Americancer: The Silly Anxieties of Harold Bloom
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 1/27/01
In 1973 Yale University professor, literary poobah & would-be vates Harold Bloom foisted a monumentally bold & silly book (both bold in its silliness & silly in its boldness!) into the public literary realm. Titled The Anxiety Of Influence: A Theory Of Poetry it posited some rather manifest, & trite, observations garbed in pseudo-Freudian mumbo-jumbo- much like most of Bloom’s simplistic Manichaean thought & writing. Although these observations had some truth, they were true to very limited areas & small degrees. Here, then, the sine qua non of the book/theory, & its 6 pillars/techniques (or in Bloom’s hoodooery revisionary ratios):
The Argument: Past Masters are always & necessarily better than latter-day scrubs (Bloom referring originally to poetry, alone, yet he & others have greatly expanded its application since) because they came first; therefore got to all the great & essential ideas/things first. This circular reasoning/paralogism is best called Classic Chicken Littleism.
The 6 pillars:
1) Clinamen (or misprision- Bloom)- The scrub must always misread/misinterpret the Master- i.e.- claim he (most often, as opposed to the shes now readily available for future scrubs to misread) was OK to a point, then fucked up so badly that the scrub is obliged to paste a DeKooningian smile over the Mona Lisa!
2) Tessera- The scrub sees the Master is a Genius (& didn’t fuck up) but did not go far enough, so the scrub must therefore complete the thing (Master’s idea/work/oeuvre)- i.e.- the scrub must make art in the way the Master would have, had the Master not been so dumb/given up/been cut down in his prime like so many past Masters (be it by circumstance or their own hand).
3) Kenosis- The scrub glumly realizes he cannot surpass the Master’s works, so the scrub labels his garbage GREAT- but in a different way than the Master’s- i.e.- the scrub declaims apples cannot be compared with Shelley Winters, much less oranges.
4) Daemonization- The scrub must lessen the Master’s genius/works by claiming him/it “merely one of the many great Masters/works in the form’s Pantheon”- i.e.- the scrub counters, “C’mon, with all the Citizen Kanes, 2001: A Space Odysseys, & Apocalypse Nows out there, you cannot say Titanic is not right up there with them!”
5) Askesis- The scrub’s purgative of putting his stamp on something already done by the Master- i.e.- the scrub rewrites Paradise Lost as a heroin snortfest war between supermodels & rap stars in Burbank, then preens over his originality.
6) Apophrades- The scrub’s assumption of the Master, seen anew through the scrub’s work- i.e.- the scrub (son) kills & devours the Master (father), shits him out, then claims to have always loved the shit/Master/father, and killed/devoured him for his own good.
Now, as said, to a small degree, each of these points have some truth to them & seem obvious. Who cannot point to an artist/artwork/instance of such in the arts, much less Life itself? Bloom’s cardinal error is that he has never budged from, nor expanded, these observations over the decades since he first made them. He is, then, not even poor old A Square (from Abbott’s Flatland)- moreso & precisely a single point in a short Lineland. Or, to pseudo-scientifically ape Bloom: Bloom’s microscopic purview of art & life fails to realize its own quarky demesne revels in its own self-sanguine inability to not just “not recognize”, but “not even allow” for the hypothesis, much less reality, of a macroscopic world. It is all part of this closed, reductivist, & sacerdotal sea the Ahab of the Romance wanders, lonely & afraid of, on & in.
But this is not new, as Bloom has always displayed a great breadth of reading (although not nearly as wide as his Dead White Male pursuits will allow) leavened by an onion-skin depth of reading. His clearly prosaic mind (while often up to the easier task of critically engaging prose) is almost comic in its poetic insularity- to this day I still chuckle over his lumping of Sylvia Plath & Maya Angelou together as bad poets who share many traits. In brief, while a passable prose critic, Bloom is a terrible poetry critic.
In the decades & books since Anxiety Bloom has not just not grown- if anything he’s retrogressed; thereby reducing himself into the role of perfect foil/whipping boy to the carping Multicultural Crowd & Politically Correct Elitists he reviles for their (in Bloom’s view, & a rare correct one!) attempts to not erect Mountains to rival Bloom’s Himalayas, but to level said Himalayas to a Kansan plain of mediocrity. He sees them as willfully disdainful of Excellence (theirs or others) as he is of theirs, or others outside his insular realm.
Bloom also conflates greatness with originality; not seeing they are NOT synonyms & only have at times, and at best, a tangential relationship. An illustration of this is his undying fawning over that bane of the Multiculties’, William Shakespeare’s, every iamb & fart; a demonstration of blind fealty to a God rivaled in academics by- perhaps- only that of Charles Darwin’s twin (but contentious) idolators- Richard Dawkins & Stephen Jay Gould. Bloom gives easy target to the PC Despoilers of the Stratfordian by claiming for him nothing less than “The Invention Of The Human”!- in the Freudian sense (My! My!). The Multiculties, in true Pavlovian response, counter (in essence), “Nothing he wrote is that good anyway! He’s just held in place by the Power Structure!” Bloom weakly defends (from The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages- 1994):
‘....If it is arbitrary that Shakespeare centers the Canon, then they need to show why the dominant social class selected him rather than, say, Ben Jonson....how much simpler to admit that there is a qualitative difference, a difference in kind, between Shakespeare and every other writer....Originality is the great scandal that resentment cannot accommodate, and Shakespeare remains the most original writer we will ever know....’ [assorted ascending emphases mine, not Bloom’s.]
In other words Bloom sticks out his tongue, yells, “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah! I’m taking my blocks & going home to mom!” Bloom is nothing if not famous for his refusal, in person & print, to debate those who refuse to drink of his insight- accept the deus or not! The obvious flaw in Bloom’s thought is that since he is purporting Shakespeare above all other wordsmiths it is HIS, not THEIR, duty to argue for such a claim. And it is not as if such has not been posited before & reasonably well. But Bloom foregoes such in favor of childish invective, accusation, & an enduring case of Joseph Campbellitis (from The Western Canon):
‘....he [Shakespeare] is always ahead of you, conceptually and imagistically, whoever and whenever you are. He renders you anachronistic because he contains you; you cannot subsume him. You cannot illuminate him....’
About here is where one would start backing away if approached by a person saying these things of another- especially if they were bald, banging tambourines & gyrating about airports. The charges of PC Elitists- that Bloom’s arguments are his biases alone- are true. For instead of grounding his arguments in a straight material defense of craft he denudes & weakens his case with such nonsense as quoted above. Bloom’s rationale is therefore based not on any model of excellence, but on personal affection- the first love of a lonely boy discovering art- despite his protests contrary, & he is just like his detractors! That he has more hits than misses than his foes is simply because the task of winnowing the chaff was already done by earlier critics, thus leaving him a riper & healthier field to admire & anoint his own. But his opinions- right or wrong- are the byproducts of chance- not any rational reason. Shakespeare is not defended nor advocated by Bloom; he is idolized- nay, apotheosized- period. And Bloom is his Pope. Yet, despite his cultic tendencies & posturings, Bloom is oddly bereft of acolytes. He is a self-installed superstar sans discernable logical credentials or legitimate arguments. These, not his noxious solipsisms, are why he is alone. He is a creatively bankrupt & logically bunkrapt critic who longs to be an artist, who tries to argue that criticism is- indeed- a form of poetry:
‘The meaning of a poem can only be another poem.’ (from Kabbalah and Criticism- 1975)
Oy vey! Does he intend the dudgeon, or not?! Such leaching onto a higher art form is a sad & ironic aping of the scenarios set forth by his own silly revisionary ratios. But, then, of course, Bloom is happy, because by being a Critic of his God, he becomes like his God. The PC Elitists see this relationship- yet instead of exposing its inconsistencies & artistic necrophilia, they prefer to bury Shakespeare with his perverted idolator.
Yet neither side acknowledges the truth about Shakespeare- i.e.- he is a GREAT, but manifestly flawed & limited writer. Old Willy penned a dozen or so truly great sonnets (all the ones that immediately spring into mind), a dozen or so good to so-so sonnets on the same general themes as the great ones, and well over 100 sonnets that range from bad to terrible- those that are tongue-tyingly, peanut-butter-and-crackers-talkingly, difficult. His long poems are generic, unoriginal, dull & inert- even Shakespeareans admit they are his black sheep! And his 37 plays fall fairly neatly into thirds: a dozen greats (Othello- his true masterpiece devoid of the annoying sidebar subplots that plague most of his plays, Hamlet, The Tempest….), a dozen mediocrities (most of the comedies, some histories), and a bakers dozen of atrocities (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titus Andronicus….). Yet all his plays have a soliloquy or two of note. That’s it. A great, but limited, artist; as any artist is- & likewise incomplete, assuming their human mortality.
But certainly NOT original- neither in subject matter nor sophistication of the psyche (Hello; calling Gilgamesh, Aesop, Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, Bosch….)- not in his plays’ themes nor drama, not in his sonnets’ themes nor structure- he merely “popularized” the Shakespearean sonnet (through his excellence, granted!) much the same way, 3 centuries later, David Sarnoff popularized- but did not “invent”- television. And he was equally limited- by his time mainly, but also by his society & the lesser amount of history such place in time dictates. Obviously he lacked a Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Blake, Whitman, Eliot, Stevens, Crane to build upon- not to mention a Goethe, Dickinson, Plath, Neruda, Tagore, Tsvetaeva, Harlem Renaissance, centuries of history, leaders, science, & discovery, etc. Yet Bloom persists in his insular microbial ken, proffering castrated views (as the 6 above) whose only reply is “Duh! But there is a wee more you’re missing….”.
Unfortunately Bloom’s critics- both Dead White Males, Feminists, & Multiculty/PC Elitists- are as ballocksed as he, & consistently keep giving him wiggle room by nailing him for NOT the things which he can rightly be nailed for, but for those very few points he is CORRECT on, such as his logical insistence on hierarchy (from The Western Canon):
‘the ancient and quite grim triple question of the agonist: more than, less than, equal to?’
But instead of acknowledging the manifest hierarchical nature implicit in art (& life), as well betrayed by their own replies, rebuttals, & choices of argument, the PC Elitists deny hierarchy in toto- that it’s merely a construct of oppression- rather than acknowledge it & honestly debate its nature & structure. It’s akin to the extreme nihilist who abnegates all yet wants to talk about which pizza topping is best. They fail to grasp the better way to deflate Bloom’s bubble- & here it is:
The best analogy & point of attack would be to point to the old outmoded “ladder of progress” hierarchy of evolution (or more properly to Bloom- the devolutionary “Descent Of Man” model, upon which so much of his theory rests) , which has in recent decades been supplanted by the “ever-branching bush” model of evolution. In this way I (for example- or Bloom’s scrub) can never legitimately claim to out-Whitman Whitman or out-Picasso Picasso, etc.- i.e.- be more particularized & individuated in that mode of greatness than the original. Therefore, Whitman/Picasso/Master of your choosing is in effect the furthest extension of their own particular twig on the branch of a certain kind of poetry/art, which is part of a larger branch, trunk, or tree of poetry/art, which is- in reality- not a tree, but merely another branch on the tree of literature/art, which is part of a branch/tree of the arts, human endeavor & so forth till reaching its roots in humanity, or existence, itself. Similarly, in the other direction, all of Whitman’s great poems are endleaves on the branch-cum-tree of Whitmanian verse- i.e.- Song of Myself cannot out-I Sing the Body Electric I Sing the Body Electric. But it may be a greater poem overall, because it has more identifiable great components & less identifiable weak ones. As well, Whitman may be a greater poet than his many copiers (the poetasters) who form various parts of the branches & twigs which lead to Whitman’s endleaf. And, obviously, Whitman’s own lesser verses are part of the twigs which lead to his great poems’ extremities.
Here comes the BUT- & a refutation to Bloom’s whole theory. But, because the Whitman, or Tu Fu, leaf extends farthest out in Direction A does not mean a living artist cannot be GREATER. In fact, a living artist can NECESSARILY (or truly POSSIBLY, depending on his/her own talent & drive) go higher & extend further (into a different general space)- if only because of the ever-increasing lode of past examples from which to cull ideas & learn from. Yet, still the living artist cannot go further than the past artist’s particular twig.
This should not be a difficult thing to apprehend & its usage in Darwinian circles has helped illumine the true wonder of evolutionary diversity, sans the disparagement of pre-human cousins & forebears. Likewise it allows me to posit Great Poet B is greater than Great Poet A, point to the varied components of greatness, yet not essentially diminish A’s achievement in the process. Let me analogize:
1) Famed thoroughbreds Affirmed & Alydar are considered 2 of the greatest racehorses of all time. Both won many laurels. Head-to-head Affirmed beat Alydar 7 of 9 times- including all 3 1978 Triple Crown races. While acknowledging both horses’ greatness it is reasonable to say that a 7-to-2 ratio implies statistically (or componentially) that Affirmed was greater. But one cannot say Affirmed out-Alydared Alydar- Alydar’s greatness was unique- Affirmed’s was likewise unique, only greater- a greatness different in kind & degree.
Similarly we all point to elements in art, sport & life that constitute greatness. We can argue over what they are & the merits of a claim, but the underlying structure we valuate is there.
2) A chimp may be a more intelligent & better equipped primate to suffer & perdure chance changes in its life & environs than, say, a lemur. Yet, however better in general, particularly speaking, a lemur is perfectly equipped (& much more so than the chimp) for a lemur’s life!
The sad point is that neither Bloom nor his detractors can see these manifest points from their tiny & receding redoubts. Why? Perhaps because neither side has the Creationary, much less Visionary, impetus that great artists have (even though many greats are unaware of this talent).
Let me digress briefly to thrust my own ideas on Greatness, & its relation to Art, specifically, based upon years of observation, especially in regards to intellect. (& I shall refer back to this later in the essay). Here is my posit: the human mind has 3 types of intellect. #1 is the Functionary- all of us have it- it is the basic intelligence that IQ tests purport to measure, & it operates on a fairly simple add & subtract basis. #2 is the Creationary- only about 1% of the population has it in any measurable quantity- artists, discoverers, leaders & scientists have this. It is the ability to see beyond the Functionary, & also to see more deeply- especially where pattern recognition is concerned. And also to be able to lead observers with their art. Think of it as Functionary2 . #3 is the Visionary- perhaps only 1% of the Creationary have this in measurable amounts- or 1 in 10,000 people. These are the GREAT artists, etc. It is the ability to see farther than the Creationary, not only see patterns but to make good predictive & productive use of them, to help with creative leaps of illogic (Keats’ Negative Capability), & also not just lead an observer, but impose will on an observer with their art. Think of it as Creationary2 , or Functionary3 .
Now for an actual example of how a latter-day artist can achieve a greatness earlier artists could not- without falling into Bloom’s folly. (And how many critics would kill to be able to “ape” me here- to disprove another critic with not just rhetoric but great art itself?) Let me first quote the last stanzas of 2 widely recognized great poems by two 20th Century poets. First is British poet Philip Larkin’s High Windows:
Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.
Next is American poet Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening:
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
I now quote the final sonnet from my first Omnisonnets ms. (see the Omnisonnets page in this website) The Passings:
There are years to go before the last
on Earth. Then the sun will begin to swell, and life
will cease, shorelines will retreat as oceans boil,
and all will glow a barren red and airless gray.
By then I will be shadow, long dead. Now,
amid joys and sorrows, with the love of a girl
in a backseat, behind her mommy and daddy,
as they pilgrim to a motel in New Hampshire,
blowing kisses out her window to teenage strays,
drunk in a sportscar, honking and cursing at her
family squareback's pace, as they are full on passing,
as if they are ready to face eternal sleep,
as they leave her family behind on the
that is endless, and endless, and everything.
The debt in the last line to the 2 previous poems is obvious. Here are the 4
major elements that make up this sonnet. 1) My family’s annual sojourns via
highway to New Hampshire as a child. 2)
My desire to rehabilitate & expand the highway metaphor from its Victorian
tones & Beatnik-era usage. 3)
The image of a future expanding red giant sun engulfing the earth that I first
saw, & was rapt by, in Carl Sagan’s PBS TV show Cosmos.
4) And lastly wanting a boffo ending.
The 4th element led me to Larkin & Frost. Both are great poems. Larkin’s lacks a little music & could be trimmed from its 20 to 16 lines to better dramatize its plight- however it is Larkin’s best poem, mainly because of the unforgettable tripartite ending- 2 negatives subsumed by the positive- it really sucks you one way to propel you out the other way. Also, rhythmically the building ta-tum, ta-tum, BOOM end really socks the reader. As for Frost, I am generally not a fan of his (same could be said of Larkin) although I acknowledge the dozen or so great poems he wrote. But this poem is his best- by far- it is like Affirmed- greater than any of his other great poems in kind & degree (I could rhapsodize on the poem’s virtues for pages!)- suffice to say it is to Frost’s oeuvre what Ozymandias is to Shelley’s (another great poet), and its end is legendary- the repeated last line hammering home the drowse of the speaker, the eternal recurrence of things/beauty, etc., plus the musical lulling, & on….
So I grafted, with confidence- not anxiety- Larkin’s triple ending, its positive last word, doubled/repeated that last word (for the same reason Frost used his repetition), & ended my triplet with a positive that goes beyond the mono-dimensional repeated endless; the multidimensional & infinite everything.
“But you’re only proving Bloom’s points!” you say. No. 1) The Passings is a great poem- as are the other 2. It is its own endleaf. 2) I do think it’s better than Larkin’s great, but demonstrably flawed, poem (for the 2 are not synonyms). I briefly said how his, nonetheless great, poem could be improved, & I think I could argue effectively the point of its neediness- & one day I may do so in another essay. 3) As for Frost- that poem is not only GREAT, but virtually PERFECT- 2 more tangential, not synonymous things! 4) Therefore Bloom’s ratios do not apply in my analysis, for while The Passings may or may not surpass Phil’s and/or Bob’s poems, by using elements from both (& to a different- still great- end) it is on a higher branch (if only for having succeeded the others in time) that has NOT displaced their two endleaves.
Similarly, there are many other poems of mine- great & not- where I have applied techniques from other great poets/poems to my own use. Rather than cowering at the past I am bucking the bronc. I don’t shrink from the challenge, as many poets do- as Bloom rightly points out. I offer up my poetic corpus- a small part of which graces Cosmoetica, as well this essay as stark disproof of his theoretical nonsense. And I could offer many poems of that corpus up which manifestly may be unoriginal in subject and/or theme, yet are original (as well great) in their combination of such, or in how they scrape that greatness (or a different greatness) their predecessors did. Art, therefore, is not ideas (that is philosophy) but the motion (or construction) of ideas.
Yet, instead of offering up excellence in counterpoint (as I did) Bloom’s foes fob demonstrably weak alternatives for him to smack down. To those longtime baseball fans- it’s akin to thrusting a Mario Mendoza (of the .200 Mendoza [batting average] line) to hit against a gopher-ball pitcher (Bloom). They offer puerile Beatnik rants on the scandal of the day; clunky, unmusicked & over-rationalized Jazz poetry; self-pitying & unstructured Confessional narratives; airheaded, pseudo-Buddhist, hippy pastorals; angry racial/ethnic/religious/political/sexual/homosexual screeds sans poetic art save their own declamations. Then they praise the least talented AND least hard-working of the lot. Any Beatnik after Ginsberg & Corso (including the horrid Kerouac), Adrienne Rich, Maya Angelou, Louis Zukofsky, David Mura, Hal Sirowitz, etc. Yet a James Emanuel, Kenneth Patchen, Margaret Walker, etc. (see the Neglected Poets page) are tossed aside.
And herein the rub- they echo Bloom’s narrowness with their own. The maxim “Choose your enemies well….” apparently was not in their canon! As they push cronies, so too does Bloom- most of his praise of contemporaries revolves not around their writing but their closeness & fealty to Bloom. To wit: how else to explain his asshole-buddy boosterism of the tired, post 1970-W.S. Merwin (great innovation, Bill- by dropping punctuation one can free up one’s poetastry!), the declining powers of John Ashbery- from his mid-70’s peak of greatness, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, to the horrid Flowchart (Egochart?) to the last decade of dreck, and absolutely anything by born-comatose Donald Hall? Or, to use a prose example- he marginalizes John Updike (a noted critic of Bloom) but boosts Philip Roth (a known pal- as is Ashbery). This is on Bloom’s record & not a reflection of my opinion of Updike or Roth since I’ve never read either’s fiction, & only Updike’s meager verse.
In another failed opportunity to nail Bloom, Bloom argues that PC Elitists (or in his own typically dull way “the School of Resentment”) make true literary achievement impossible by expelling notions of competition from art. Unquestionably true (unless one wants to posit truth in the absence of falsehood). But instead of denying how, who, & why Bloom canonizes as he does, they instead deny canonization is a good thing- we should be artists of equal merit & mediocrity. We should settle for its gray gurgle over Bloom’s (or other DWMs’) benighted Pantheon (which even, if by chance alone, would necessarily have a few winners worth emulation). Yet they then offer up a counter-Pantheon whilst denying standards & choices- save their own!
And this is the truly most malign thing about Bloom & his presence- not only has his influence been anxious, it has been infectious- downright carcinogenic- to artists who buy in to it willingly, as well those who unwittingly do- yet deny so! And near as I can tell this is one of the few stands that does not engage Bloom by his own dour terms, one of the fewer that succeeds in breaking his solipsistic reasoning, & the only to do so by dint of great art & reason.
Too often, as mentioned, Bloom’s foes fall into his obvious neon-glowing traps; all the more curious since not only he, but his few defenders necessarily resort to psychobabble to cloak, or attempt to, their spurious & wan arguments. Here is poetry pinhead & critic Helen Vendler (second only to Bloom in contemporary poetry critical name recognition & malfeasance) in a 6/25/76 New York Times Review of Bloom’s Poetry and Repression: Revisionism from Blake to Stevens (1976):
‘....Until the literary meaning of a poem is understood- and about this Bloom is indisputably right- absolutely nothing of worth can be said about its moral or metaphysical ideological impact.’
Uh-huh! Take a deep breath, Helen, please, & get off your knees! Again with the mumbo-jumbo! Morality & metaphysics in art- the supposed bastions scoundrels as Multiculties hide behind! Yet perfectly suitable for a Bloomy as Vendler to choose! More hypocrisy for the similarly smug PC Elitists to chew on (not to mention more specious reasoning- of course, never taken advantage of by the PCEs!).Such pap merely gives vaunt to the claims that such DWM critiquing is ideology & dogma- therefore PC Elitists are merely countering Bloom’s with theirs- & THEY’RE RIGHT! At least in that! Yet, still, both sides take a pass on the bare-boned rigor of parsing poems, new & old, to divine the commonalities, differences, & relative strengths- or not- of each poem to another, as well to greatness & its constituent components (minus that ineffable oomph greatness always seems to inhere).
Witness this brief litany of absurdities given life by Bloom himself:
-‘creative misprision’- Anxiety….(1973)- Ooh! I can
play with words like Johnny Keats!
-‘Influence is influenza- an astral disease.’- ibid.- Ach du lieber Gott in Himmel!
-‘antithetical criticism’- ibid.- I was Post-Modern before you!
-‘the fearsome process by which a person is reborn a poet.’- A Map of Misreading- 1975- See, I’ve always been a poet, Mommy!
-‘poems are not ‘created’ but are interpreted into existence, and by necessity they are interpreted from other poems.’- Agon: Towards a Theory of Revisionism- 1982- I say it so it must be so!
-‘The Western Canon is Shakespeare and Dante. Beyond them it is what they
absorbed and what absorbs them.’- The Western Canon….(1994)- And I
really mean it this time! (However,
beyond histrionics it is also, logically, the same for any writer- be they
Robert Service or Edgar Rice Burroughs. Again, Bloom will never show
excellence- only anoint it by fiat- HIS!)
So, we see that despite his seeming towering intellect, Bloom relies on very
suspect apothegms one CANNOT (snicker….) challenge; this nonsense which may (
& may be designed to) impress tyros but which leaves knowledgeable readers
& writers of verse shaking their heads at how little Bloom does to establish
his points beyond the Jabberwockian burble. A truly insightful critique would
use & manifest such canards as mere rhetorical flourishes in support of keen
insights. But Bloom lacks this ability- he is not merely Functionary, but
didactic- in the worst sense. To him the Past Masters are High Priests, if not
Gods, & the world but their excrement festering, stinking, &
embarrassing the High Calling, for Poets (as Bloom clearly views himself-
recall?) need only mingle with other poets.
So removed & obtuse is Bloom that his state was, perhaps, best evoked in a 3/19/76 review of Poetry and Repression by David Lodge, in New Statesman (& a stark contrast to Vendler’s bent-kneed assent):
‘....I find it significant that the book contains no index, nor a single note on its source....It seems impossible to arrest the text, to stem the flow of words, to grasp a single point that can be simply weighed and tested. Gradually one’s eyes glaze over, the mind goes numb. Somewhere in the background Professor Bloom is misreading away, tireless and wonderfully pleased with himself.’
If lymphocytes could could speak I wonder if their description of a cancer cell would vary much from this? Much has been written & speculated as to what the cause is behind this man’s pathetic drive to be accepted & considered preeminent- especially to himself. Born in 1930 East Bronx, New York, to poor non-English speaking Russian Jew immigrants, it has been thought he has the classic Child of the Depression drive to better himself at all costs to all challengers. His manic critical output, & its subsequent poor quality, has been attributed to a financial desire to provide for one of his children who suffers from a permanent debility. Even his well-reported (& self-boasted) philandering with nubile Yale coeds has been thought another manifestation of his screaming & empty ego needing its fill. Yet, I sense it all, perhaps, goes back to my 3 Intellects Posit. As a Functionary Bloom has spent decades, thousands of pages & millions of words in essays & books, to construct so easily disproved a theory based upon his own stinking, rutting, resentful (of real artists) Bloomium, & his innately epigonal desire to conflate himself with the artiste (O the eternal ephemeral twinkle!), yet his utter lack of concrete reasoning of how &/or why betrays it all, kicks him hopelessly back into the moldering faceless rabble of his foes, while I- in about 10 pages & 5000 words- easily prick his balloon, offer an alternative, & give several concrete examples/analogies. While the tenured Eli sciolist mumbles- doesn’t even talk the talk, I- the poor little white boy from Queens- simply walk the walk. Perhaps that’s the difference between a Cancer & a Visionary!