Harold Bloom: An Uncommon Reader

From The New York Times:

Tanenhaus-popup At the age of 80, with almost 40 books behind him and nearly as many accumulated honors, Harold Bloom has written, in “The Anatomy of Influence,” a kind of summing-up — or, as he puts it in his distinctive idiom, mixing irony with histrionism, “my virtual swan song,” born of his urge “to say in one place most of what I have learned to think about how influence works in imaginative literature.” Influence has long been Bloom’s abiding preoccupation, and the one that established him, in the 1970s, as a radical, even disruptive presence amid the groves of academe. This may surprise some who think of Bloom primarily as a stalwart of the Western canon, fending off the assaults of “the School of Resentment” and its “rabblement of lemmings,” or as a self-confessed Bardolator, swooning over “Hamlet” and “Lear.” Not that Bloom abjures these subsequent selves. There is much canon fodder in this new book, along with re­affirmed vows of fidelity to Shakespeare, “the founder” not only of modern literature but also, in Bloom’s expansive view, of modern personhood and its “infinite self-consciousness.”

“For me, Shakespeare is God,” he declares at one point, and in other places he says much the same thing, in much the same words, a reminder that to read Bloom once is in a sense to reread him, so often does he repeat himself. Twice he asserts that Shakespeare’s greatest creations are Falstaff, Hamlet, Iago and Cleopatra; twice that “The Tempest” and “The Winter’s Tale” are tragicomedies and not ro­mances; three times that “Titus Andronicus” parodies the tragedies of Shakespeare’s defeated rival Marlowe. Prospero, Bloom shrewdly observes, “is one of those teachers who is always convinced his auditors are not quite attentive.” So too Bloom, himself a “professional teacher” for 55 years now, has perhaps learned that the most efficient way to get your point across is to keep making it, the classroom sage’s version of staying on message.

More here.