Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?

Overview

In one of his most inspiring books yet, Harold Bloom, our preeminent literary critic, takes the reader from the Bible through the twentieth century, searching for the ways literature can inform lives. Through comparisons of the Book of Job and Ecclesiastes, Plato and Homer, Johnson and Goethe, Cervantes and Shakespeare, Montaigne and Bacon, Emerson and Nietzsche, Freud and Proust, and finally discussions of the Gospel of Thomas and St. Augustine, Bloom distills the various—and even contrary—forms of wisdom that ...

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Overview

In one of his most inspiring books yet, Harold Bloom, our preeminent literary critic, takes the reader from the Bible through the twentieth century, searching for the ways literature can inform lives. Through comparisons of the Book of Job and Ecclesiastes, Plato and Homer, Johnson and Goethe, Cervantes and Shakespeare, Montaigne and Bacon, Emerson and Nietzsche, Freud and Proust, and finally discussions of the Gospel of Thomas and St. Augustine, Bloom distills the various—and even contrary—forms of wisdom that have shaped our thinking.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Master literary critic Harold Bloom responds to the thundering question of the title by leading us on a revealing excursion through Western thought: Plato and Homer; the Book of Job and Ecclesiastes; the Gospel of Thomas and St. Augustine; Cervantes and Shakespeare; Montaigne and Bacon; Johnson and Goethe; Emerson and Nietzsche; Freud and Proust. By example and contrast, Bloom shows how competing forms of wisdom have shaped our thinking and our actions. The depth and range of his learning is apparent on every page.
Publishers Weekly
Emulating one of his favorite critics, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Bloom returns once more to sift through the Western canon, this time to discern and describe those writers whose brand of wisdom he holds in highest esteem. Beginning with Job and Ecclesiastes, and ranging from Plato, Homer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Johnson and Goethe to Emerson, Nietzsche, Freud and Proust, Bloom writes gracefully about each as he evaluates by comparison and teases out indicators of their subtle interrelationships. Into this highbrow brew he interjects a personal note, describing how he is writing in the aftermath of life-threatening illness and with a renewed sense of the preciousness of literature's great lessons. At the heart of Bloom's project is the ancient quarrel between "poetry" and "philosophy." In Bloom's opinion, we ought not have to choose between Homer and Plato; we can have both, as long as we recognize that poetry is superior. Bloom considers Cervantes and Shakespeare the masters of wisdom in modern literature, "equals of Ecclesiastes, and the Book of Job, of Homer and Plato." He justifies his tastes with close readings of King Lear and Macbeth that find a Shakespearean variety of nihilism, a form of wisdom Bloom identifies as central to the poetic tradition. In his intricate discussion of each great writer, Bloom offers the rich perceptions of a scholar drawing on the whole of a long and thoughtful career. Agents, Glen Hartley and Lynn Chu. (Oct. 7) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Bloom, the renowned literary critic and author of more than 25 books, has launched another masterly work that poses the age-old question from the Book of Job: "Where shall wisdom be found?" Clearly, for Bloom it can be found by carefully reading classic literature and poetry, not by looking to philosophy or personal experience alone. Arguing that reading itself is a quest for wisdom and that ideas are events, Bloom starts with the Bible, then moves through Plato, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Bacon, Johnson, Goethe, Emerson, Nietzsche, Freud, Proust, and Saint Augustine, all to decipher what these "wisdom writers" have had to say. Shakespearean nihilism, particularly in King Lear and Macbeth, and Montaigne's essays on strength and self-acceptance, for example, are two places where wisdom can be unearthed. It is surprising, however, that Bloom leaves out giants like Milton, Chaucer, and Dante. A good purchase for large public and academic libraries.-Jaime Anderson, Cty. of Henrico P.L., Richmond, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The latest from the venerable Bloom (Hamlet: Poem Unlimited, 2003, etc.) may not always be easy going, but it's invariably rewarding and rich. There are "only three criteria," says Bloom, that determine the books he'll continue "reading and teaching": "aesthetic splendor, intellectual power, wisdom." But this isn't wisdom you can put in your pocket and take home. Not only will this kind not make you feel better-"I have not found that wisdom literature is a comfort"-but you may not even be able to figure out what it is: "The Book of Job offers wisdom, but it is not anything we can comprehend." Still, it's there, in its own power, significance, and insistence (wisdom writing "must be rich"). This literature "teaches us to accept natural limits," Bloom says at one moment, then reverses, saying that "Job could not console Herman Melville and his Captain Ahab, but provoked them to furious response." Perfect consistency is too small a concept for this kind of wisdom, as Bloom argues that the drama form was too small for Hamlet. In any case, with the unflagging curiosity and the associative powers of one who seems to have read all books written, Bloom takes us through studies in pairings, of Job paired with Ecclesiastes, Plato with Homer (the battle between philosophy and poetry), Cervantes, and Shakespeare. Declaring that "Thoughts are events," he gives us Montaigne and Bacon, Johnson and Goethe, Emerson and Nietzsche, and at last Freud and Proust, in a pairing as fascinating as any here. In closing, he touches on the Gospel of Thomas and on Augustine's "invention" of reading, adding that "Reading alone will not save us or make us wise, but without it we will lapse into the death-in-life of thedumbing-down in which America now leads the world, as in all other matters." Another work of uncompromised literary analysis, thought, and feeling, from the mind of Bloom: towering, real, invaluable. Agent: Glen Hartley/Writer's Representatives
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594481383
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/4/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold Bloom

Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University and a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard. His more than twenty-five books include Hamlet; Genius; How to Read and Why; Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human; The Western Canon; The Book of J; and The Anxiety of Influence. He is a MacArthur Prize Fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, including the Academy's Gold Medal for Belles Lettres and Criticism, the International Prize of Catalonia, and the Alfonso Reyes Prize of Mexico.

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

1 The Hebrews : Job and Ecclesiastes 11
2 The Greeks : Plato's contest with Homer 31
3 Cervantes and Shakespeare 78
4 Montaigne and Francis Bacon 119
5 Samuel Johnson and Goethe 156
6 Emerson and Nietzsche 190
7 Freud and Proust 221
8 The gospel of Thomas 259
9 Saint Augustine and reading 273
Coda : nemesis and wisdom 282
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2006

    A Masterpiece

    Bloom's genius as a literary critic and his wide ranging knowledge of western civilisation illuminate the pages of Where Shall Wisdom be Found? It is difficult to read if you are not familiar with philosophy and literature, but that ought not be a drawback. As Bloom's career winds down he can still produce a heartfelt piece of literature and his poetic style trump some of those he quotes. A masterwork, sementing Bloom as one of if not the greatest literary critic of all time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2005

    Some tough stuff, this

    Bloom's writing is inaccessible at the best of times and this is certainly not a book you can skim through and follow with a point-by-point sidebar. That said, the reader who does acknowledge that literary criticism is not just an extended book review will find much to learn and appreciate in WSWBF. The book is really nothing more than Bloom's personal list of favourites with convoluted text rationalising his choice, but considering he has good reasons for every poet, philosopher, playwright and novelist included, you have no reason to complain.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2005

    Not for the common man

    Mr Bloom with all his credentials seems to have been writing for the intellectually elete. Even with my understanding of the english language and of scholarly events I was not able to gleen much wisdom from this book. If Jesus and Yahweh is written to the same group of intellectual snobs then the most wisdom I have gained in reading Mr. Bloom's 'Where Shall Wisdom Be Found' is not to buy 'Jesus and Yahweh'.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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