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Bloom's Literary Themes: The Labyrinth


The great literary themes reappear continually throughout the world's literature. Bloom's Literary Themes is a new series that examines these themes as they function in classic literary works, from the Bible to the novels of Toni Morrison and Philip Roth.
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The great literary themes reappear continually throughout the world's literature. Bloom's Literary Themes is a new series that examines these themes as they function in classic literary works, from the Bible to the novels of Toni Morrison and Philip Roth.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780791098042
  • Publisher: Blooms Literary Criticism
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Series: Bloom's Literary Themes Series
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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.


"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

Series Introduction by Harold Bloom: Themes and Metaphors xi

Volume Introduction by Harold Bloom: Into the Living Labyrinth: Reflections and Aphorisms xv

The Aeneid (Virgil): "Virgil's Aeneid" Penelope Reed Doob, in The Idea of the Labyrinth: From Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages (1990) 1

The Faerie Queene (Edmund Spenser) "The Prophetic Moment" Angus Fletcher, in The Prophetic Moment: An Essay on Spenser (1971) 15

"The Garden of Forking Paths" (Jorge Luis Borges) "Borges and the Legacy of "The Garden of Forking Paths'" Jeffrey Gray 29

The General in His Labyrinth (Gabriel García Márquez) "Of Utopias, Labyrinths and Unfulfilled Dreams in The General in His Labyrinth" Maria Odette Canivell 37

Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) "The Poor Labyrinth: The Theme of Social Injustice in Dickens's Great Expectations" in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (1954) John H. Hagan Jr., 47

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (Henry Fielding) "'The winding labyrinths of nature': The Labyrinth and Providential Order in Tom Jones" Anthony W. Lee 57

The House of the Spirits (Isabelle Allende) "Of Labyrinths in Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits" Maria Odette Canivell 71

If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (Italo Calvino) "Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's a Night a Traveler and the Labyrinth" Aimable Twagilimana 81

"In this strange labyrinth how shall I turn?"-#77 (Lady Mary Wroth) "The Maze Within: Lady Mary Wroth's 'strang labournith' in Pamphilia to Amphilanthus" Margaret M. Morlier 93

Inferno (Dante Alighieri) "The Poetry of the Divine Comedy" Karl Vossler, in Medieval Culture: An Introduction to Dante and his Times(1929) 103

"Kubla Kahn" (Samuel Taylor Coleridge) "Symbolic Labyrinths in Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan" Robert C. Evans 113

The Labyrinth of Solitude (Octavio Paz) "The Labyrinth of Solitude" in Understanding Octavio Paz (1999) Jose Quiroga, 125

Metamorphoses (Ovid) "Daedalus in the Labyrinth of Ovid's Metamorphoses" in Classical World (1998) Barbara Pavlock, 137

A Midsummer Night's Dream (William Shakespeare) "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in The Common Man (1950) G.K. Chesterton, 163

The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco) "The Name of the Rose and the Labyrinths of Reading" Rossitsa Terzieva-Artemis 173

Paradise Lost (John Milton) "The Art of the Maze in Book IX of Paradise Lost" Kathleen M. Swaim 183

"The Second Coming" (William Butler Yeats) "The Secrets of the Sphinx: The Labyrinth in "The Second Coming'" Josephine A. McQuail 197

Ulysses (James Joyce) "James Joyce's Ulysses: Dedalus in the Labyrinth" Andrew J. Shipe 205

Acknowledgments 215

Index 217

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