My Blunderbuss versus the Western Can(n)on

So here’s the beef:

Having effectively (unless suddenly the possesor of a winning Powerball ticket) pissed away my opportunities to pursue formal education, I find myself often wondering what exactly I might have been forced to study had I attended a major university and undergone matriculation towards a degree in say, English. As a result, I find myself (much like W.B. Yeats) scrambling after knowledge from a myriad of sources. And not so much to falsely claim the title of a scholar, nor to compare myself in any public way to a degreed individual of any kind, I have been looking for lists of required texts, reading lists, or curriculum that encompasses the range of knowledge I would like to have – or would like to share with someone with the benefit of college education.

The blunderbuss seems like a very apt metaphor for my education to date – a wide barrel with not a lot of focused output that can be filled with ANYTHING, from ballshot to nails to pieces of scrap iron. Not a weapon of much accuracy, but deadly useful, particularly at close quarters, and especially if one is interested in deterring nuisances (LOL). As a comparison, the Western Canon (or “Great Books”), often used to describe those works of literature, science, philosophy and history that shaped and directed Occidental thought, is more like a streamlined, hard-shelled, compact ball projectile piercing the veil that is Western Culture.

So I traipse off across the Net hoping to find a plethora of lists for undergraduates and so on that would give a person like myself an idea of what I SHOULD have been exposed to in order to call myself well-educated. And frankly, other than the “Rutgers Reading List”, and a lot of “one from column A, two from column B, a minimum of three selections from 45 – 55 AD, etc.” I have not been able to find any sort of concrete agenda for study. Is it that universities are afraid that their competitors will “steal” their lists? That they’re afraid people will just read these books on their own, and forgo the expense that represents their salaries, their atheletic stadia, their ivy-covered walls and yew-tree lined walkways? Or what?

I understand that there is a great deal of contention out there regarding what one “should study”. And I also understand that most of the “intellectual community” (HA) feel that debate on this subject is best held within their hallowed halls, without the intrusion of some ignorant, unread, unwashed interlopers trying to muck up their glory road to tenure. But how about a little help?


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