Saturday, July 11, 2009

harold bloom b. july 11th 1930

i have to say harold bloom kept me in college when all else failed. it was my understanding of his early three great books of criticism that convinced dr. david dykstra that i wasn't just another wise-ass college layabout. bloom's articulation of the "anxiety of influence," a radical application of freud's ideas long before the "french freud" was introduced, not only redeemed the sagging reputations of the romantics(incredible to believe today that wordsworth & keats & the rest of the boys were dismissed by the academy back then)but brought me back into contact w/wallace stevens(maybe our greatest early 20th century poet)& affirmed my sense that john ashbery might be the greatest late 20th century poet.

20 years later, arguing w/richard rorty in seminar at uva, it was interesting to see that, while rorty championed bloom, there was a "new" bloom, one that didn't have anything to do w/freud. this was the bloviating bloom of canons & academic apocalyptic doom. rorty had earlier dismissed freud, using william james' old idea of "use value." he didn't see that freud had any use anymore. when i pointed out that his buddy bloom had built his entire critical apparatus on & around obvious freudian concepts, he played dumb. he claimed bloom had told him he had a thousand page manuscript on freud in his attic that he saw as worthless. "you don't see that bloom is actually enacting his own idea of anxiety of influence?," i asked, stunned by this revelation. "i don't quite know what you mean by 'anxiety of influence,' he replied. was he playing devil's advocate? "it's the name & thrust of his first major work of criticism," i replied. " well, i think harold isn't working w/any of his early THEORIES anymore," he said, emphasizing the word "theories" the way someone might stress the word cancer.

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