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Thread: Any Harold Bloom Recommendations?

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    Any Harold Bloom Recommendations?

    The Anxiety of Influence?
    The Invention of the Human?
    How to Read and Why?
    The Western Canon?
    The Art of Reading Poetry?

    Any Harold Bloom Recommendations?

    Just wondered if anyone would recommend any thing by Harold Bloom? I have read an extract from The Anxiety of Influence (in Norton), and today a little of The Invention of the Human, though as passionate as it was it only seemed really suitable for A-Level/first year students. Ideally I would be looking for something at least degree level and of lasting appeal. Any suggestions?

    Alternatively, I would be interested in anything of lasting appeal to at least degree standard (or beyond) that would further strengthen my understanding of Shakespeare, thanks.

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    I can say that a few chapters of Western Canon are worthwhile (Dickinson, Chaucer, Milton, Wordsworth, Proust, Joyce) and a few can be easily ignored. However they are not very theoretical.
    How to read and how is simplistic. I suppose the anxiety is the better guess and I forgot the name, but there is one book dedicated only to shakespeare...

  3. #3
    Yeah, the book dedicated to Shakespeare is The Invention of the Human it's a big book but it seems to be a little confused as to its intended audience and probably best left for A-Level stuff, though it did make interesting reading. I will cross the How to read book off then, it doesn't sound very academic anyway and so maybe the Western Cannon is worth a look. Thanks.

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    The Visionary Company, The Anxiety of Influence, The Ringers in the Tower and Wallace Stevens: the Poems of Our Climate.

    Seriously, after 82 his work seems to have completely slid. There are moments in his later works, but nothing that compares to his original genius.

    Are you reading specifically for him, or for lit-crit/theory in general? There are many other theorists out there, and if you are just interested in that sort of thing, you would be probably grateful to a reading in Northrop Frye, as he is the king.

  5. #5
    Wow thanks. No I am not reading specifically for him or for any particular theory I’m just looking to build up critical base I suppose. I just came across his Human Invention and thought that I would like to read something by him with a little more substance. I’m doing a part-time degree on the last level but it’s not really for that, just that as he is a fan of Wilde and Shakespeare, like me, so he sort of appealed I suppose.

    I will check out the Frye, I may do my dissertation on Shakespeare so anything of a critical ‘must have’ will come in handy (though I know there is masses on that front) but really, my part-time degree means that I can do the work and have time for ‘personal projects’ into the bargain. Currently studying modernist/postmodernist literature and theory, Restoration literature and new media, but personally looking at Dante, Shakespeare and Greek Tragedy.

    Oh I checked out the Munro I managed to get The Love of a Good Woman and Lives of Girls and Women from the library, started the Girls. Really, I just want to read everything and there just isn’t time.

    Thanks for the help.

    Though of course reading widely is not the same thing as reading deeply, I realise that, but I just want to get a cursory foundation in Dante and Greek mythology while I have the time.
    Last edited by LitNetIsGreat; 11-01-2008 at 08:42 PM.

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    Tu le connais, lecteur... Kafka's Crow's Avatar
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    His later work is really rubbish. The Invention of the Human is useless. I would recommend The Modern Critical Interpretations series that he edited. Apart from that The Anxiety of Influence is my favorite among his works. He is a college students' critic, conservative enough to satisfy the old professors and help the students write their papers without rocking the boat too much.
    "The farther he goes the more good it does me. I donít want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going and the more he grinds my nose in the sh1t the more I am grateful to him..."
    -- Harold Pinter on Samuel Beckett

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kafka's Crow View Post
    His later work is really rubbish. The Invention of the Human is useless. I would recommend The Modern Critical Interpretations series that he edited. Apart from that The Anxiety of Influence is my favorite among his works. He is a college students' critic, conservative enough to satisfy the old professors and help the students write their papers without rocking the boat too much.
    You cannot deny though, that his criticism early in his career on the Romantics was of high quality. Of course, now he has slipped, but I guess he doesn't care, because he is more famous, and richer than ever.

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    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    Are you reading specifically for him, or for lit-crit/theory in general? There are many other theorists out there, and if you are just interested in that sort of thing, you would be probably grateful to a reading in Northrop Frye, as he is the king.
    I know this came up before in my topic on Bloom's Invention of the Human.

    What specifically by Frye would you recommend? I've read a good portion of Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy, but that consisted simply of 3 lectures that skirted being very text specific.

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    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    Wow thanks. No I am not reading specifically for him or for any particular theory Iím just looking to build up critical base I suppose. I just came across his Human Invention and thought that I would like to read something by him with a little more substance. Iím doing a part-time degree on the last level but itís not really for that, just that as he is a fan of Wilde and Shakespeare, like me, so he sort of appealed I suppose.
    Might I suggest some of Bloom's compilation works - his literary figures series, etc. The works feature an introduction by Bloom followed by a compilation of essays by other critics.

    As for general Shakespearean criticism - check out the established studies. By this I mean (in no particular order) Dr. Johnson, Northrop Frye, A.C. Bradley, Walter Pater, Kenneth Burke, STC on Hamlet, T.S Eliot, William Hazlitt, etc. I know I'm forgetting many others.

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    Yeah, when he turned in a obssesive religious maniac which good is Freuspeare... anyways, the canon parts are just reading, it does not explain anything...
    I prefer those days Umberto Eco while dealing with the influence, and I think that T.S.Eliot is a good reading before Bloom. I would not skip Borges either, Borges had no intention to write a theory, but he sometimes seems to have the best dialogues with Eliot without even talking with him. Also, sometimes Bloom seems to repeat borges, just the idea of angst replaced Borges "nobodiness"...

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    You cannot deny though, that his criticism early in his career on the Romantics was of high quality. Of course, now he has slipped, but I guess he doesn't care, because he is more famous, and richer than ever.
    According to a New York Times piece printed 1994 the reason is that he needs to earn extra cash to pay for a chronically disabled son.
    "You understand well enough what slavery is, but freedom you have never experienced, so you do not know if it tastes sweet or bitter. If you ever did come to experience it, you would advise us to fight for it not with spears only, but with axes too." - Herodotus

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drkshadow03 View Post
    According to a New York Times piece printed 1994 the reason is that he needs to earn extra cash to pay for a chronically disabled son.
    Well there you have it - reaching a wider audience means making more money, and he needs money, therefore this was, I guess, a good idea.

    Still though, you must admit, his scholarship has taken its toll, and he spends his time ranting against invisible enemies instead of criticizing now.

    I find it ironic how he can talk about dumbing down so often, yet dumbed down his own work in order to broaden his audience. Still, he isn't without his place - his anthologies as Kafka's Crow has mentioned, are incredibly useful, and his earlier works were great.

    That being said, there is really nothing wrong with his new books, but they simply aren't really literary criticism or theory, and aren't really scholarly, even though they try to pretend to be.

    The Western Canon seems more of a polemic plea for money than anything, and the list in the back is almost assuredly proof of it, but still, it has its moments.

    I think the problem though is in order to reach a wide audience as a critic it is almost required to dumb down, or be an unbelievably brilliant writer, in terms of creativity and style.

    Bloom has his moments, but he is far stronger playing on the academic field than on the personal field. His earlier scholarship is more formal, and therefore is significantly stronger, and significantly more difficult to understand.

    His new stuff tries to imitate the style, I would argue, of Frye, in terms of the wit and irony, but it doesn't really maintain its strength in argument.

    Whereas Frye was confident, and insightful, and able to really reach a wide audience without sacrificing much, Bloom seems unable. He seems unable to formulate the words needed, and as a result, has been forced to become some sort of "knight for the literary establishment." instead of a critic like he used to be.

    That being said, he still gets large press coverage, mostly because he has the unbelievable ability to read and write faster than anyone else, and is generally well known.

    Still though, in terms of insight, there are far more interesting critics out there, even outside of his "School of Resentment".
    Last edited by JBI; 11-01-2008 at 11:41 PM.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by mayneverhave View Post
    Might I suggest some of Bloom's compilation works - his literary figures series, etc. The works feature an introduction by Bloom followed by a compilation of essays by other critics.

    As for general Shakespearean criticism - check out the established studies. By this I mean (in no particular order) Dr. Johnson, Northrop Frye, A.C. Bradley, Walter Pater, Kenneth Burke, STC on Hamlet, T.S Eliot, William Hazlitt, etc. I know I'm forgetting many others.
    Thanks, I'll take a note of these and the suggestions of those already mentioned to turn to when I can.

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    Tu le connais, lecteur... Kafka's Crow's Avatar
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    The great monument of our canon, and so of our civilization, is Shakespeare, and I hasten to insist that by ďourĒ I do not mean the Western world alone. Shakespeare is the universal center of the world-canon: Christian European and American white males are only a fraction of his audience.
    Harold Bloom Shakespeare and the Value of Personality in The Tanner Lecture on Human Values (1995)
    'Be careful with sweeping statements. You can never know all, hence you can never know the best or the worst of possibilities' my teacher used to say. Does Bloom know the whole of the world canon that he could put an occidental, thoroughly English personality (not even thoroughly European) at its centre? I would be very, very suspicious of any such claim. It sounds so very 19th century! Here we find Orientalism trying to find a voice over a decade after its death. Compare this quotation from Asiatic Journal published in 1832:
    And so they who listened with rapture to the songs of the bards overran the provinces of those who were charmed with the fairy tale.
    Quoted by Gauri Viswanatham The Mask of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India Page 118
    "The farther he goes the more good it does me. I donít want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going and the more he grinds my nose in the sh1t the more I am grateful to him..."
    -- Harold Pinter on Samuel Beckett

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    Yeah, he does have this problem and always try to impose the vision. I have no trouble to accept Shakespeare was the writer that is more universal or the one that is best know around the world, but he is not always "the center" (something more acceptable with english literature). But there is influential works that have no influence from Shakespeare (Dante, The Bible, 1001 Nights) even in the "western canon".
    (Another of his problems is the constant freudian approach)

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