Great Books of the Western World: The Plays of Sophocles (1)


1.  Introduction

In 1994, Harold Bloom, the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University and Berg Professor of English at New York University, wrote The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, in which he argued for the more conservative viewpoint that literature should follow the “art for art’s sake” ideal and not have it be subservient to some program of social engineering or political correctness.

After I moved to Chicago last summer, I found that the local library, together with the interlibrary system that stretches across the libraries of the Chicagoland area, is a wonderful resource.   I re-read Harold Bloom’s book and decided to embark on a program of reading (and in some cases, re-reading) the Great Books of Western Literature, in particular as set forth by

  • The Great Books of the Western World series by Encyclopedia Brittanica
  • Harold Bloom’s book The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages

The plays of Aeschylus, along with those of Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, are contained in the second volume of literature in the Great Books of the Western World series.    There are seven extant plays of Sophocles  included in the Great Books, and today’s post covers four of them:   Ajax, Electra, The Trachiniae, and Philoctetes. Tomorrow’s post will cover the remaining three plays:   Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone.

For a synopsis of the work, I ask that readers turn to the Wikipedia article on Sophocles and refer to the section on Synopsis.   I will focus on 5 themes of the these plays as I encountered it in my reading and listening to the work.

2.  5 Themes

to be continued tomorrow

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