Harold Bloom Creates a Massive List of Works in The “Western Canon”: Read Many of the Books Free Online


I have lit­tle desire to rehash the pol­i­tics, but the facts are plain: by the time I arrived in col­lege as an under­grad­u­ate Eng­lish major in the mid-90s, the idea of the “West­ern Canon” as a con­tain­er of—in the words of a famous hymn—“all that’s good, and great, and true” was seri­ous­ly on the wane, to put it mild­ly. And in many quar­ters of acad­e­mia, men­tion of the name of Yale lit­er­ary crit­ic Harold Bloom pro­voked, at the very least, a raised eye­brow and point­ed silence. Bloom’s rep­u­ta­tion per­haps unfair­ly fell vic­tim to the so-called “Canon Wars,” like­ly at times because of a misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion with polit­i­cal philoso­pher Allan Bloom. That Bloom was him­self no ide­o­logue, writes Jim Sleep­er; he was a close friend of Saul Bel­low and “an eccen­tric inter­preter of Enlight­en­ment thought who led an Epi­cure­an, qui­et­ly gay life.” Nonethe­less, his fiery attack on chang­ing aca­d­e­m­ic val­ues, The Clos­ing of the Amer­i­can Mind, became a text­book of the neo­con­ser­v­a­tive right.

Though Harold Bloom wished to dis­tance him­self from cul­ture war polemics, he has unapolo­get­i­cal­ly prac­ticed what Allan Bloom preached, teach­ing the Canon­i­cal “great books” of lit­er­a­ture and reli­gion and oppos­ing all man­ner of crit­ics on the left, whom he lumps togeth­er in the phrase “the School of Resent­ment.” Bloom’s 1973 The Anx­i­ety of Influ­ence has itself exert­ed a major influ­ence on lit­er­ary stud­ies, and best-sell­ing pop­u­lar works, like 1998’s Shake­speare: The Inven­tion of the Human, have kept Harold Bloom’s name in cir­cu­la­tion even when schol­ar­ly cita­tions of his work declined. In 1994, Bloom re-affirmed his com­mit­ment to the Canon with The West­ern Canon: The Books and School of the Agesa fierce sor­tie against his so-called “School of Resent­ment” adver­saries and a work Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta pro­fes­sor Nor­man Fru­man called a “hero­ical­ly brave, for­mi­da­bly learned and often unbear­ably sad response to the present state of the human­i­ties.” (Hear Bloom dis­cuss the book with  Eleanor Wach­tel in a 1995 CBC inter­view.)

The West­ern Canon is tight­ly focused on only 26 authors, but in a series of four appen­dices, Bloom lists the hun­dreds of oth­er names he con­sid­ers canon­i­cal. For all of Bloom’s ornery defen­sive­ness, his list is sur­pris­ing­ly inclu­sive, as well as—for Fruman—surprisingly idio­syn­crat­ic. (Bloom lat­er dis­avowed the list, claim­ing that his edi­tor insist­ed on it.) Like a clas­si­cal philol­o­gist, Bloom divides his Canon into four “ages” or peri­ods: The Theo­crat­ic Age (2000 BCE-1321 CE); The Aris­to­crat­ic Age (1321–1832); The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Age: 1832–1900); and The Chaot­ic Age (20th Cen­tu­ry). You can view the com­plete list here. Below, we’ve com­piled a very par­tial, but still siz­able, excerpt of texts from Bloom’s list that are avail­able online through the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ade­laide’s ebook library. For all of the unpop­u­lar posi­tions he has tak­en over the past few decades, Bloom’s immense eru­di­tion, expan­sive intel­lect, and sin­cere com­mit­ment to the human­i­ties have nev­er been in ques­tion. As a dis­tin­guished exem­plar of a fad­ing tra­di­tion, he is an invalu­able resource for stu­dents and lovers of lit­er­a­ture.

A: “The Theocratic Age”

The Ancient Greeks

Homer (ca.800BC)
Ili­ad; Odyssey.
Hes­iod (ca.700BC)
Works and Days; Theogony.
Sap­pho (ca.600BC)
Aeschy­lus (525 BC — 456 BC)
Oresteia; Sev­en Against Thebes; Prometheus Bound; Per­sians; Sup­pli­ant Women.
Sopho­cles (c. 496‑c. 405 BC)
Oedi­pus the King; Oedi­pus at Colonus; Antigone; Elec­tra; Ajax; Women of Tra­chis; Philoctetes.
Euripi­des (480 or 484–406 BC)
Cyclops; Her­a­cles; Alces­tis; Hecu­ba; Bac­chae; Orestes; Andro­mache; Medea; Ion; Hip­poly­tus; Helen; Iphi­ge­nia at Aulis.
Aristo­phanes (ca. 446 BC — 385 BC)
The Birds; The Clouds; The Frogs; Lysis­tra­ta; The Knights; The Wasps; The Assem­bly­women.
Herodotus, 485–420BCE
The His­to­ries.
Thucy­dides, ca.460 BCE
The Pelo­pon­nesian Wars.
Pla­to, c.427‑c.347 BCE
Aris­to­tle, 384–322 BCE
Poet­ics; Ethics.

Hellenistic Greeks

Menan­der, ca. 342–291 BC
The Girl from Samos.
Plutarch, 46–120
Lives; Moralia.
Aesop (620 — 560 BC)
Petro­n­ius, c.27–66

The Romans

Ter­ence, 195/185–159 BC
The Girl from Andros; The Eunuch; The Moth­er-in-Law.
Lucretius, 98?–55 BCE
The Way Things Are.
Mar­cus Tul­lius Cicero, 106–43 BCE
On the Gods.
Horace, 65–8 BCE
Odes; Epis­tles; Satires.
Cat­ul­lus (c.84 B.C. — c.54 B.C.)
Attis and Oth­er Poems.
Vir­gil (70–19 BC)
Aeneid; Eclogues; Geor­gics.
Ovid (43 BC — 17 AD)
Meta­mor­phoses; The Art of Love; Hero­ides.
Seneca, Lucius Annaeus, ca.4 BCE–65 CE
Tragedies, par­tic­u­lar­ly Medea and Her­cules Furens.
Petro­n­ius, c.27–66
Apuleius, c. 123/125‑c. 180
The Gold­en Ass.

The Middle Ages: Latin, Arabic, and the Vernacular Before Dante

Augus­tine of Hip­po, 354–430
City of God; Con­fes­sions.
Wol­fram von Eschen­bach, 1170–1220
Chré­tien de Troyes, 12th cent
Yvain: The Knight of the Lion.
Beowulf (ca.800)

B: “The Aristocratic Age”


Dante (1265 — 1321)
The Divine Com­e­dy; The New Life.
Petrar­ch, 1304–1374
Lyric Poems; Selec­tions.
Gio­van­ni Boc­cac­cio, 1313–1375
The Decameron.
Mat­teo Maria Boiar­do, 1440 or 41–1494.
Orlan­do Innamora­to.
Lodovi­co Arios­to, 1474–1533
Orlan­do Furioso.
Machi­avel­li, Nic­colò, 1469–1527
The Prince; The Man­drake, a Com­e­dy.
Ben­venu­to Celli­ni, 1500–1571
Tom­ma­so Cam­panel­la, 1568–1639
Poems; The City of the Sun.


Miguel de Cer­vantes, 1547–1616
Don Quixote; Exem­plary Sto­ries.
Pedro Calderon de la Bar­ca, 1600–1681
Life is a Dream; The May­or of Zalamea; The Mighty Magi­cian; The Doc­tor of His Own Hon­or.

England and Scotland

Chaucer, Geof­frey (ca.1343–1400)
The Can­ter­bury Tales; Troilus and Criseyde.
Thomas Mal­o­ry, 1430–1471
Le Morte D’Arthur.
Thomas More, 1478–1535
Philip Sid­ney, 1554–1586.
The Count­ess of Pem­broke’s Arca­dia; Astro­phel and Stel­la; An Apol­o­gy for Poet­ry.
Edmund Spenser, 1552–1599
The Faerie Queene; The Minor Poems.
Christo­pher Mar­lowe, 1564–1593
Poems and Plays.
Thomas Nashe, 1567–1601
The Unfor­tu­nate Trav­eller.
William Shake­speare, 1564–1616
Plays and Poems.
John Donne, 1572–1631
Poems; Ser­mons.
Ben Jon­son, 1573–1637
Poems, Plays, and Masques.
Fran­cis Bacon, 1561–1626
Robert Bur­ton, 1577–1640
The Anato­my of Melan­choly.
Thomas Browne, 1605–1682
Reli­gio Medici; Hydri­o­taphia, or Urne-Buri­all; The Gar­den of Cyrus.
Thomas Hobbes, 1588–1679
Her­rick, Robert, 1591–1674
Andrew Mar­vell, 1621–1678
John Ford, 1586-ca.1640
‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.
John Web­ster, c.1580‑c.1634
The White Dev­il; The Duchess of Mal­fi.
Iza­ak Wal­ton, 1593–1683
The Com­pleat Angler.
John Mil­ton, 1608–1674
Par­adise Lost; Par­adise Regained; Lyci­das, Comus, and the Minor Poems; Sam­son Ago­nistes; Are­opagit­i­ca.
John Aubrey, 1626–1697
Brief Lives.
Samuel But­ler, 1612–1680
John Dry­den, 1631–1700
Poet­ry and Plays; Crit­i­cal Essays.
Jonathan Swift, 1667–1745
A Tale of a Tub; Gul­liv­er’s Trav­els; Short­er Prose Works; Poems.
Alexan­der Pope, 1688–1744
John Gay, 1685–1732
The Beg­gar’s Opera.
James Boswell, 1740–1795
Life of John­son; Jour­nals.
Samuel John­son, 1709–1784
Edward Gib­bon, 1737–1794
The His­to­ry of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Edmund Burke, 1729–1797
A Philo­soph­i­cal Enquiry into the Sub­lime and Beau­ti­ful; Reflec­tions on the Rev­o­lu­tion in France
Oliv­er Gold­smith, 1728–1774
The Vic­ar of Wake­field; She Stoops to Con­quer; The Trav­eller; The Desert­ed Vil­lage.
Richard Brins­ley Sheri­dan, 1751–1816
The School of Scan­dal; The Rivals.
William Cow­per, 1731–1800
Poet­i­cal Works.
Defoe, Daniel (1661?-1731)
Moll Flan­ders; Robin­son Cru­soe; A Jour­nal of the Plague Year.
Samuel Richard­son, 1689–1761.
Claris­sa; Pamela; Sir Charles Gran­di­son.
Hen­ry Field­ing, 1707–1754
Joseph Andrews; The His­to­ry of Tom Jones, a Foundling.
Tobias Smol­lett, 1721–1771
The Expe­di­tion of Humphry Clink­er; The Adven­tures of Rod­er­ick Ran­dom.
Lau­rence Sterne, 1713–1768
The Life and Opin­ions of Tris­tram Shandy, Gen­tle­man; A Sen­ti­men­tal Jour­ney Through France and Italy.
Fan­ny Bur­ney, 1752–1840


Michel de Mon­taigne, 1533–1592
Fran­cois Rabelais, 1494?-1553?
Gar­gan­tua and Pan­ta­gru­el.
Mar­guerite de Navarre, 1492–1549
The Hep­tameron.
Jean de La Fontaine, 1621–1695
Molière, 1622–1673
The Mis­an­thrope; Tartuffe; The School for Wives; The Learned Ladies; Don Juan; School for Hus­bands; Ridicu­lous Pre­cieuses; The Would-Be Gen­tle­man; The Miser; The Imag­i­nary Invalid.
Blaise Pas­cal, 1623–1662
Rousseau, Jean–Jacques, 1712–1778
The Con­fes­sions; Émile; La Nou­velle Héloïse.
Voltaire, 1694–1778
Zadig; Can­dide; Let­ters on Eng­land; The Lis­bon Earth­quake.


Eras­mus of Rot­ter­dam, 1466–1536
In Praise of Fol­ly.
Johann Wolf­gang von Goethe, 1749–1832
Faust, Parts One and Two; Dich­tung und Wahrheit; Egmont; Elec­tive Affini­ties; The Sor­rows of Young Werther; Poems; Wil­helm Meis­ter’s Appren­tice­ship; Wil­helm Meis­ter’s Years of Wan­der­ing; Ital­ian Jour­ney; Verse Plays; Her­mann and Dorothea; Roman Ele­gies; Venet­ian Epi­grams; West-East­ern Divan.
Friedrich Schiller, 1759–1805
The Rob­bers; Mary Stu­art; Wal­len­stein; Don Car­los; On the Naïve and Sen­ti­men­tal in Lit­er­a­ture.

C: “The Democratic Age”


Gio­van­ni Ver­ga, 1840–1922
Lit­tle Nov­els of Sici­ly; Mas­tro-Don Gesu­al­do; The House by the Med­lar Tree; The She-Wolf and Oth­er Sto­ries.


Vic­tor Hugo, 1802–1885
The Dis­tance, the Shad­ows: Select­ed Poems; Les Mis­érables; Notre-Dame of Paris; William Shake­speare; The Toil­ers of the Sea; The End of Satan; God.
Gau­ti­er, Théophile, 1811–1872
Made­moi­selle de Maupin; Enam­els and Cameos.
Balzac, Hon­oré de, 1799–1850
The Girl with the Gold­en Eyes; Louis Lam­bert; The Wild Ass’s Skin; Old Gori­ot; Cousin Bette; A Har­lot High and Low; Eugénie Grandet; Ursule Mirou­et.
Stend­hal, 1783–1842
On Love; The Red and the Black; The Char­ter­house of Par­ma.
Gus­tave Flaubert, 1821–1880
Madame Bovary; Sen­ti­men­tal Edu­ca­tion; Salamm­bô; A Sim­ple Soul.
George Sand, 1804–1876
The Haunt­ed Pool.
Charles Baude­laire, 1821–1867
Flow­ers of Evil; Paris Spleen.
Guy de Mau­pas­sant, 1850–1893
Select­ed Short Sto­ries.
Emile Zola, 1840–1902
Ger­mi­nal; L’As­som­moir; Nana.


Hen­rik Ibsen, 1828–1906
Brand; Peer Gynt; Emper­or and Galilean; Hed­da Gabler; The Mas­ter Builder; The Lady from the Sea; When We Dead Awak­en.

Great Britain

William Blake, 1757–1827
Com­plete Poet­ry and Prose.
William Wordsworth, 1770–1850
Poems; The Pre­lude.
Wal­ter Scott, 1771–1832
Waver­ley; The Heart of Mid­loth­i­an; Redgaunt­let; Old Mor­tal­i­ty.
Jane Austen, 1775–1817
Pride and Prej­u­dice; Emma; Mans­field Park; Per­sua­sion.
Samuel Tay­lor Coleridge, 1772–1834
Poems and Prose.
Hazlitt, William, 1778–1830
Essays and Crit­i­cism.
George Byron, 1788–1824
Don Juan; P oems.
Thomas de Quincey, 1785–1859
Con­fes­sions of an Eng­lish Opi­um Eater; Select­ed Prose.
Maria Edge­worth, 1767–1849
Cas­tle Rack­rent.
Eliz­a­beth Gaskell, 1810–1865
Cran­ford; Mary Bar­ton; North and South.
Charles Robert Maturin, 1782–1824
Mel­moth the Wan­der­er.
Per­cy Bysshe Shel­ley, 1792–1822
Poems; A Defence of Poet­ry.
Mary Shel­ley, 1797–1851
John Keats, 1795–1821
Poems and Let­ters.
Robert Brown­ing, 1812–1889
Poems; The Ring and the Book.
Charles Dick­ens, 1812–1870
The Posthu­mous Papers of the Pick­wick Club; David Cop­per­field; The Adven­tures of Oliv­er Twist; A Tale of Two Cities; Bleak House; Hard Times; Nicholas Nick­le­by; Dombey and Son; Great Expec­ta­tions; Mar­tin Chuz­zle­wit; Christ­mas Sto­ries; Lit­tle Dor­rit; Our Mutu­al Friend; The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood.
Alfred Ten­nyson, 1809–1892
Dante Gabriel Ros­set­ti, 1828–1882
Poems and Trans­la­tions.
Matthew Arnold, 1822–1888
Poems; Essays.
Christi­na Georgina Ros­set­ti, 1830–1894.
Thomas Love Pea­cock, 1785–1866
Night­mare Abbey; Gryll Grange.
Thomas Car­lyle, 1795–1881
Select­ed Prose; Sar­tor Resar­tus.
John Ruskin, 1819–1900
Mod­ern Painters; The Stones of Venice; Unto This Last; The Queen of the Air.
John Stu­art Mill, 1806–1873
On Lib­er­ty; Auto­bi­og­ra­phy.
Antho­ny Trol­lope, 1815–1882
The Barset­shire Nov­els; The Pal­lis­er Nov­els; Orley Farm; The Way We Live Now.
Lewis Car­roll, 1832–1898
Com­plete Works.
George Giss­ing, 1857–1903
New Grub Street.
Char­lotte Bronte, 1816–1855
Jane Eyre; Vil­lette.
Emi­ly Bronte, 1818–1848
Poems; Wuther­ing Heights.
Anne Bronte, 1820–1849
William Make­peace Thack­er­ay, 1811–1863
Van­i­ty Fair; The His­to­ry of Hen­ry Esmond.
George Mered­ith, 1828–1909
Poems; The Ego­ist.
Chester­ton, G. K. (Gilbert Kei­th), 1874–1936
Col­lect­ed Poems; The Man Who Was Thurs­day.
Samuel But­ler, 1835–1902
Erewhon; The Way of All Flesh.
Wilkie Collins, 1824–1889
The Moon­stone; The Woman in White; No Name.
Thom­son, James, 1834–1882
The City of the Dread­ful Night.
Oscar Wilde, 1854–1900
Plays; The Pic­ture of Dori­an Gray; The Artist as Crit­ic; Let­ters.
George Eliot, 1819–1880
Adam Bede; Silas Marn­er; The Mill on the Floss; Mid­dle­march; Daniel Deron­da.
Robert Louis Steven­son, 1850–1894
Essays; Kid­napped; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Trea­sure Island; The New Ara­bi­an Nights; The Mas­ter of Bal­lantrae; Weir of Her­mis­ton.
William Mor­ris, 1834–1896
Ear­ly Romances; Poems; The Earth­ly Par­adise; The Well at the World’s End; News from Nowhere.
Bram Stok­er, 1847–1912
George Mac­Don­ald, 1824–1905
Lilith; At the Back of the North Wind.


Jakob Grimm, 1785–1863 and Grimm, Wil­helm, 1786–1859
Fairy Tales.
Hoff­mann, E. T. A. (Ernst Theodor Amadeus), 1776–1822
The Dev­il’s Elixir; Tales.
Friedrich Niet­zsche, 1844–1900
The Birth of Tragedy; Beyond Good and Evil; On the Geneal­o­gy of Morals; The Will to Pow­er.


Alek­san­dr Pushkin, 1799–1837
Com­plete Prose Tales; Com­plete Poet­ry; Eugene One­gin; Nar­ra­tive Poems; Boris Godunov.
Niko­lai Gogol, 1809–1852
The Com­plete Tales; Dead Souls; The Gov­ern­ment Inspec­tor.
Mikhail Ler­mon­tov, 1814–1841
Nar­ra­tive Poems; A Hero of Our Time.
Ivan Tur­genev, 1818–1883
A Sports­man­’s Note­book; A Month in the Coun­try; Fathers and Sons; On the Eve; First Love.
Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky, 1821–1881
Notes from the Under­ground; Crime and Pun­ish­ment; The Idiot; The Pos­sessed (The Dev­ils); The Broth­ers Kara­ma­zov; Short Nov­els.
Leo Tol­stoy, 1828–1910
The Cos­sacks; War and Peace; Anna Karen­i­na; A Con­fes­sion; The Pow­er of Dark­ness; Short Nov­els.
Anton Chekhov, 1860–1904
The Tales; The Major Plays.

The United States

Wash­ing­ton Irv­ing, 1783–1859
The Sketch Book.
James Fen­i­more Coop­er, 1789–1851.
The Deer­slay­ers.
Ralph Wal­do Emer­son, 1803–1882
Nature; Essays; Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Men; The Con­duct of Life; Jour­nals; Poems.
Emi­ly Dick­in­son, 1830–1886
Com­plete Poems.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804–1864
The Scar­let Let­ter; Tales and Sketch­es; The Mar­ble Faun; Note­books.
Her­man Melville, 1819–1891
Moby-Dick; The Piaz­za Tales; Bil­ly Budd; Col­lect­ed Poems; Clarel.
Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849
Poet­ry and Tales; Essays and Reviews; The Nar­ra­tive of Arthur Gor­don Pym; Eure­ka.
Hen­ry David Thore­au, 1817–1862
Walden; Poems; Essays.
Hen­ry Wadsworth Longfel­low, 1807–1882
Select­ed Poems.
Ambrose Bierce, 1842–1913
Col­lect­ed Writ­ings.
Louisa May Alcott, 1832–1888
Lit­tle Women.
Kate Chopin, 1850–1904
The Awak­en­ing.
William Dean How­ells, 1837–1920
The Rise of Silas Lapham; A Mod­ern Instance.
Hen­ry James, 1843–1916
The Por­trait of a Lady; The Bosto­ni­ans; The Princess Casamas­si­ma; The Awk­ward Age; Short Nov­els and Tales; The Ambas­sadors; The Wings of the Dove; The Gold­en Bowl
Mark Twain, 1835–1910
Com­plete Short Sto­ries; The Adven­tures of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn; The Dev­il’s Race­track; Num­ber Forty-Four: The Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger; Pud­d’n­head Wil­son; A Con­necti­cut Yan­kee in King Arthur’s Court.
William James, 1842–1910
The Vari­eties of Reli­gious Expe­ri­ence; Prag­ma­tism.

D: “The Chaotic Age”


Ana­tole France, 1844–1924
Pen­guin Island; Thaïs.
Mar­cel Proust, 1871–1922
Remem­brance of Things Past (In Search of Lost Time).
Albert Camus, 1913–1960
The Stranger; The Plague; The Fall; The Rebel.

Great Britain and Ireland.

Yeats, W. B. (William But­ler), 1865–1939
The Col­lect­ed Poems; Col­lect­ed Plays; A Vision; Mytholo­gies.
George Bernard Shaw, 1856–1950
Major Crit­i­cal Essays; Heart­break House; Pyg­malion; Saint Joan; Major Bar­bara; Back to Methuse­lah.
John Milling­ton Syn­ge, 1871–1909
Col­lect­ed Plays.
George Dou­glas Brown, 1869–1902
The House with the Green Shut­ters.
Thomas Hardy, 1840–1928
The Well-Beloved; The Wood­lan­ders; The Return of the Native; The May­or of Cast­er­bridge; Far From the Madding Crowd; Tess of the D’Urbervilles; Jude the Obscure; Col­lect­ed Poems.
Rud­yard Kipling, 1865–1936
Kim; Col­lect­ed Sto­ries; Puck of Pook’s Hill; Com­plete Verse.
Hous­man, A. E., 1859–1936
Col­lect­ed Poems.
Joseph Con­rad, 1857–1924
Lord Jim; The Secret Agent; Nos­tro­mo; Under West­ern Eyes; Vic­to­ry.
Ronald Fir­bank, 1886–1926
Five Nov­els.
Ford Madox Ford, 1873–1939
Parade’s End; The Good Sol­dier.
Saki, 1870–1916
The Short Sto­ries.
Wells, H. G., 1866–1946
The Sci­ence Fic­tion Nov­els.
David Lind­say, 1876–1945
A Voy­age to Arc­turus.
Arnold Ben­nett, 1867–1931.
The Old Wives’ Tale.
John Galswor­thy, 1867–1933
The Forsyth Saga.
Lawrence, D. H., 1885–1930
Com­plete Poems; Stud­ies in Clas­sic Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture; Com­plete Short Sto­ries; Sons and Lovers; The Rain­bow; Women in Love.
Vir­ginia Woolf, 1882–1941
Mrs. Dal­loway; To the Light­house; Orlan­do: A Biog­ra­phy; The Waves; Between the Acts.
James Joyce, 1882–1941
Dublin­ers; Por­trait of the Artist as a Young Man; Ulysses; Finnegans Wake.
George Orwell, 1903–1950
Col­lect­ed Essays; 1984.


Franz Kaf­ka, 1883–1924
Ameri­ka; The Com­plete Sto­ries; The Blue Octa­vo Note­book; The Tri­al; Diaries; The Cas­tle; Para­bles, Frag­ments, Apho­risms.


Mak­sim Gorky, 1868–1936
Rem­i­nis­cences of Tol­stoy, Chekhov, and Andreev; Auto­bi­og­ra­phy.


Knut Ham­sun, 1859–1952
Hunger; Pan.


Karel Čapek, 1890–1938
War with the Newts; R.U.R.

Australia and New Zealand.

Miles Franklin, 1879–1954
My Bril­liant Career.
Kather­ine Mans­field, 1888–1923
The Short Sto­ries.

The United States.

Edith Whar­ton, 1862–1937
Col­lect­ed Short Sto­ries; The Age of Inno­cence; Ethan Frome; The House of Mirth; The Cus­tom of the Coun­try.
Willa Cather, 1873–1947
My Anto­nia; The Pro­fes­sor’s House; A Lost Lady.
Gertrude Stein, 1874–1946
Three Lives; The Geo­graph­i­cal His­to­ry of Amer­i­ca; The Mak­ing of Amer­i­cans; Ten­der But­tons.
Theodore Dreis­er, 1871–1945
Sis­ter Car­rie; An Amer­i­can Tragedy.
Sin­clair Lewis, 1885–1951
Bab­bitt; It Can’t Hap­pen Here.
Eugene O’Neill, 1888–1953
Lazarus Laughed; The Ice­man Cometh; Long Day’s Jour­ney into Night.
Fitzger­ald, F. Scott, 1896–1940
Baby­lon Revis­it­ed and Oth­er Sto­ries; The Great Gats­by; Ten­der is the Night.
Nathanael West, 1903–1940
Miss Lone­ly­hearts; A Cool Mil­lion; The Day of the Locust.

Of this last Appendix–which ends with Tony Kush­n­er’s Angels in Amer­i­ca and includes a great degree of diversity–Bloom writes: “I am not as con­fi­dent about this list as the first three. Cul­tur­al prophe­cy is always a mug’s game. Not all of the works here can prove to be canon­i­cal . . . lit­er­ary over­pop­u­la­tion is a haz­ard to many among them. But I have nei­ther exclud­ed nor includ­ed on the basis of cul­tur­al pol­i­tics of any kind.” Again, the selec­tions above are very lim­it­ed. Before you ask, “what about x, y, or z!” see Bloom’s full list here. And if you still do not find authors you believe deserve inclu­sion in any ver­sion of the West­ern Canon, pick up a copy of Bloom’s book to learn more about his crit­i­cal cri­te­ria.

A decent num­ber of the texts above can also be found in our Free eBooks and Free Audio Books col­lec­tions.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Harold Bloom Recites ‘Tea at the Palaz of Hoon’ by Wal­lace Stevens

Harold Bloom on the Ghast­ly Decline of the Human­i­ties (and on Obama’s Poet­ry)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (49)
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  • Rain,adustbowlstory says:

    Just want­ed to men­tion that Glyn Maxwell’s book On Poet­ry is the best thing of that kind I’ve read in twen­ty years.

    I just can’t stop men­tion­ing it to peo­ple. Sor­ry.

  • Peter Hoogh says:

    Eras­mus of Rot­ter­dam Ger­man..?

  • Inferiae says:

    I’d be flat­ter­ing myself if I said I’d read a tenth of Bloom’s list.

    I guess I’d bet­ter get busy.

  • tristar says:

    Kaf­ka was born in Prague (back then part of the Aus­tri­an-Hun­gar­i­an King­dom) and hence definit­ly no ger­man.

  • Hanoch says:

    It is pro­found­ly dis­ap­point­ing that an insti­tu­tion that pur­ports to fos­ter rig­or­ous thought and open-mind­ed dis­course has devolved to the point where “men­tion of the name” of a seri­ous schol­ar who fails to con­form to pre­vail­ing “cor­rect thought” pro­vokes “raised eyebrow[s] and point­ed silence.” The mod­ern Uni­ver­si­ty — at least in the human­i­ties depart­ments — has lost its mis­sion.

  • Taylor says:

    Bloom is ter­ri­ble. His entire “west­ern can­non” includes 18 women. Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, the very first Eng­lish nov­el, does’t even make the cut.

  • Ganon says:

    I count more than 18 — Sap­pho, Chris­tine de Pisan, Gas­para Stam­pa, Madame de Lafayette, the Eng­lish trans­la­tor of Robert Gar­nier’s Mark Antony (men­tioned in the book), Fan­ny Bur­ney, Jane Austen, Dorothy Wordsworth, Sor Jua­na Ines de la Cruz, Mar­guerite de Navarre, George Sand, Maria Edge­worth, Eliz­a­beth Gaskell, Mary Shel­ley, Christi­na Ros­set­ti, Emi­ly and Char­lotte Bronte (the full list on ebooks lists Anne by mis­take), George Eliot, Emi­ly Dick­in­son, Louisa May Alcott… that’s 20, and Vir­ginia Woolf has­n’t even been men­tioned yet!

    You come close to say­ing that his­to­ry — the oppres­sion of women — is Bloom’s fault. If women had been treat­ed as equals through­out his­to­ry, there would be a great many more on this list. Apart from Behn (whom Bloom believes is fourth rate), oth­er sur­pris­ing omis­sions include Mary Woll­stonecroft and Anne Car­son (her best work was yet to come, though). Of course, there are plen­ty of sur­pris­ing omis­sions of male writ­ers — Sig­mund Freud, Hans Chris­t­ian Ander­sen, P. G. Wode­house, etc.

  • sarah says:

    The real prob­lem with Bloom’s list isn’t a lack of women, it’s how embar­rass­ing­ly anglo-cen­tric it is. It’s clear from this list that Bloom reads no lan­guage besides Eng­lish — a major red flag for some­one claim­ing to be an expert on “West­ern” lit­er­a­ture. Frankly this is for me a red flag even for a hum­ble pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture and cul­ture. He does not include Céline, Rim­baud, Ver­laine, Samuel Beck­ett, Leop­ar­di, Euge­nio Mon­tale, Thomas Mann, Rilke, Paul Valéry, Novalis, Hölder­lin… I could go on for quite some time. These are not minor fig­ures.

  • Peter says:

    Sarah, all of the writ­ers you men­tion are includ­ed in the full list, but not on this edit­ed ver­sion. (“Below, we’ve com­piled a very par­tial, but still siz­able, excerpt of texts from Bloom’s list that are avail­able online through the Uni­ver­si­ty of Adelaide’s ebook library.”)

  • Josh says:

    The com­plete list may be found here, begin­ning with the Theo­crat­ic Age: http://home.comcast.net/~dwtaylor1/theocraticcanon.html

  • casey says:

    “It’s clear from this list that Bloom reads no lan­guage besides Eng­lish.”

    Bloom’s first lan­guage is Yid­dish. He learned to read both Yid­dish and Hebrew before Eng­lish.

    From the NY Times arti­cle “Bloom at Ther­mopy­lae”:
    “His prodi­gious read­ing and uncan­ni­ly reten­tive mem­o­ry have long been leg­endary. Only a library cor­morant could have under­tak­en so immense­ly ambi­tious a task as to sur­vey all of West­ern lit­er­a­ture, from Dante to Borges, in Eng­lish, French, Ital­ian, Ger­man, Span­ish and Russ­ian.”

  • ell says:


    Kaf­ka is includ­ed under ‘Ger­man’ because he wrote in the Ger­man lan­guage, not because Bloom thinks he was a Ger­man. I doubt you’ll ever see this since you post­ed over a year ago but I just could­n’t say noth­ing.

  • ell says:


    “…a hum­ble pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture and cul­ture.”

    What do you mean? One does­n’t sim­ply bum­ble along and some­how become a pro­fes­sor in Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture and cul­ture, let alone one of the most impor­tant aca­d­e­mics at Yale. Those who have no respect for Eng­lish pro­fes­sors don’t real­ly under­stand the dis­ci­pline or acad­e­mia in gen­er­al.

  • John says:

    There is noth­ing ’embar­rass­ing’ or prob­lem­at­ic about an anglo-cen­tric list for ang­los.

  • John says:

    Tay­lor, this isn’t one of your wom­en’s stud­ies cours­es, the bar of sig­nif­i­cance is just a wee bit high­er.

  • Scott says:

    Bloom’s list is not per­fect, but then no list is. It is a good place to start, if you want to catch up on the clas­sics. He is not reli­able after 1900, though. I would ignore his choic­es for the ‘Chaot­ic Age’, as I real­ly think that era is not his area of exper­tise. For the 20th Cen­tu­ry, if you like Bloom’s List, you’ll like the Mod­ern Library’s list of the top 100 nov­els. If you don’t like Bloom, you’ll hate the Mod­ern Library List for much the same rea­sons. It is even more Anglo-or Amer­i­can- cen­tric, with only a few female authors.

  • Robert says:

    Kaf­ka was a native Ger­man speak­er. He wrote in Ger­man. Where he was born is beside the point.

  • Steven S. Mahan says:

    Where are Livy and Tac­i­tus? What about The Nibelun­gen­lied?

  • Ganon says:


    Good call on Livy and Tac­i­tus! Bloom, in his intro­duc­tion to the first list, acknowl­edges the fact that many Greek and Latin works of great mer­it have been exclud­ed. The rea­son for this, he says, is that the com­mon read­er won’t have time to read any­thing but the very best works (in terms of lit­er­ary-aes­thet­ic val­ue) from the old­er canon.

    Das Nibelun­gen­lied does in fact fea­ture in the full list — and quite right too!

  • timmy says:

    Have you read the book? In “The West­ern Canon”, as the title of the book sug­gests, he wrote that he focused on the texts from the west­ern world and that he did not include texts from regions out­side it part­ly because he could­n’t read in their orig­i­nal lan­guage and that he felt he’s not versed enough to com­ment upon them. Though he does say that he reads books from every­where, east or west.

  • timmy says:

    Have you read the book, Sarah? In “The West­ern Canon”, as the title of the book sug­gests, he wrote that he focused on the texts from the west­ern world and that he did not include texts from regions out­side it part­ly because he couldn’t read in their orig­i­nal lan­guage and that he felt he’s not versed enough to com­ment upon them. Though he does say that he reads books from every­where, east or west.

  • Stephen says:

    Reply­ing to this two years lat­er (haha), but I feel like not­ing that Bloom is a huge Anne Car­son fan and refers to her as one of the liv­ing lit­er­ary genius­es that he neglect­ed to include in his 2003 book ‘Genius: A Mosa­ic of One Hun­dred Exem­plary Cre­ative Minds’. I assume he either for­got her or did­n’t include her because her best work was to come, as you say (I know he has praised Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Red, which came out a few years lat­er).

  • Stephen says:

    That com­ment was meant to be in response to Ganon.

  • Thomas Hancock says:

    This intro is poor.

    I’m firm­ly on the left polit­i­cal­ly, but agree with Bloom basi­cal­ly stop­ping with Robert Frost. When art is con­scious­ly forced through an ide­ol­o­gy, it dies imme­di­ate­ly. (We all act out our ide­olo­gies sub­con­scious­ly.) What you have left is pro­pa­gan­da in its many-hyphen­at­ed forms. Lit for LGBTQetc.-studies. Or what­ev­er the cur­rent group iden­ti­ty is cur­rent­ly being pro­mot­ed.

    If you don’t want to study West­ern Civ, you don’t have to. If you do, you will read some of these books writ­ten by dead white males. Not because I think their view­point is cor­rect or laud­able, but because in the past, unfor­tu­nate­ly, only white men had access to edu­ca­tion and leisure time nec­es­sary to cre­ate art. There­fore, their con­tri­bu­tion to West­ern Civ (which is cur­rent­ly pass­ing away) is the most impor­tant.

    Of course women and minori­ties should be rep­re­sent­ed when the qual­i­ty of their work is high. And no, I don’t mean qual­i­ty as com­pared to men’s work. I mean com­pared to his­tor­i­cal stan­dards, what­ev­er you might define those to be.

    What we have now, though, are whole areas of tra­di­tion­al lit­er­a­ture being labeled and shunt­ed aside with­out being read. This also goes to the appalling igno­rance of his­to­ry, mis­un­der­stand­ing of myth, and obses­sion with the lit­er­al so com­mon in youth today. I pity any­one work­ing in acad­e­mia today; it’s seem­ing to try to jus­ti­fy the right’s mock­ing of it.

  • Thomas Hancock says:


  • Clavayn says:

    Well, I am curi­ous what excus­es can be found to include Eras­mus of Rot­ter­dam under Ger­many ?

  • R. Signore says:

    Allan Bloom may be a con­ser­v­a­tive icon, but there is no doubt much of what he says is pret­ty much on the mark. All one needs to do is teach at a col­lege for a year and find that his view of stu­dents is often on tar­get. Also, read Chris Hedges and Dwight McDon­ald and you’ll find these “lib­er­al” voic­es echo­ing Bloom. As far as “canon” goes, I resent them. The’re child­ish and biased. Reminds me of when I was a kid and some­one asked “What’s your favorite movie?” As if out of hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent gen­res and styles films I could name one that was my favorite. The “canon” is a guide, noth­ing more, noth­ing less.

  • Ganon says:

    From the book: ‘Eras­mus, a Dutch­man liv­ing in Switzer­land and Ger­many, while writ­ing in Latin, is placed here arbi­trar­i­ly, but also as an influ­ence on the Luther­an Ref­or­ma­tion.’

  • Ganon says:

    Allan Bloom? This is Harold Bloom.

  • DaniMat says:

    None of Bloom’s lista include Gia­co­mo Leop­ar­di or TSE­liot: my ques­tione is, where have they gene? Sure­ly out of Pro­fes­sor Bloom’s hori­zon.

  • Geoffrey Canie says:

    He wrote in Ger­man and was influ­enced by Ger­man writ­ers

  • Ganon says:

    Dan­i­Mat, have a look at Bloom’s orig­i­nal lists; they include Leop­ar­di (for Moral Tales, Essays & Dia­logues, and Poems/Canti) and T. S. Eliot (for Com­plete Poems & Plays, and Select­ed Essays). Def­i­nite­ly not ‘out of his hori­zon’, since he has writ­ten exten­sive­ly on Eliot, plus he con­sid­ers Leop­ar­di to be one of the great­est poets of his era.

    Notable omis­sions from his orig­i­nal lists can be put down to human error: Freud’s Com­plete Psy­cho­log­i­cal Works, Hans Chris­t­ian Ander­sen’s Fairy Tales, Hon­ore de Balza­c’s Lost Illu­sions, and Gui­do Cav­al­can­ti’s Poems.

  • Bill OC says:

    The Galswor­thy Book is “The ForsytE Saga”

  • Bill OC says:

    Han­cock has it pret­ty well talk­ing about the dif­fi­cul­ty of ‘diverse’i­fy­ing lit­er­ary judge­ment. Any mod­i­fi­ca­tion “lit­er­ary judge­ment” negates both words. Like the word jus­tice, any mod­i­fi­er added negates jus­tice itself.

  • BillOC says:

    Han­cock has it pret­ty well talk­ing about the dif­fi­cul­ty of ‘diverse’ifying lit­er­ary judge­ment. Any mod­i­fi­ca­tion of “lit­er­ary judge­ment” negates both words. Like the word jus­tice, any mod­i­fi­er added negates jus­tice itself.

  • Louis says:

    Although a bit late, it’s nev­er too late to make such cor­rec­tions and give cred­it where due:

    Harold Bloom did not write “The Clos­ing of the Amer­i­can Mind.” That was Allan Bloom, an edu­ca­tor who was, of course, of no rela­tion to Harold.

    I hope the writer of this arti­cle has actu­al­ly read that text, oth­er­wise… a bit of irony is in order.

  • TD says:

    The Anx­i­ety of Influ­ence is not only the best book of crit­i­cism I’ve read, it’s one of a bare hand­ful I’ve reread (at least six times over the years). It’s for­mi­da­bly dif­fi­cult, but once you grasp his cen­tral the­sis it is impos­si­ble for you not to see it borne out every­where you look.

    The Canon fol­lows in its foot­steps: it’s about influ­ence. The works select­ed are not “best” or “great” or even, some­times, very good. They are *influ­en­tial*, hav­ing had pow­er­ful and deter­mi­na­tive effects, for bet­ter and worse, on works after them…and on the very ways we think, we write, and we rep­re­sent real­i­ty. Again, see­ing this is very hard work, but it’s impos­si­ble to miss after­wards.

    Charles Long, one of the great­est African-Amer­i­can schol­ars of reli­gion and his­to­ry this coun­try has ever pro­duced, used to talk about a thought exper­i­ment: imag­ine a poor inner-city African-Amer­i­can child, liv­ing in inhu­man con­di­tions, igno­rant of the larg­er world and of pow­er and of edu­ca­tion. “That child,” Long would say, “is liv­ing in the world Kant made, whether he knows it or not. Whether he believes it or not.” The point of cul­tur­al edu­ca­tion is to give that knowl­edge to peo­ple who don’t have it. It’s impor­tant to know about Aphra Behn. But we are not liv­ing in a world she made. We’re not even liv­ing on a street she named.

    As an aside, Dr Long passed away the day before I wrote this, some­thing I did­n’t know. He was 94. When he was a boy, his tiny piney-woods com­mu­ni­ty of a few hun­dred African-Amer­i­cans had tak­en up a sub­scrip­tion and used the mon­ey to bring W.E.B. DuBois to speak. I heard him tell the sto­ry in 1999. That is what cul­ture is.

  • P. Ennis says:

    Clear­ly your breadth of canon­i­cal lit­er­a­ture is ill­con­jec­tured and thourough­ly une­d­u­cat­ed in terms of epis­to­log­i­cal dis­course. Shak­ing my head

  • TJ says:

    Ur mum

  • Mike Coxlong says:

    Clear­ly your breadth of canon­i­cal lit­er­a­ture is ill­con­jec­tured and thourough­ly une­d­u­cat­ed in terms of epis­to­log­i­cal dis­course. Shak­ing my head

  • Birgersdatter says:

    A very *care­ful* reread­ing of the para­praph is required. Both Blooms are men­tioned and “The clos­ing of the Amer­i­can mind” is attrib­uted to the cor­rect one. A per­son who hasn’t prop­er­ly read the text call­ing out the author for a mis­take he didn’t make. Talk about irony.

  • Pluto says:

    Aesop was ancient Greek, not Hel­lenis­tic. Fix it.

  • victor says:

    Strict­ly speak­ing he is Aus­tro-Hugar­i­an and Ger­man cul­tur­al­ly.

  • Obo says:

    Read­ing through the com­ments, any thought I had of going back to school rapid­ly sub­sided. Bunch of arro­gant pricks.

  • doomofbloom says:

    Bloom could read in French Ger­man Ital­ian Span­ish and Hebrew

    He was pret­ty much on par with Umber­to Eco for the abil­i­ty to read oth­er lan­guages
    Mind you Bloom was­n’t flu­ent in a con­ver­sa­tion­al abil­i­ty with pret­ty much most of them

  • doomofbloom says:

    tris­tar, you have to remem­ber that Kaf­ka did­n’t think he was all that flu­ent in Czech
    his moth­er most­ly spoke Ger­man, and his father most­ly Czech

    and he knew some hebrew

    you could say that all three, Ger­mans, Czechs, and Jews were a minor­i­ty in Aus­tria-Hun­gary

    he also despised the jew­ish who were patri­ot­ic nation­al­ists to Aus­tria-Hun­gar­i­an
    and he hat­ed Prague

    so all the eth­nic­i­ties and cul­tures had a neu­ro­sis, and ten­sions were all around the place
    with all the frac­tured iden­ti­ties

    .…though you could call Aus­tria-Hun­gary one of the first mod­ern mul­ti­cul­tur­al states, which blew itself apart due to the clash of cul­tures going on

  • Leon says:

    All Kafka’s writ­ing was in Ger­man not Czech.

  • Sean says:

    Willa Carter and Edith Stein our trash as is Ker­ouac. Beowulf is hard­ly leg­i­ble with­out hav­ing a sol­id under­stand­ing of Ger­man­ic lan­guages. Mil­tons, Par­adise Lost, and Par­adise found bril­liant, but hav­ing a teenag­er read, these may be cru­el and unusu­al pun­ish­ment here in the US. GK Chester­ton is the man who was Thurs­day is bril­liant I for­got the book even exist­ed.

  • Jack Cayman says:

    See­ing thing about Harold Bloom and how and why he was so dis­re­spect­ed at life it’s like watch­ing the pro­logue of the cul­ture war of 2014 that rages on now through all cul­tur­al fields of the west, mak­ing some west­ern­ers so despaired about how their moth­er cul­ture is vio­lat­ed and dis­re­spect­ed that they chose of all things on this plan to fol­low Japan­ese media. Lit­er­a­ture was cor­rupt­ed first; movies, tele­vi­sion, and even the new art of videogames came lat­er.

    Fou­cault was described by Chom­sky as like an alien; I think of him as a war­mon­ger, and the first tar­gets of this war are those books. To dis­re­spect them because of mean­ing­less labels of race and gen­der is all byprod­uct of Fou­calt’s mean­ing­less phi­los­o­phy of pow­er; now the dogs of war are unleashed to prey on mankind and destroy­ing its indi­vid­u­al­i­ty. The Euro­pean is the first vic­tim, and they already seek the neck of the Japan­ese.

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