Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” which has always been a popular text of the Victorian
canon, embodies a number of cultural intertexts with multiple thematic and semantic
dimensions. What follows is, therefore,
an attempt to demonsrate this culturally
polysemic nature of the poem and gesture towards the uses of cultural criticism in the
study of the canon. However, before we can proceed with this task, it is necessary first
to dwell in general terms on the problematics of the relationship between the canon and
the practice of cultural criticism. I say “the problematics” because, as many of you will
recall, a great controversy has already risen between pro-canonists and students of
cultural criticism over the issue whether great literary works which, for Harold Bloom,
constitute “the Western canon” can be subjected to the aims and practices of cultural
criticism. As far as Bloom is concerned, it is more than a mere controversy: it is a war
which the pro-canonists including Bloom himself have fought and lost to the champions
of cultural criticism. Although Bloom’s heavy tome The Western Canon (1994) is the
final blow to date delivered at cultural criticism and its work, the victory in this war has
Paper presented at the Cultural Studies Conference “Crossing the Boundaries: Cultural Studies in the U.K.
and the U.S.” 16-17 May 1996. Ege University, Izmir.
to cultural critics. So The Western Canon opens with an introduction which is entitled
“An Elegy for the Canon” (15-41), implying that cultural critics have murdered or,
rather, about to murder the canon and that what remains to be done is to write a funeral
the canon. Upon the publication of his Western Canon, Bloom was interviewed by
Newsweek, and in the interview, entitled “We Have Lost the War,” he repeated his
argument in an... [continues]
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