Harold Bloom, who is considered one of the most renowned literary critics of our era, was born on July 11th, 1930 in New York City. Harold, the son of William Bloom who worked in a garment factory and Paula, a homemaker, was brought up in an Orthodox Jewish family where he learned Yiddish and Hebrew languages, showcasing his brilliance from an early age. When he was six years old, he acquired the ability to speak and understand the English language. His lifelong passion for reading, which began in childhood, inspired him to start with the poetic works of Hart Crane and William Blake to satisfy his thirst for creativity.
Although Harold was taught the fundamentals of reading and writing at home, he didn’t formally start his education until he went to Bronx High School of Science. In 1952, he received his bachelor’s degree in Classics from Cornell and went on to complete his Ph.D., from Yale in 1965.
This distinguished literary figure has left a significant legacy and made remarkable literary contributions to the world. However, he faced significant health challenges in his later years. In 2002, he underwent open-heart surgery, and in 2008, he endured a major back injury. Despite his valiant efforts to overcome these formidable obstacles, Harold Bloom peacefully departed on October 14, 2019.
Some Important Facts about Him
- He received many awards and honors including a gold medal, the Catalonia International Prize, and Mexico’s Alfonso Reyes International Prize.
- He earned an honorary degree from the American Academy of Arts.
- Harold Bloom served at Yale English Department from 1955 to 2019.
- He earned MacArthur Fellowship in 1985.
His Professional Journey
Harold Bloom embarked on his writing career in 1959, marked by the release of “Shelley’s Mythmaking.” In this work, he meticulously constructed a compelling argument concerning the High Romantics and their convergence with neo-Christian beliefs. Notably, the book championed the cause of the High Romantics, prompting fellow critics to reevaluate their perspectives on poetry. His early publications, including “The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry” and “The Ringers in the Tower: Studies in Romantic Tradition,” consistently delved into the splendors of the Romantic poets.
Expanding his critical framework, he continued to produce seminal works such as “Yeats,” “The Anxiety of Influence,” “A Map of Misreading,” and “Figures of Capable Imagination.” His most provocative creation, “The Book of J,” emerged in 1990. Within its pages, Bloom postulated that the initial known texts of the Bible, attributed to women, possess more of a literary than a purely religious essence. Alongside these critical pursuits, he ventured into the realm of fiction, authoring his sole fictional piece, “The Flight to Lucifer,” in 1979.
Among his other noteworthy contributions are “The American Religion,” “The Western Canon,” and “The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Frost.” Collectively, Harold Bloom’s journey encompasses a diverse array of intellectual explorations that have significantly enriched the fields of literary criticism and creative expression.
From the very beginning, Harold Bloom established a unique style characterized by its intricate complexity, academic rigor, and passionate argumentation. This unique approach not only set him apart but also catapulted him to unparalleled popularity, a feat unrivaled by any other contemporary critic. A prime example of this is his highly lauded masterpiece, “The Book of J.” This work is replete with irony, literary criticism, complex linguistic structures, and a plethora of theoretical perspectives. A natural critic, Harold adroitly wields diverse theoretical frameworks across his oeuvre to both celebrate and scrutinize figures like the Romantics, Canadian authors, and more.
His seminal theoretical contribution to the influence of poetry stands as a testament to his innate analytical talent. He envisions the development of Western literature as an ongoing process of misinterpretation. In this intricate framework, he intricately explains how writers, in their quest to shape their views on poetry, ingeniously imitate and draw from predecessors to forge their unique poetic identity. At the heart of this theory is the idea that writers must carefully cultivate their own distinctive perspectives, setting themselves apart from their predecessors through a conscious act of literary individuation.
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 concepts have propelled him to become one of the most widely read literary critics in the English-speaking world. The appeal of his ideas lies not only in their intellectual rigor but also in their compelling nature, gathering a vast community of poets and writers who look up to him. His impact extends to both readers and fellow writers; figures like Allen Ginsberg, A.R. Ammons, and James Wood have all expressed deep admiration for his insights. Bloom’s use of theory, scholarly language, eloquent reasoning, and coherent writing style earns admiration. He expresses his ideas with clarity and vigor in his works. His legacy is valued by contemporary critics, authors, poets, and emerging talents as essential reading for those interested in literature and literary criticism. Harold Bloom’s legacy remains an indispensable gateway for individuals entering these fields.
- “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)
- “…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)
- “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)