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Thread: How did Harold Bloom rise to such a level of eminence?

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    How did Harold Bloom rise to such a level of eminence?

    There seems to be a level of reverence around this guy and even I, who knows no other scholar of literature, have heard of him. How did this reputation get made?

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    Probably through the quantity of his critical output. He's written one novel. Mostly he leaves that to the big boys and girls.

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    Registered User tailor STATELY's Avatar
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    While I don't revere him I enjoy his critical voice. I have a book to return... today if possible, Walt Whitman selected poems from the American Poets Project, where he is listed as the editor; his introductory pages are quite insightful.

    • Shmoop's's article does him some justice... https://www.shmoop.com/harold-bloom/

    • article from a fan: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/l...-a7681621.html

    • article from a critic: http://www.cosmoetica.com/D1-DES1.htm

    Ta ! (short for tarradiddle),
    tailor STATELY
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    Quote Originally Posted by ennison
    Probably through the quantity of his critical output. He's written one novel. Mostly he leaves that to the big boys and girls.
    Why the anti-intellectual snark, ennison? Bloom is an academic, not a novelist (despite the one novel). Should historians be out there making history, instead of chronicling it? Should journalists murder people, instead of reporting on the murders of others? Should theoretical physicists blow up cities instead of theorizing about sub-atomic principles?
    A basic principle of criticism is that we should criticize a work for what it is, not for what it isn't.

    It is true that critiques are not novels, that mathematical proofs are not feats of engineering, and that analyses of political movements are not revolutions. Why this should make them somehow immature is beyond me. In addition, it seems (to borrow ennison's approach to criticism) a juvenile objection to “ivory tower” intellectuals. On a literary forum where people gather to criticize works of literature, ennison's position seems particularly strange.

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    Well there you have it

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    Bloom—an academic? And what right of meaning should this term be lend exactly? The notion strikes me as sacrilegious, and indeed it proves itself to be so to the utter region, but then again, it could be a lapse in judgement from my part: perhaps an academic is a degenerate novelist, one that, being thoroughly acquainted with his total inability to prove himself worthy of any valuable artistic finality, sets out to obtain his revenge for being a lesser artist, a nicely made up ersatz, a simulacrum of the true subject that he makes into his object, and thus distorting its beauty, brought down to his prosaic level, for having had the temerity to be infinitely more gifted than him. What a lovely thing an academic is, then.
    Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes.

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    It has been said many times that litetary critics are frustrated novelists.
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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    The notion that critics are jealous of those they criticize is a fairly common one. But it can hardly apply to Bloom, He is the first to say that Shakespeare is “infinitely more gifted than him (sic)”, to borrow empty seraph's meandering prose. Saying Bloom is jealous of Shakespeare is akin to saying that the angels are jealous when they sing God's praises.

    Bloom is (and has been for decades now) a Professor at Yale. That makes him an academic. His job is to teach young people about literature, and he has offered his services to those who can't afford to go to Yale, or can't get admitted to Yale, or simply don't want to attend Yale by writing dozens of books. I've read only a couple, so I'm no expert on Bloom.

    Nonetheless, I think literature is a worth Humanity to study, and to think (as empty seraph seems to, although it's difficult to tell) that discussing literature “distorts its beauty” and brings it “down to his (Bloom's) prosaic level” is not only incorrect, but silly. Why would it?

    I'll grant that some secondary schools teach their students that poems are riddles, the meaning of which must be deciphered. This too is silly, although many young students benefit from learning how to comprehend the literal meaning of transposed poetic lines.

    Criticism is a natural and essential human function: Philosophy involves critiques of modes of thinking and behavior; Theology involves critiques of sacred literature; mathematics involves critiques of mathematical language (i.e. discovering what can be logically inferred from a set of postulates and definitions). Science itself is dependent on literature, if scientists didn't write down the results of their experiments, they could not “stand on the shoulders of giants”. In a sense, any critique of the report of an experiment in a scientific journal is a form of literary criticism.

    Why should novels, poems and plays be immune from criticism, when other forms of literature (math, science, philosophy, etc.) are not? I'm sure any critic worth his salt hopes for the best when reading a novel, although he is sometimes disappointed. Bloom – of all literary critics the most worshipful – hardly seems jealous, or eager to diminish the achievements of others (although he occasionally bashes some authors, often anti-Semitic ones, like Eliot and Pound).

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    Should Mr H Bloom's opinions on an author or text happen to agree with mine I would not be upset. Same applies to Mr Pope on spiritual or moral matters. The word "worshipful" is the one that troubles me. (But only a little since I don't care really about the opinions of any prof of literature) It is of course true that one need not be able to bake to criticise a cake or go to the North Pole to know it's damn cold in the winter. But the comment of GBS has a little relevance : "Those who can etc..." GBS omitted to add that those who cannot teach actually teach the teachers. Tessimond saw through the uncreative who wrote "books on books on books" but perhaps that was during one of his bipolar episodes. But Mr HB has not read everything (no one has) and his tastes are only as democratic as his personal opinions allow. The last point seems to support that. Should I dismiss or bash Mr Bellow as a writer because he was a bit of a crud, or Vonnegut because he was a hypocrite? Well I guess I could but I won't ... not yet.

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    While the status of Bloom as critic and academic cannot be ignored, he is famous because he wrote (Just like Dawkins, Umberto Eco and many others did) a book very accessible (or more than one) that made people who had no commitment to study literature to feel as if he was going deep in the knowledge of literature (or biology, or semiotics). This pop status does not translate in the academic field, he is a well-known more because of his popularity but had not the same impact of better critics. The whole defence of canon is itself a marketing thing, rather than academic matter.
    #foratemer

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    I myself have made no commitment to study literature (I like literature, and I like the form of literature called "criticism", but I haven't made any formal study of it, nor, equally likely, made a commitment to study it which I did not fulfill). The only Bloom book I own is "Genius", the title of which implies that Bloom loves to praise other authors. Indeed, his enthusiasm for the canon (and for literature in general) is infectious, and that's probably why his books are popular. I'd guess he's an outstanding teacher, because enthusiasm is an important attribute for a teacher.

    It's ironic, I suppose, that partly due to his love of the canon, Bloom has become a canonical critic (in popular circles, at least). According to the book jacket of "Genius" he's a "master entertainer" (Newsweek), "the indispensable critic" (NY Review of Books), and "Our most valuable critic" (Boston Globe). Academics sometimes dislike popular entertainers (like Bloom) because they are TOO accessible (and too popular). Nonetheless, Bloom appears to have read every important (Western) literary work and to be able to make entertaining and insightful comments about most of them. To the non-professional, literature (critiques included) must be entertaining, or why bother with it? Bloom (it seems to me) qualifies in this regard.

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    That is where the pop status of him is overated, reading Bloom, I got the exactly oposite impression, very knowlledable on specific areas of western literatura (almost the anglo-saxon canon, some extra spice for french or close enough cannons) but lacking a lot elsewhere. Granted, he is not a blind bat, so he knows the main names of spanish, portuguese, latin-american literature, but his comments about them are swallow and pretty much uninteresting. I enjoy the texts where he is talking about, for example, Emily Dickinson, because it is his area and his passion is over there and there is no taint of his Shakespeare obssession.

    This is something else, I find odd that his Anxiety of Influence starts with him having to remove Shakespeare from the object of analyse, as if Shakespeare didn't belong to the same process of formation and influence of all others. It is weird, because either he wants or not, Shakespeare is all over the place, but it seems to me he refuses to work with the idea Shakespeare had "anxiety". His bias towards this freudian aspect of literature is a big nagging. Also his war against the so called school of ressentiment (marxism, feminism, etc.) seems to me an early and intelectual way to go "political correctness is killing our culture" "SJW", a very narrow conservative position (and his israeli nationalism got him in weird places latter too), instead of reckogning the importance of such authors and how this debate is part of the force of maintainence and transformation of the cannon that is beyond his power to contain and an academic should have a more objective approach to the matter.
    #foratemer

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    If you consider that in, say the UK, there are about 180000 books published a year and a few hundred others in minority languages (Welsh, Ghaidhlig...) then you would have to admit the impossibility of any one person keeping up with that. Many of these titles are manuals, textbooks, first readers, non-fiction of a very specific kind etc. but that still leaves a substantial amount of what might be described as literary fiction. We rely on arbiters like reviewers and critics to give us guidance. Some of these we trust. Some we don't. I trust Allan Massie in that respect as I find him a sympathetic and intelligent reviewer who never seems to be nastily waspish and he himself is a practising author. Perhaps many people like Bloom's style, perhaps many find he gives them angles on texts which help to enlighten them, perhaps others find his opinions chime with their own. There are those who read reviewers / critics rather than texts because they are not inclined to the (fairly minimal ) intellectual exercise involved in reading or grudge the time. It is probably quite useful for a young person to have the guidance of a well-read critic. It is absurd for a well-read adult to require it. At some point you develop enough knowledge and taste of your own to create your own "canon"

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Although critics occasionally help illuminate the text (I read Ulysses with their aid), the main reason to read critiques is for their own sake. If a book about baseball or football can be entertaining, why not a book about books?

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    Why not indeed. But I neither idolise nor revere any author or critic. Bloom is interesting. Kenneth Rexroth is very interesting. Allan Massie knows what he is talking about when it comes to distinguishing the good from the better. So I trust Massie's literary opinions. On politics he is frequently right-wing-foot-in-mouth (to mix metaphors for clumsiness' sake)I remember him clearly trying to defend the UK's (and USA's) support of Saddam Husssein during his assault on Iran. So I do not trust him on politics. Bloom, Rexroth and Massie can all use language well. As can many other critics, commentators and guides.

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