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Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?

Harold Bloom (Riverhead Books: Oct 2005), 320 pages.

Emulating one of his favorite critics, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Bloom returns once more to sift through the Western canon, this time to discern and describe those writers whose brand of wisdom he holds in highest esteem. Beginning with Job and Ecclesiastes, and ranging from Plato, Homer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Johnson and Goethe to Emerson, Nietzsche, Freud and Proust, Bloom writes gracefully about each as he evaluates by comparison and teases out indicators of their subtle interrelationships. Into this highbrow brew he interjects a personal note, describing how he is writing in the aftermath of life-threatening illness and with a renewed sense of the preciousness of literature’s great lessons. At the heart of Bloom’s project is the ancient quarrel between "poetry" and "philosophy." In Bloom’s opinion, we ought not have to choose between Homer and Plato; we can have both, as long as we recognize that poetry is superior. Bloom considers Cervantes and Shakespeare the masters of wisdom in modern literature, "equals of Ecclesiastes, and the Book of Job, of Homer and Plato." He justifies his tastes with close readings of King Lear and Macbeth that find a Shakespearean variety of nihilism, a form of wisdom Bloom identifies as central to the poetic tradition. ~ Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents

    • 1    The Hebrews : Job and Ecclesiastes    11
    • 2    The Greeks : Plato’s contest with Homer    31
    • 3    Cervantes and Shakespeare    78
    • 4    Montaigne and Francis Bacon    119
    • 5    Samuel Johnson and Goethe    156
    • 6    Emerson and Nietzsche    190
    • 7    Freud and Proust    221
    • 8    The gospel of Thomas    259
    • 9    Saint Augustine and reading    273
    • Coda : nemesis and wisdom    282