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The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry

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Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence has cast its long shadow of influence since it was first published in 1973. Through an insightful study of Romantic poets, Bloom puts forth his central vision of the relations between precursors and the individual artist. His argument that all literary texts are a strong misreading of those that precede them had an enormous impact on Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence has cast its long shadow of influence since it was first published in 1973. Through an insightful study of Romantic poets, Bloom puts forth his central vision of the relations between precursors and the individual artist. His argument that all literary texts are a strong misreading of those that precede them had an enormous impact on the practice of criticism and post-structuralist literary theory. The book remains a central work of criticism for all students of literature. Written in a moving personal style, anchored by concrete examples, and memorable quotations, this second edition of Bloom's classic work maintains that the anxiety of influence cannot be evaded - neither by poets nor by responsible readers and critics. A new introduction, centering upon Shakespeare and Marlowe explains the genesis of Bloom's thinking, and the subsequent influence of the book on literary criticism of the past quarter of a century.


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Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence has cast its long shadow of influence since it was first published in 1973. Through an insightful study of Romantic poets, Bloom puts forth his central vision of the relations between precursors and the individual artist. His argument that all literary texts are a strong misreading of those that precede them had an enormous impact on Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence has cast its long shadow of influence since it was first published in 1973. Through an insightful study of Romantic poets, Bloom puts forth his central vision of the relations between precursors and the individual artist. His argument that all literary texts are a strong misreading of those that precede them had an enormous impact on the practice of criticism and post-structuralist literary theory. The book remains a central work of criticism for all students of literature. Written in a moving personal style, anchored by concrete examples, and memorable quotations, this second edition of Bloom's classic work maintains that the anxiety of influence cannot be evaded - neither by poets nor by responsible readers and critics. A new introduction, centering upon Shakespeare and Marlowe explains the genesis of Bloom's thinking, and the subsequent influence of the book on literary criticism of the past quarter of a century.

30 review for The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cymru Roberts

    Harold Bloom is an easy guy to dislike, and even easier to make fun of. Watching his interviews has become somewhat of a hobby of mine, and in them he often seems sullen and dismissive. He’s a portly bloke with bushy eyebrows and a weird accent from teaching himself English at the age of six. He also has a tendency to say that your favorite author or favorite book is utter garbage, and that really seems to piss people off, as if no one should ever have their taste challenged or have to formulate Harold Bloom is an easy guy to dislike, and even easier to make fun of. Watching his interviews has become somewhat of a hobby of mine, and in them he often seems sullen and dismissive. He’s a portly bloke with bushy eyebrows and a weird accent from teaching himself English at the age of six. He also has a tendency to say that your favorite author or favorite book is utter garbage, and that really seems to piss people off, as if no one should ever have their taste challenged or have to formulate even to themselves why it is they like something. I try not to focus on what he says he doesn’t like. It took me a while to come around though; he has said numerous times that Blood Meridian is Cormac’s only good book, causing me to be like “WTF?!” He’s notoriously bashed Steven King and JK Rowling. And he said of David Foster Wallace, “He can’t think. He can’t write. He has no discernable talent.” Ouch. Postmodern scholars everywhere found a new champion of their Hate when that interview was published. Nevermind that what he says about these authors is pretty much true, especially if you look at the work without emotion (hard to do and kind of antithetical to the reading process I know). The thing about Bloom is however, he has read so much (he claims to have once been able to read 1,000 pages an hour and remember everything, and I believe him) that his tolerance for clunky dialogue and cute epiphanies is less than zero. People tend to only see him for his negative comments – which is a dire shame because he speaks much more about the things he likes – so that he has become the caricature of The Old White Man. He’s actually Jewish… and he is one of the most outspoken critics of what most people don’t even realize is “Academia” today. The most important thing I’ll take from The Anxiety of Influence is that Bloom has moved beyond reading literature in the framework of personal taste. He has a good quote about poems being like baseball teams, some like this one, others like that one, and their isn’t really any right or wrong in what a person likes. Bloom even reads in literature beyond what the author her/himself might have claimed it to be about which is at once a most controversial statement and raises his form of criticism to the level of philosophy. Fittingly, he quotes Nietzsche frequently throughout the book, even though you can tell he doesn’t particularly like F.W. Cuz that’s not the point! He sees something true even in authors he wouldn't “like” on FB, and that is something that is almost lost on a culture that reads strictly for entertainment. So what does he say exactly? He says that a great poet is consumed with anxiety when it comes to their precursor poets/poems, because a truly great poet can’t stand the fact that someone said the same thing better and more completely before him. Thus, in order to subsume his influences, he must go through a process of deliberately misreading his precursor, dehumanizing himself, breaking down everything that made him a poet to begin with, re-finding his poetic spirit (or daemon), until eventually, maybe, he is strong enough to do battle with his long-dead great poet precursor, his primary influencer, his Great Original. In the rare instances where this occurs successfully, it is possible Bloom claims, for a dead poet to resemble a living one, as if the dead had been influenced by someone that isn’t even born yet. Wow. That is heavy, to me. This is a very quick synopsis, but it encapsulates a lot of what excites me about reading: the genealogies of influence, conversing with dead spirits, becoming friends with someone you could never ever meet. Of course it is an Anxiety, and there were parts of the book where I almost forgot why anyone should read in the first place. Reading for entertainment and escape is not a bad thing at all in my opinion. Surely all of writing can’t be some humorless battle with dead guys, where the primary goal is to best the writers you love the most and whom have given you sublime levels of comfort and reassurance. It seems counterintuitive. Bloom would argue to this point that a writer doesn’t even need to be conscious of the Anxiety of Influence; he need not even know who his precursor(s) is/are. The idea that the ego is only one, and possibly a minor, player in this whole writing thing – which at its best is really divination… well, that is admittedly controversial, but powerful nonetheless. These concepts are expounded here in a framework of Bloom’s devising that relies heavily on Freud (and I admit I have not read Freud) as well as Gnostic beliefs (of which I only have ideas), not to mention countless authors from all disciplines, eras, and styles, whom he namedrops usually without even using the full name, as if it were too obvious. Bloom is operating at the highest levels here, and why shouldn’t he? He is an American Shaman and his Spirit World is that of literature. He does cite examples along the way, but I could have used more. This I hope will be addressed in the spiritual sequels to this book, A Map of Misreading and Kabbalah and Criticism. To read beyond taste expands one’s mind. I believe it will eventually have the result of expanding one’s taste. Bloom takes this to the nth degree here and has taken heat for it since its first publication. Culture needs controversy however. We need someone to challenge our beliefs at the highest level. You don’t have to buy the philosophy, but at the very least, Bloom’s love for books and preternatural ability to read them is worthy of respect.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    Every time I reread this, I become more dissatisfied with Bloom's central thesis about the poet's necessary "misprision" in order to clear the way for creative expression. "Misreading," to me assumes a correct reading, and I've had it up to here with professorially mandated "correct" readings decades ago in college. Age and experience has convinced me that every reader's engagement with a text is "correct" for that reader, the question is the ability to convey our ideas of the text. I also believ Every time I reread this, I become more dissatisfied with Bloom's central thesis about the poet's necessary "misprision" in order to clear the way for creative expression. "Misreading," to me assumes a correct reading, and I've had it up to here with professorially mandated "correct" readings decades ago in college. Age and experience has convinced me that every reader's engagement with a text is "correct" for that reader, the question is the ability to convey our ideas of the text. I also believe that all literature is a constant conversation, so in that sense there shouldn't be an anxiety of influence at all. That aside, the prologue to the new edition, basically a love letter to Shakespeare, is sheer pleasure to read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Bloom is here an American Nietzschean ventriloquist speaking through the dummy of William Blake's corpse, a rhetorician almost as eloquent and just as evil as Milton's Satan.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    My doctoral thesis on Marvell,"This Critical Age," grew from this book, Bate's "Burden of the Past" and others. However, I downgrade Bloom's dependence on Freud's son-father conflict, and his frank focus on "strong poets, major figures"--again, a masculine metaphor.* (In my notes I ask if Bloom's selections here suggest "a survey-course mind.") I recall he abandons Ben Jonson (and by corollary, Marvell) as long prior to the Romantic anxiety of influence. I agree there, since Marvell's poems are My doctoral thesis on Marvell,"This Critical Age," grew from this book, Bate's "Burden of the Past" and others. However, I downgrade Bloom's dependence on Freud's son-father conflict, and his frank focus on "strong poets, major figures"--again, a masculine metaphor.* (In my notes I ask if Bloom's selections here suggest "a survey-course mind.") I recall he abandons Ben Jonson (and by corollary, Marvell) as long prior to the Romantic anxiety of influence. I agree there, since Marvell's poems are all critiques of other poems, all unanxious, very self-assured. Bloom concludes that the subject of poetry for the last three centuries has been this anxiety, "each poet's fear that no proper work remains for him to perform"(148). What? Clearly false for Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, Stevens, all of whom would agree with Ben Jonson that poetry is mainly hard work. Bloom nots that Stevens denies poetic influence, much less its anxiety, says he held off from reading the highly mannered, like Pound and Eliot (7). Agreed, again, that "poetic influence need not make poets less original; as it often makes them more original"; this surely fits Andrew Marvell. Agreed on Shakespeare, who "belongs to the great age before the flood, before the anxiety of influence became central"(11). Bloom cites Bate three years earlier, the poet inherits a melancholy from Enlightenment skepticism of his mutual inheritance of imaginative wealth from both the ancients and the Renaissance masters. Maybe Bloom best applies to the Victorian misinterpreters (another name for those influenced) of Keats, Tennyson, Arnold, Hopkins, Rossetti. Strongly disagree with Bloom's "strong poets": "no certain Titanic figure has arisen since Milton and Wordsworth, not even Yeats or Stevens"(32). He encourages us to laugh at "the mind is its own place.../ can make a Heaven of Hell, or Hell of Heaven" (C.S. Lewis). But I assert with Marvell, "Meanwhile the mind from pleasure less Withdraws into its happiness; The mind, that ocean where each kind Does straight its own resemblance find; Yet it creates, transcending these, Far other worlds, and other seas; Annihilating all that 's made To a green thought in a green shade." I find these the best writing on our minds, better than Freud. Perhaps, too, Marvell is equal to his inheritance from the Classics--after all, he taught Latin and other languages to Lord General Fairfax's daughter--and from the Renaissance. * Arguably, the very best writers in England and America during the last couple centuries were women: Austen and Dickinson, not to mention the many women equal to lesser lights like Tennyson and Trollope. So what is the model of female inheritance and conflict? Freud doesn't have it. Who does?

  5. 4 out of 5

    aarthi

    "When he was 35, Harold Bloom fell into a deep depression, and in the midst of that depression he had a terrible nightmare that a giant winged creature was pressing down on his chest. He woke up gasping for breath, and the next day he began writing a book that would become The Anxiety of Influence, in which he argues that all great writers are obsessed with breaking away from the great writers of the past. The book made him famous, even though few people could understand it. A year after it was "When he was 35, Harold Bloom fell into a deep depression, and in the midst of that depression he had a terrible nightmare that a giant winged creature was pressing down on his chest. He woke up gasping for breath, and the next day he began writing a book that would become The Anxiety of Influence, in which he argues that all great writers are obsessed with breaking away from the great writers of the past. The book made him famous, even though few people could understand it. A year after it was published, Bloom reread it himself, and found that he couldn't understand it either." Thus far I am not understanding it either. Will keep you posted.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mattia Ravasi

    Video-review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1Lzb... Amazingly dicky on several different levels, there is much to admire in the scope and amibitions underlying this theory of poetry. It might look old-school to the point of outdatedness, but it can still make any dedicated reader feel like they know way less then they should about the subject of their passion, which all things considered is always a great thing. Video-review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1Lzb... Amazingly dicky on several different levels, there is much to admire in the scope and amibitions underlying this theory of poetry. It might look old-school to the point of outdatedness, but it can still make any dedicated reader feel like they know way less then they should about the subject of their passion, which all things considered is always a great thing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    James

    ''All modern schools believe that metaphor, or figurative language of any kind, is founded upon a pattern of error, whether you ascribe an element of will or intentionality to it, as I do in my belief that writers creatively misunderstand one another, or whether you ascribe it, as deconstructionists do, to the nature of language. But when fallacy is universal, it doesn't seem to make much sense any more to talk about specific fallacies - affective, pathetic, intentional, or whatever. They have v ''All modern schools believe that metaphor, or figurative language of any kind, is founded upon a pattern of error, whether you ascribe an element of will or intentionality to it, as I do in my belief that writers creatively misunderstand one another, or whether you ascribe it, as deconstructionists do, to the nature of language. But when fallacy is universal, it doesn't seem to make much sense any more to talk about specific fallacies - affective, pathetic, intentional, or whatever. They have vanished in the general fog of what might be called error. As soon as you emphasize rhetoric to the point where rhetoric is a kind of quicksand, then the fallacies vanish.'' --HB And would it were with the cases of affective phallacy on this site.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    I hate this book. Harold Bloom is an idiot.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katarzyna

    So this book came highly recommended, I'm interested in criticism, and generally I expected something challenging to read but at the same time illuminating. The point is, I'm not feeling illuminated at all. This may be because I misunderstood the central idea. This may be also because I find it to be utter bullshit. It is, to be fair, very interesting, and it may well shed some light on the creative process; but while I find it obvious that yes, poets do influence one another, I can't really agr So this book came highly recommended, I'm interested in criticism, and generally I expected something challenging to read but at the same time illuminating. The point is, I'm not feeling illuminated at all. This may be because I misunderstood the central idea. This may be also because I find it to be utter bullshit. It is, to be fair, very interesting, and it may well shed some light on the creative process; but while I find it obvious that yes, poets do influence one another, I can't really agree with the idea of misreadings, since I think that texts can provoke different responses (Roman Ingarden's places of indeterminacy come here to mind), and I found the thing rather difficult to read in general. (This is not, in itself, a bad thing. I didn't expect it to be easy. But I expected it to make sense). The preface, though, and Bloom's thoughts on Shakespeare are brilliant and I wish it didn't stand out from the rest of the book so much - I'd have liked to benefit more from the whole thing. Three stars from me, almost solely for the preface.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris Via

    ## from second reading ## Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGLpH.... ## from first reading ## Bloom's first book is a phenomenon. He covers his 6 stages of revisionary ratios, through which poets may pass: clinamen, tessera, kenosis, daemonisation, askesis, apophrades; and the symbol of the Covering Cherub (Genesis, Ezekiel, Blake), which casts the longest shadow over every ephebe poet and conceals the way to self-birth. "[S]trong poets make [poetic] history by misreading one another, s ## from second reading ## Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGLpH.... ## from first reading ## Bloom's first book is a phenomenon. He covers his 6 stages of revisionary ratios, through which poets may pass: clinamen, tessera, kenosis, daemonisation, askesis, apophrades; and the symbol of the Covering Cherub (Genesis, Ezekiel, Blake), which casts the longest shadow over every ephebe poet and conceals the way to self-birth. "[S]trong poets make [poetic] history by misreading one another, so as to clear imaginative space for themselves." "[R]eally strong poets can read only themselves."

  11. 4 out of 5

    عماد العتيلي

    ‎‫‏‬‬ I got introduced to Prof. Harold Bloom while watching Yale’s course on Literature and Critical Theory. I didn’t know how to feel about him and his theory of influence, but now that I’ve read his entire book in which he presented his theory in detail, I can say that It explained many things for me, and it changed the way I look to novels and poems that I find similar, some way or another, to another novel or poem. The most important lesson that I’ve learnt is, influence is not a bad thing. It ‎‫‏‬‬ I got introduced to Prof. Harold Bloom while watching Yale’s course on Literature and Critical Theory. I didn’t know how to feel about him and his theory of influence, but now that I’ve read his entire book in which he presented his theory in detail, I can say that It explained many things for me, and it changed the way I look to novels and poems that I find similar, some way or another, to another novel or poem. The most important lesson that I’ve learnt is, influence is not a bad thing. It is natural and, sometimes, beneficial. Harold Bloom is my favorite literary critic so far. I recommend reading his books.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brent Myers

    It works to woo the ladies.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Akylina

    Only read the first chapter, "Clinamen or poetic misprision", for a course I'm taking.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Eric Cartier

    "Everything that makes up this book [...] intends to be part of a unified meditation on the melancholy of the creative mind's desperate insistence upon priority." A challenging book in which the writer assumes one's familiarity with Milton, Freud, the Bible, Nietzsche, Shakespeare, the Greeks, and numerous other philosophers and poets. It takes a while to settle into the florid style, and it helps to note the meaning of uncommon words Bloom repeatedly uses, such as 'ephebe' and 'misprision'. Bloo "Everything that makes up this book [...] intends to be part of a unified meditation on the melancholy of the creative mind's desperate insistence upon priority." A challenging book in which the writer assumes one's familiarity with Milton, Freud, the Bible, Nietzsche, Shakespeare, the Greeks, and numerous other philosophers and poets. It takes a while to settle into the florid style, and it helps to note the meaning of uncommon words Bloom repeatedly uses, such as 'ephebe' and 'misprision'. Bloom's central argument is intriguing, though: because a select few have said nearly all there is to say (and put it best, and put it first) - so that their names and works hover over the present day - those called upon to be poets struggle to find new forms of expression. The catch is the living must engage with the works of the dead, but must not be overwhelmed by them into silence or defeat. The precursors flood us, and our imaginations can die by drowning in them, but no imaginative life is possible if such inundation is wholly evaded. The young poet's pursuit of originality is quixotic, however, and Bloom seems to imply (in 1973) that Poetry is weakening over time, that it can only ever refer back to the great texts of the past. And any overt effort the ephebe exerts to establish a truly unique tone risks embarrassment, a stilted self-consciousness [see: this sentence]. No one can bear to see his own inner struggle as being mere artifice, yet the poet, in writing his poem, is forced to see the assertion against influence as being a ritualized quest for identity. So I guess I buy into some of Bloom's Freudian take on all this, but he lays it on pretty thick, and his ranking of the "strong poets" is confusing to follow throughout. That said, I benefited from reading a book this heady and dense, and I belatedly thank Bloom for compelling me to declare I'll read Paradise Lost.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Yağmur

    bloom is so in love with shakespeare i kid you not

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alex "greatest" drizzle Kitchens "ever"

    Ok this book is billed as the starting point for Literary Criticism in America. Ok let me say that Harold Bloom has an idea about poetry as being written from a place that is not uh..."of ones-self." That's not his wording. His idea is that poetry should cover all of nature in a big cloak and see the threads that run through it. This is his approach to criticism as well. This book can be read as an introduction to poetry or as a philosophical essay. Ok Bloom see's the innocence of poetry and att Ok this book is billed as the starting point for Literary Criticism in America. Ok let me say that Harold Bloom has an idea about poetry as being written from a place that is not uh..."of ones-self." That's not his wording. His idea is that poetry should cover all of nature in a big cloak and see the threads that run through it. This is his approach to criticism as well. This book can be read as an introduction to poetry or as a philosophical essay. Ok Bloom see's the innocence of poetry and attempts to identify the essence of poetic figures and ideas based on what he sees as the thread that runs through everything. His main argument is that poets look back at poets before them and want to do something different from those who went before. This leads to new work but also takes them away from innocence and the source of poetic inspiration. I think that this is the case in dreaming. We rarely dream when we're living in the modern world because information passes through us in a dream-like state and there's no real reason to look back at things we intentionally overlook in the day. We also experience words as written in stone and are no longer confused or need to fill in blanks because of modern simulated reality. If we dream of objects like a cat with hands that turns into a man doing a handstand then we are doing active dreaming. Our unconscious is primed for creativity in such a way. For Bloom, the unconscious is constantly under siege by The Anxiety of Influence. Poetic innocence implies that the Poet is doing precisely what he wants and doesn't think twice about the consequences. Anxiety implies he has a rigid structure that he needs to adhere to and overcome. These two ideals are in play and the paradox of his thought is the vital part of his theory. For me, poetry has the quality of being different because it allows for new grammar, new rhythm, new imagery. It utilizes all the senses to produce something lesser spirits must catch up to. Isn't that the joy of reading it? That you would have to struggle to understand what it took to reach the level of the greats is the anxiety. That you battle against your ignorance to grasp the poet's method. But once you sit down to create it is probably enormously enjoyable. I think that The Anxiety of Influence is an idea Harold Bloom uses to supplement his vision of direct influence across the generations of poets. Innocence means, at it's heart, free of consequence, and Anxiety basically means the opposite. These contradictory ideas are posed but the paradox isn't resolved. It's posed as the bane of a poet's existence that he will be unable to be innocent again. In his ignorance the poet accepts the Anxiety of Influence rather than innocence and refuses the idea that his innocence can lead him to "the place." If the poet accepts the Anxiety of Influence as his own becoming (Nietzschean book) then innocence must fit itself inside the being of the poet post-Anxiety in order for there to be poet. What is this other than the ability to be playful with the new tools he has earned from previous poets. Innocence can only rest in the fact that the old poets are dead and the poet is the one who can do what he wants because there are no consequences from a dead man nor any of his contemporaries. This new innocence takes poetry as a type of dream where everything gets re-arranged and the currency of vitality is once redeemed by the poem itself. It requires a looking back and directly appropriating old poems. This vision is different from Bloom's vision where the dead men haunt the poet yet he fails to understand his misguided ways.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lee Foust

    Hard for me to critique a book of criticism as its usefulness to one seems, to me, rather more subjective than even the overall value of a work of fiction. Also, as a writer, I will probably tend to be more critical of critics, resenting their critiques of what I do more than the attempts, either successful or failed, of fellow writers of fiction and poetry in their efforts at self-expression. So, that said... Having heard capsulized versions of Bloom's argument here for years in Graduate school Hard for me to critique a book of criticism as its usefulness to one seems, to me, rather more subjective than even the overall value of a work of fiction. Also, as a writer, I will probably tend to be more critical of critics, resenting their critiques of what I do more than the attempts, either successful or failed, of fellow writers of fiction and poetry in their efforts at self-expression. So, that said... Having heard capsulized versions of Bloom's argument here for years in Graduate school (particularly from John Freccero, who found it quite applicable to Dante's presentation of the pilgrim's relationship to the character of Virgil in Alighieri's Commedia) I was quite pleased to find a cheap second hand copy and to actually read the source of the many mere scholarly references and "see for myself," as it were. Sadly, though, I don't feel all that much more enlightened now having read the text. The general thesis still seems quite valid--but I had garnered that from the anecdotal references. Most of the examples given are from Romantic and modern poets whose work I really don't know well enough to judge the validity of the points, as Bloom does in his great erudition. I found the chapter on Askesis or purgation useful as I have written an historical novel about a fellow artist (the Baroque architect Francesco Borromini) in Purgatory so that works for me particularly well--how can such a work not engage the subject, and, through the anxiety of being subsumed by both subject as his aesthetics, not be a kind of purgation of certain baroque impulses in my own work? Check. Bloom writes like a douche. Sad to say, because I went to a couple of his lectures in grad school and I have never, ever been so impressed with someone's store of knowledge and perspicacity in person--I quite liked him. The prose of this text, however, is a bit much for what it is--sounds overly sure of itself and superior and flouncy (whatever that means)--not qualities I saw in the man when I heard him speak. So, ramble ramble. It's an interesting theory/approach but there is more to poetry than anxiety, and more to the human mind as expressed in literature than even Freud imagined, I believe, so its POV is somewhat limited/limiting, no? What do you think?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    While Harold Bloom's seminal work 'The Anxiety of Influence' is considered to be a confusing book for the majority of its readers and students, I believe that it offers a valid argument and contribution to literary criticism. 'The Anxiety of Influence' does not simply propose another manifesto for antithetical criticism, but posits an alternative way of regarding the astronomical force that is poetic influence: "We reduce-if at all-to another poem. The meaning of a poem can only be another poem. While Harold Bloom's seminal work 'The Anxiety of Influence' is considered to be a confusing book for the majority of its readers and students, I believe that it offers a valid argument and contribution to literary criticism. 'The Anxiety of Influence' does not simply propose another manifesto for antithetical criticism, but posits an alternative way of regarding the astronomical force that is poetic influence: "We reduce-if at all-to another poem. The meaning of a poem can only be another poem." For Bloom, the issue is the concept of true poetic history, which incorporates a poet's whole 'family romance' (to put it as Bloom so charmingly put it himself). He describes the development of an ephebe ('disciple') in terms of his relation with the precursor ('forefather'), who assumes the god-like quality of omnipresence. I admire the way Bloom described poetic misprision from clinamen (swerve from the precursor), to tessera (in which a poet antithetically and paradoxically 'completes' his precursor), kenosis ('emptying' through a willed loss in continuity), daemonization (the counter-sublime), askesis (purgation) and apophrades (the return of the dead, to use Bloom's phrase). For me, that simplifies his theory considerably. Bloom also elaborates: "Clinamen and tessera strive to complete the dead, and kenosis and daemonization work to repress memory of the dead, but askesis is the contest proper, the match-to-the-death with the dead." The precursor plays a huge role in Bloom's theory, and that is what is meant by his omnipresence. However complex Bloom's theories may seem, it is hard to disagree with them, especially since there is a lot of passion imbued in what he says. His preface is one of the most spirited criticism of Shakespeare I have read in a long time, for example. No doubt his work will continue to be misunderstood, but in my opinion only by people who refuse to grasp the terrible reality that is the anxiety of influence.

  19. 4 out of 5

    8314

    I'll just let the professionals do the criticism: https://www.theguardian.com/books/200... I was once accused of being condescending by a previous colleague on Facebook. This was quite … surprising, since I thought not exposing and mocking the American belief "my ignorance is as good as your knowledge" is already benevolent and modest enough. Now, looking at Terry Eagleton, I realized that the viciousness of literature critics is simply too heady for the not-notoriously tender mathematician consci I'll just let the professionals do the criticism: https://www.theguardian.com/books/200... I was once accused of being condescending by a previous colleague on Facebook. This was quite … surprising, since I thought not exposing and mocking the American belief "my ignorance is as good as your knowledge" is already benevolent and modest enough. Now, looking at Terry Eagleton, I realized that the viciousness of literature critics is simply too heady for the not-notoriously tender mathematician conscience and I've been hanging out with the verbally tough guys way too much. But they are out there. And they are far more interesting than those who possess nothing strong enough to offend anyone, a.k.a "nice" people. And, oh, have I ever mentioned that tender colleague labeled himself a "poet"?

  20. 5 out of 5

    secondwomn

    although this purports to be a general theory of poetry, i find it extremely limited in its scope. bloom has insightful things to say, but they aren't as universally applicable as presented (nor will everyone agree about his judgements as to who actually constitutes a great poet). if you are into freudian analysis and male anglo poetry, then this will probably be a 5-star read for you. if your interests take you farther afield, then you may end up feeling similarly excluded by the text. i hate t although this purports to be a general theory of poetry, i find it extremely limited in its scope. bloom has insightful things to say, but they aren't as universally applicable as presented (nor will everyone agree about his judgements as to who actually constitutes a great poet). if you are into freudian analysis and male anglo poetry, then this will probably be a 5-star read for you. if your interests take you farther afield, then you may end up feeling similarly excluded by the text. i hate to give bloom 2 stars, because it's a joy to watch his thought process unfold, but the narrowness of his vision here is distressing. (note: i read the first, not the second, edition) thoroughly useful, however, in terms of my thesis work.

  21. 5 out of 5

    RobbMW

    I don't think that anyone who writes books about how to read books should be taken seriously outside of academia. And even then it shows lack of conviction on the part of the reader. I find Mr. Bloom is pretty much writing "Cliff Notes" for would be intellectuals so they too can defend their snobbery. If you can point out one modern popular writer he has praised then I will rescind my words. I am just expressing my frustration at a person who takes no risks or has done anything original in their I don't think that anyone who writes books about how to read books should be taken seriously outside of academia. And even then it shows lack of conviction on the part of the reader. I find Mr. Bloom is pretty much writing "Cliff Notes" for would be intellectuals so they too can defend their snobbery. If you can point out one modern popular writer he has praised then I will rescind my words. I am just expressing my frustration at a person who takes no risks or has done anything original in their entire career coming off a some kind of genius because they praise what has is already accepted as beloved literary works by those before them. Harold Bloom is a Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale. George W. Bush graduated from Yale... nuff said.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brianne

    Ok I tried to tackle this last night. From my notes in the book, it looks like I didn't make it past the first chapter the first read-through. Was probably assigned this book for class. So: Bloom's poetics: Stages 1-3: The poet's last hurrah, progressing through a series of gestures resembling the last gasps of air and fight a person takes before drowning; Stages 4-6: The poet's gradual emptying of self and personality until the poet is able to hold the predecessor's work so blankly that it appea Ok I tried to tackle this last night. From my notes in the book, it looks like I didn't make it past the first chapter the first read-through. Was probably assigned this book for class. So: Bloom's poetics: Stages 1-3: The poet's last hurrah, progressing through a series of gestures resembling the last gasps of air and fight a person takes before drowning; Stages 4-6: The poet's gradual emptying of self and personality until the poet is able to hold the predecessor's work so blankly that it appears as if the predecessor imitates *him*. So Emersonian! So Hindu. The poet as conqueror of time. But then what?

  23. 5 out of 5

    vi macdonald

    Oh look, more of that Freudian Reading based literary theory nonsense that made you a big shot back in the 70s and 80s but now just makes you look like a laughable asshat. Harold Bloom is a dickhead, there's not really any other way of saying it; the man is simply a buffoon. His theory almost verges on being interesting sometimes, but a lack of anything even resembling evidence reduces this entire book to, at best, foolish conjecture. Also Harold Bloom's uncomfortable misogynist streak, while no Oh look, more of that Freudian Reading based literary theory nonsense that made you a big shot back in the 70s and 80s but now just makes you look like a laughable asshat. Harold Bloom is a dickhead, there's not really any other way of saying it; the man is simply a buffoon. His theory almost verges on being interesting sometimes, but a lack of anything even resembling evidence reduces this entire book to, at best, foolish conjecture. Also Harold Bloom's uncomfortable misogynist streak, while not as obvious as in Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human is still there, which isn't a fun time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Işıl

    no. i thought i could read this, not thinking of the course in which this reading is assigned, but no. bloom comes off as attempting to be sensational via basically throwing shit at your every single favorite author and literary work but no; doing so does not make the critic groundbreaking. his book is like twitter accounts of famous newspapers where they make a shocking headline so that they'll get more link click hits. And oh, guess what in the link its all horseshit. i had to toss this book a no. i thought i could read this, not thinking of the course in which this reading is assigned, but no. bloom comes off as attempting to be sensational via basically throwing shit at your every single favorite author and literary work but no; doing so does not make the critic groundbreaking. his book is like twitter accounts of famous newspapers where they make a shocking headline so that they'll get more link click hits. And oh, guess what in the link its all horseshit. i had to toss this book aside. no, just, NO.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Liam Guilar

    One of those books in which the magisterial critic sits in judgement on the practices of poets and hands out the label of his approval, "Strong Poet" in this case, to whoever he considers most worthy. No matter how many times i reread this book it baffles me that it was so influential.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Who does this guy think he is?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    I didn't really get it. But this book did generate a pretty substantial vocabulary list.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Douglas

    Love this informative, well written work that makes you bend your mind to get out of that box you don't know you're in.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jay Sandover

    It makes me anxious to think how influential it is.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    There is the raw material, or at least the germ of an idea, for a good book somewhere in this mess.  There are some books that are simply ill-conceived and worth less than the paper and ink and the value of time it takes to create and read them, but this is not such a book.  To be sure, this book is baffling and it is unclear what exactly the author thought when he was writing this, who he was attempting to win over to his viewpoint about poetry, and why he made this book so inaccessible to read There is the raw material, or at least the germ of an idea, for a good book somewhere in this mess.  There are some books that are simply ill-conceived and worth less than the paper and ink and the value of time it takes to create and read them, but this is not such a book.  To be sure, this book is baffling and it is unclear what exactly the author thought when he was writing this, who he was attempting to win over to his viewpoint about poetry, and why he made this book so inaccessible to readers who are not willing to adopt his baffling and often unnecessary neologisms to discuss the poetics of poetry.  The book reads like someone who is trying to adopt language over their level of competence to impress other pretentious people about their knowledge about literature, but this does not sit easily with the author's lengthy introduction added to the second edition in order to make it easier (!) to understand the point of this book and where he shows off his Bardophile tendencies but manages to completely miss the point about the greatness of Shakespeare being accessible to people across cultural and temporal divides, something this book unfortunately does not have. Bloom begins this short but unmercifully tedious book with a lengthy preface (not included in the table of contents) about the influence that Shakespeare drew from Marlowe and how he transcended it (although the author never talks about Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, typically enough, nor his play about the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre).  He uses this preface to make fun of both Jews and French, showing that even the pretentious intellectuals are not immune to the basest of cultural prejudices.  After this comes a short prologue and introduction that discuss the problematic nature of the influence of writers on other writers.  The author spends the rest of the book discussing six different aspects of that influence, some of which are unhelpfully translated using equally arcane and technical English words.  So, the author begins by discussing clinamen or poetic misprision as the first stage of this anxiety of either a sexual or spiritual nature.  After that comes a discussion of tessera, or completion and antithesis, which the author views as part of a dialectic sequence of cultural progress.  There is then a discussion of kenosis or repetition and discontinuity, because mere continuity in the author's eyes is not sufficient to account for any sort of cultural growth.  What follows is an interchapter (!) that serves as a manifesto for antithetical criticism that rises above the anxiety of inspiration, showing the critic as a godlike figure among the neurotic men (and women) who actually create literature and who are haunted by the influence of contemporary or earlier authors.  Following this there are chapters on daemonization or the counter-sublime, by which writers attempt (unsuccessfully) to negate previous ones, the askesis or purgation and solipsism by which writers inevitably end up alone in their own sad and private universe, and apophrades or the return of the dead where writers are able to make others read differently through their greatness, and a closing reflectoin on the path of writing and criticism. This book reads like a massive ego trip from someone who has read widely but not necessarily well.  Who is the author talking to?  He is certainly not talking to most readers, as anyone who has read as widely as he does will notice areas where his ideas are faulty and where his selections of the writings of others is noticeably biased and shockingly unreflective.  So if this book can only be understood by people who have a fair grasp of the technical language of textual criticism and can only be agreed with by people who have not read a great deal of the writings that the author refers to here, who can enjoy this book?  The author obviously enjoyed the book enough to append to his existing book more than 40 pages of an introduction to the second edition (which I read) where he fails to understand why it is that his first book tanked like the Oakland Raiders and failed to serve its intended purpose of making readers realize what a great textual critic Bloom was concerning the matter of influence in poetry.  Bloom certainly wrote great books, most of which are about individual books that the author enthuses over and seeks to introduce to young raiders, but this book is not one of them.

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