Harold Bloom

Early Life

One of the iconic literary critics of these times, Harold Bloom, was born on the 11th of July in 1930 in New York. A brilliant son of William Bloom, a garment worker, Paula, a homemaker, Bloom was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, where he learned Yiddish and Hebrew languages. At six, he learned the English language. As he was passionate about reading since childhood, he started with reading Hart Crane and William Blake’s poetic works to quench his creative thirst.

Education

Although Herald learned the basic principles of reading and writing at home, his formal education started at Bronx High School of Science. He received his bachelor’s degree in Classics in 1952 from Cornell and completed his Ph.D. From Yale in 1965.

Death

After providing the world with a considerable legacy and astounding literary works, this literary giant suffered serious health issues in his later life. He went through open-heart surgery in 2002 and had a major back injury in 2008. After failing to fight against these severe odds, Harold breathed his last on the 14th of October in 2019.

Some Important Facts about Him

  1. He received many awards and honors including a gold medal, the Catalonia International Prize, and Mexico’s Alfonso Reyes International Prize.
  2. He earned an honorary degree from the American Academy of Arts.
  3. Harold Bloom served at Yale English Department from 1955 to 2019.
  4. He earned MacArthur Fellowship in 1985.

His Career

Harold Bloom became a published writer in 1959 with the publication of Shelley’s Mythmaking in which he constructed a significant argument about High Romantics and neo-Christian beliefs. The book echoed his defense of High Romantics, which eventually led other critics to reconsider their thoughts about poetry. His early publications included The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry, and The Ringers in the Tower: Studies in Romantic Tradition, and all of them traced the literary wonders of the romantic poets. He further extended his critical theory to his other publications such as Yeats, The Anxiety of Influence, A Map of Misreading, and Figures of Capable Imagination. His most controversial work, The Book of J, got published in 1990. The book explains that the initially known texts of the Bible penned down by women are literary rather than religious. Besides writing these critical pieces, he has tried his hands on the novel as well. He published his only fictional work The Flight to Lucifer in 1979. His other remarkable works are The American Religion, The Western Canon, and The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Frost.

His Style

From very early on, Bloom formed his own style; a highly complex, academic, and argumentative. And this style won him immense popularity that no other living critic has ever won. For instance, his much-appreciated work The Book of J provides abundant ironies and literary critiques along with complex linguistic structures and different theoretical perspectives. Since he was a born critic, in most of his works, he has used different theoretical perspectives to admire and critique the Romantic, Canadian, and various other authors and poets. His theory of poetic influence considers the formation of western literature as a constant process of misreading. In this theoretical perspective, he details how some writers try to build their opinions about poetry, imitating, and borrowing from others to develop their poetic voice. He suggests that these writers must build their personal and individual perspectives to differentiate themselves from those of their precursors.

Some Important Works of Harold Bloom

  • Best Works: Some of his notable works include Shelley’s Mythmaking. New Haven, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation, How to Read and Why, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, and The Flight to Lucifer: A Gnostic Fantasy.

Harold Bloom’s Impacts on Future Literature

Harold Bloom’s critical ideas have helped him reach the position of the most widely read literary critics in the English world. As these ideas are not only challenging but also persuasive, they have amassed a huge circle of poets and writers around him to follow him. His works have impacted the readers and writers alike; Allen Ginsberg and A.R. Ammons and James Wood shower admiration for his qualities. The reason is that Bloom has loaded his texts with theoretical perspectives, using academic terms, eloquent arguments, and a cogent style. The expression of his ideas in his work is so much clear, transparent, and strong that today critics, authors, poets, and newcomers tend to consider his legacy a must-read to enter the literary and critical field.

Important Quotes

  1. “Reading the very best writers—let us say Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Tolstoy—is not going to make us better citizens. Art is perfectly useless, according to the sublime Oscar Wilde, who was right about everything. He also told us that all bad poetry is sincere. Had I the power to do so, I would command that these words be engraved above every gate at every university, so that each student might ponder the splendor of the insight.” (The Books and School of the Ages)
  2. “…the representation of human character and personality remains always the supreme literary value, whether in drama, lyric or narrative. I am naive enough to read incessantly because I cannot, on my own, get to know enough people profoundly enough.” (The Invention of the Human)
  3. “Aesthetic value emanates from the struggle between texts: in the reader, in language, in the classroom, in arguments within a society. Aesthetic value rises out of memory, and so (as Nietzsche saw) out of pain, the pain of surrendering easier pleasures in favour of much more difficult ones … successful literary works are achieved anxieties, not releases from anxieties.” (The Books and School of the Ages)