American Women Fiction Writers, 1900-1960

Overview

Part of an ongoing series covering the texts and lives of the most important women writers of English, American Women Fiction Writers, 1900-1960: Volume One contains introductory essays by Harold Bloom and provides biographical information, a wide selection of critical excerpts and complete bibliographies of 12 authors.
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Overview

Part of an ongoing series covering the texts and lives of the most important women writers of English, American Women Fiction Writers, 1900-1960: Volume One contains introductory essays by Harold Bloom and provides biographical information, a wide selection of critical excerpts and complete bibliographies of 12 authors.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Once again, noteworthy critic Bloom (Yale and New York Univ. Graduate Sch.) has teamed with Chelsea House to create a literary series. This one is divided into six volumes, including the two-volume British Women Fiction Writers (to be reviewed in a forthcoming issue of LJ with Garland's Women Writers of Great Britain and Europe). Unfortunately, the remaining four volumes offer little that is new. Each volume is arranged alphabetically by writer (most of whom are already in the canon) and covers about a dozen authors in lengthy (seven- to 18-page) articles that provide a biographical statement, excerpts of critical opinion, and a bibliography of the writer's works. Each volume contains the same short introduction by Bloom focusing on the merits of feminist criticism. This duplication ignores the opportunity to explore the differences among women's cultural backgrounds and their works and sets up a mood that the extracted critical opinions do not follow. Appropriate only for public libraries lacking access to the indexes and journals where the criticism appears; the more inclusive A Library of Literary Criticism (Continuum, 1996) provides shorter and better-focused excerpts on more authors.Neal Wyatt, Chesterfield P.L., Va.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 UpThis volume is a good example of why it is important to examine both who has been included as well as who has not. The second of two volumes about female authors of the English language, it includes a collection of previously published criticisms and a bibliography for each of the 11 authors. The book is well organized and the criticisms (with only a few exceptions) are readable and enlightening. The one weakness of the book lies in the selection of writers. Notable names such as Zora Neale Hurston, Shirley Jackson, Mary McCarthy, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, and Dorothy Parker are all here. But one must question why lesser-known writers such as Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, Nella Larsen, and Ann Petry are included when Edith Wharton, Katherine Anne Porter, and Margaret Walker are not. It would be easy to answer that it is impossible to include everyone. True enough, but why include Anas Nin, whose whole literary reputation is based more on her diary than her fiction? Why Margaret Mitchell and not Marjorie Rawlings, Pulitzer Prize winner for The Yearling and author of a much larger body of work? The inclusion of less well known authors at the expense of frequently studied writers lessens the book's usefulness. The result is a title with five or six sections that will be heavily used while the remaining chapters will receive little or no attention.Marilyn Heath, Greenwood High School, SC
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom
One of our most popular, respected, and controversial literary critics, Yale University professor Harold Bloom’s books – about, variously, Shakespeare, the Bible, and the classic literature – are as erudite as they are accessible.

Biography

"Authentic literature doesn't divide us," the scholar and literary critic Harold Bloom once said. "It addresses itself to the solitary individual or consciousness." Revered and sometimes reviled as a champion of the Western canon, Bloom insists on the importance of reading authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer -- not because they transmit certain approved cultural values, but because they transcend the limits of culture, and thus enlarge rather than constrict our sense of what it means to be human. As Bloom explained in an interview, "Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage."

Bloom began his career by tackling the formidable legacy of T.S. Eliot, who had dismissed the English Romantic poets as undisciplined nature-worshippers. Bloom construed the Romantic poets' visions of immortality as rebellions against nature, and argued that an essentially Romantic imagination was still at work in the best modernist poets.

Having restored the Romantics to critical respectability, Bloom advanced a more general theory of poetry. His now-famous The Anxiety of Influence argued that any strong poem is a creative "misreading" of the poet's predecessor. The book raised, as the poet John Hollander wrote, "profound questions about... how the prior visions of other poems are, for a true poet, as powerful as his own dreams and as formative as his domestic childhood." In addition to developing this theory, Bloom wrote several books on sacred texts. In The Book of J, he suggested that some of the oldest parts of the Bible were written by a woman.

The Book of J was a bestseller, but it was the 1994 publication of The Western Canon that made the critic-scholar a household name. In it, Bloom decried what he called the "School of Resentment" and the use of political correctness as a basis for judging works of literature. His defense of the threatened canon formed, according to The New York Times, a "passionate demonstration of why some writers have triumphantly escaped the oblivion in which time buries almost all human effort."

Bloom placed Shakespeare along with Dante at the center of the Western canon, and he made another defense of Shakespeare's centrality with Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, an illuminating study of Shakespeare's plays. How to Read and Why (2000) revisited Shakespeare and other writers in the Bloom pantheon, and described the act of reading as both a spiritual exercise and an aesthetic pleasure.

Recently, Bloom took up another controversial stance when he attacked Harry Potter in an essay for The Wall Street Journal. His 2001 book Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages advanced an alternative to contemporary children's lit, with a collection of classic works of literature "worthy of rereading" by people of all ages.

The poet and editor David Lehman said that "while there are some critics who are known for a certain subtlety and a certain judiciousness, there are other critics... who radiate ferocious passion." Harold Bloom is a ferociously passionate reader for whom literary criticism is, as he puts it, "the art of making what is implicit in the text as finely explicit as possible."

Good To Know

Bloom earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1955 and was hired as a Yale faculty member that same year. In 1965, at the age of 35, he became one of the youngest scholars in Yale history to be appointed full professor in the department of English. He is now Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale and Berg Visiting Professor of English at New York University.

Though some conservative commentators embraced Bloom's canon as a return to traditional moral values, Bloom, who once styled himself "a Truman Democrat," dismisses attempts by both left- and right-wingers to politicize literature. "To read in the service of any ideology is not, in my judgment, to read at all," he told a New York Times interviewer.

His great affinity for Shakespeare has put Bloom in the unlikely position of stage actor on occasion; he has played his "literary hero," port-loving raconteur Sir John Falstaff, in three productions.

Bloom is married to Jeanne, a retired school psychologist whom he met while a junior faculty member at Yale in the 1950s. They have two sons.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Harold Irving Bloom (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 11, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cornell University, 1951; Ph.D., Yale University, 1955

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