The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry

Overview


Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence has cast its own long shadow of influence since it was first published in 1973. Through an insightful study of Romantic poets, Bloom puts forth his central vision of the relations between tradition and the individual artist. Although Bloom was never the leader of any critical "camp," his argument that all literary texts are a response to those that precede them had an enormous impact on the practice of deconstruction and poststructuralist literary theory in this country. ...
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Overview


Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence has cast its own long shadow of influence since it was first published in 1973. Through an insightful study of Romantic poets, Bloom puts forth his central vision of the relations between tradition and the individual artist. Although Bloom was never the leader of any critical "camp," his argument that all literary texts are a response to those that precede them had an enormous impact on the practice of deconstruction and poststructuralist literary theory in this country. The book remains a central work of criticism for all students of literature and has sold over 17,000 copies in paperback since 1984. Written in a moving personal style, anchored by concrete examples, and memorably quotable, Bloom's book maintains that the anxiety of influence cannot be evaded--neither by poets nor by responsible readers and critics.
This second edition contains a new Introduction, which explains the genesis of Bloom's thinking and the subsequent influence of the book on literary criticism of the past twenty years.criticism of the past twenty years. Here, Bloom asserts that the anxiety of influence comes out of a complex act of strong misreading, a creative interpretation he calls "poetic misprision." The influence-anxiety does not so much concern the forerunner but rather is an anxiety achieved in and by the story, novel, play, poem, or essay. In other words, without Keats's reading of Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth, we could not have Keats's odes and sonnets and his two Hyperions.
Given the enormous attention generated by Bloom's controversial The Western Cannon, this new edition is certain to find a readymade audience among the new generation of scholars, students, and layreaders interested in the Bloom cannon.
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Editorial Reviews

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Through an insightful study of Romantic poets, Bloom puts forth his central vision of the relations between precursors and the individual artist. His argument that all literary texts are strongly influenced by those that precede them had an enormous impact on the practice of criticism and poststructuralist literary theory. The book remains a central work of criticism for all students of literature.
From the Publisher

From reviews of the first edition:
"Bloom has helped to make the study of Romantic poetry as intellectually and spiritually challenging a branch of literary studies as one may find."--The New York Times Book Review

"This book will assuredly come to be valued as a major twentieth-century statement on the subject of tradition and individual talent."--David J. Gordon, The Yale Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195112214
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/10/1997
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 396,437
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 5.20 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold Bloom

Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University and Berg Professor of English at New York University. He is the author of numerous publications including A Map of Misreading, Yeats, The Book of J, The American Religion, The Western Canon, and Omens of the Millennium.

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

Table of Contents

Prologue: It Was A Great Marvel That They Were In the Father Without Knowing Him 3
Introduction: A Meditation upon Priority, and a Synopsis 5
1 Clinamen or Poetic Misprision 19
2 Tessera or Completion and Antithesis 49
3 Kenosis or Repetition and Discontinuity 77
Interchapter: A Manifesto for Antithetical Criticism 93
4 Daemonization or The Counter-Sublime 99
5 Askesis or Purgation and Solipsism 115
6 Apophrades or The Return of the Dead 139
Epilogue: Reflections upon the Path 157
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2003

    Alone above it all paring his fingernails

    Bloom is interesting and provocative and his great love and knowledge of poetry is apparent in everything he writes. But the idea that all great poets are primarily desirous of taking on, and overcoming their master- inspirers, their great predecessors goes far too far. The contention with a predecessor and teacher does mark strongly the work of many poets, but it is by no means the heart of their poetry or the purpose of their endeavor. This I would venture comes out of many different creative urges, including the sheer love of creation .We cannot be without our predecessors, but they are not all what we are. What we are each one of us is a voice God gives only to us. And much of poetry and its criticism is the sounding and hearing of those sole voices which sound only like themselves.

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