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The Toughest, Hardest Books

September 10, 2013

Guillory_Cultural-CapitalI’m going through my notes on one of the hardest books I’ve ever read: John Guillory’s *Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation*.

I’ve read a lot of history, theology, and philosophy in my day, but for me this book ranks up there in difficulty with Plotinus (read large portions, eventually abandoned), Aquinas (read large portions of), Aristotle (read and skimmed everything in Britannica’s set), Derrida (it’s hard but can see his point after awhile), etc.

Guillory’s book was hard for several reasons: (a) I know the base issues that drove his work, so I found myself pausing to agree/disagree; (b) The topics I didn’t know from literary theory made me double-check and double-back; (c) I have an aversion to poststructuralist literary theory; (d) I’ve not read a word of Barbara Herrnstein Smith; (e) If I’ve read Gray’s *Elegy*, it was so long ago I’ve forgotten it; (f) I’ve never been drawn to Paul de Man or the “affair” surrounding him; and, finally, (g) The book is 392 pages with notes (and yes, I read the notes).

I realize that “hard” comes in different styles and packages, but what’s the hardest book you’ve ever read? – TL

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