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Greetings from Chicago

September 20, 2011

I’ve been in the Windy City since Saturday. I’m basically moved in now, but there are still two boxes of books that have not yet arrived, and I haven’t signed up for classes yet; I feel as if that leaves me still in a sort of intellectual limbo between here and Dallas, which means I don’t yet have to write anything substantive here. Instead, here’s a piece by William Deresiewicz about Harold Bloom, which I mostly agree with, especially it’s conclusion that Kermode was a better model for “what a critic should be” than Bloom, whose Gnostic tendencies leave him unable to properly understand must of literature:

BUT IF GNOSTICISM, and the poets whom he reads in its image, furnish Bloom with imaginative consolation, they do so for a very unattractive reason. Gnosis leads to freedom from time and nature and death, but also from the final thing that most conditions us: other people. Anything that lies outside the self, in Bloom’s conception, constitutes a threat to the self. His career represents a long effort to negate that threat. Bloom must surely be the most solipsistic critic on record. Harold is, indeed, a world unto himself.

Though I must say, I find Bloom’s concept of the “anxiety of influence” fascinating. Each new poet constantly struggles in an agon with the poets who precede him? From what I’ve read that’s more true than false. While Deresiewicz’s article shows how Bloom’s obsession with it limited the depth of his criticism, I do think Bloom has contributed something substantial to English letters with just that one idea.

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