Bloom's Literary Themes: Rebirth and Renewal


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.

Transformation in the form of rebirth and renewal has long been a central theme in literature. This volume contains 20 essays that explore the role of rebirth and renewal in such works as Crime and Punishment, Heart of ...

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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.

Transformation in the form of rebirth and renewal has long been a central theme in literature. This volume contains 20 essays that explore the role of rebirth and renewal in such works as Crime and Punishment, Heart of Darkness, The Tempest, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and many others. Some essays have been written specifically for the series; others are excerpts of important critical analyses from selected books and journals.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780791098059
  • Publisher: Chelsea House Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/19/2009
  • Series: Bloom's Literary Themes Series
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 1,494,147
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (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 Harold Bloom xv

The Aeneid, "Book 6" (Virgil) "Introduction: The Sixth Book of the Aeneid" H.E. Butler, in The Sixth Book of the Aeneid (1920) 1

The Awakening (Kate Chopin) "Renewal and Rebirth in Kate Chopin's The Awakening" Robert C. Evans 13

Beloved (Toni Morrison) "Renewal and Rebirth in Toni Morrison's Beloved" Blake G. Hobby 25

Beowulf "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" J.R.R. Tolkien (1936) 35

Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer) "The Opening of Chaucer's General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales: A Diptych" Colin Wilcockson, in Review of English Studies (1999) 51

Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky) "Crime and Myth: The Archetypal Pattern of Rebirth in Three Novels of Dostoevsky" Alexandra F. Rudicina, in PMLA (1972) 61

Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri) "To Can Grande della Scala" Dante Alighieri, in Dantis Alagherii Epistolae: The Letters of Dante (1920) 69

Doctor Faustus (Christopher Marlowe) "The Damnation of Faustus" J.P. Brockbank, in Marlowe: Dr. Faustus (1962) 83

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) "'Boats Against the Current': Mortality and the Myth of Renewal in The Great Gatsby" Jeffrey Steinbrink, in Twentieth Century Literature (1980) 95

Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad) "The Journey Within" Albert J. Guerard, in Conrad the Novelist (1958) 109

The Holy Sonnets (John Donne) "Renewal and Rebirth in John Donne's The Holy Sonnets" Gary Ettari 125

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou) "Death, Rebirth, and Renewal in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" Robert C. Evans 135

King Lear (WilliamShakespeare) "Rebirth and Renewal in Shakespeare's King Lear" Gary Ettari 145

"Little Gidding" from Four Quartets (Thomas Stearns Eliot) "the Later Quartets" Staffan Bergsten, in Time and Eternity: A Study in the Structure and Symbolism of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets (1960) 153

The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka) "Realism and Unrealism: Kafka's 'Metamorphosis'" Norman N. Holland, in Modern Fiction Studies (1958) 169

Orlando (Virginia Woolf) "Renewal, Rebirth, and Change in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" Lorena Russell 181

The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne) "Hester's Bewitched Triangle: Within the Spell of the 'A'" Blake G. Hobby 191

A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens) "'Recalled to Life': Sacrifice and Renewal in A Tale of Two Cities" Arthur Rankin 201

The Tempest (William Shakespeare) From Shakespeare's Mystery Play: A Study of "The Tempest" Colin Still (1921) 211

Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston) "Resistance, Rebirth, and Renewal in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God" Deborah James 229

Acknowledgments 239

Index 241

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