) 39

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) 45

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) 61

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) 67

Herman Melville (1819-1891) 101

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) 111

Mark Twain (1835-1910) 127

Henry James (1843-1916) 130

Edith Wharton (1862-1937) 139

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935) 150

Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) 154

Willa Cather (1873-1947) 158

Robert Frost (1874-1963) 163

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) 174

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) 194

Marianne Moore (1887-1972) 203

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) 213

Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) 216

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) 226

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) 231

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) 235

William Faulkner (1897-1962) 240

Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) 250

Hart Crane (1899-1932) 252

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) 266

Nathanael West (1903-1940) 275

Eudora Welty (1909-2001) 285

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) 295

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) 298

Ralph Ellison (1913-1994) 309

Robert Hayden (1913-1980) 315

Carson McCullers (1917-1967) 319

James Baldwin (1924-1987) 324

Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) 333

James Merrill (1926-1995) 342

A. R. Ammons (1926-2001), John Ashbery (1927-2017), W. S. Merwin (1927-2019) 350

Edward Albee (1928-2016) 370

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) 375

Toni Morrison (b. 1931) 386

Philip Roth (1933-2018) 389

Cormac McCarthy (b. 1933) 397

Jay Wright (b. 1934) 406

Don DeLillo (b. 1936) 410

Thomas Pynchon (b. 1937) 416

Sources and Acknowledgments 425

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