I’m Adam Hasler, and I want to know what intellectual and cultural works from the history of western civilization make up its canon. How do cultures evolve, and how do they respond to revolutions in style, thinking, and method? What attributes do canonical works have, and how did they make it onto the canon? What is a canon anyway, and what is a canon’s relationship to a culture or cultures?
I wish I could say that I started this project back in 2006 because I was driven by such lofty questions, which I would come to ask as this project progressed. Instead, this endeavor started as a path for me to become the person I wanted to be. I admired and aspired to resemble those people I met who could speak knowingly about a philosophical work, or could see a painting or hear a symphony and know its name. I wanted to become a person who knew the story of Western Civilization’s evolution, and capably speak to why a work is known and considered transformative. But as I tried to learn, I found out something very important (and perhaps obvious): there’s no central list of the canonical works of Western Civilization. If I wanted to learn about all the works on the Western Canon, I’d first have to find out for myself everything that’s on it. I’d have to make my own list.
Creating a version of the Western Canon, according to me; that’s the central project of Page One. Here, you’ll see the list grow as I work chronologically and across disciplines, as I note not only the work but why the work has made it onto the canon. On the blog, you’ll find my reflections on what I’ve added to the list and what I’ve learned about those works and the time period in which they were created.
I get a lot of help from a few core sources in this process. Here are the works:
- The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell
- History of Political Philosophy by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey
- Janson’s History of Art by Penelope J.E. Davies, Walter B Denny, Frima Fox Hofrichter, Joseph Jacobs, Ann M. Roberts, and David L. Simon
- Great Works of the Western Literary Tradition (A collection of lectures from the Teaching Company)
- A History of Western Music by J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca
- A Short History of Opera by Donald Jay Grout and Hermine Weigel Williams
I also frequently consult other overview works of time periods and many online sources. I’ll always note outside resources consulted in the blog or in the references section of a particular work.
Feel free to contact me directly at amhasler[at]gmail.com with any suggested additions to the canon or responses to blog posts.