October 16, 2001

on Bloom (Harold, not Molly)

Reading Harold Bloom's The Western Canon leaves me with one conviction:
Bloom must spend a lot of time awake at 3 in the morning. His conception of
Shakespeare as the ideal writer, unapproached by any before or after, the center
of all Western thought and literature, strikes me as the kind of epiphany one does
have at that hour, and usually repents at a more sober time of day. I'm not trying
to diminish Shakespeare's genius or influence, but Bloom's adoration of Master
Will is so near idolatry as to be embarrassing.

I am a little
hesitant in disagreeing with Bloom's premise, since he is so much better read than
I am, but I so often find myself wanting to just tell him to get a grip, and maybe
check out some of the world outside the ivory tower. His writing so often seems
obfuscatory, also, though it may just be that all those "authentic tropes" and
suchlike phraseology are merely instances of lit-crit jargon with I admit an
engineer's lack of familiarity.

I keep wondering, also, when someone
will finally admit that revisionist scholarship does not necessarily have to mean
trashing all the works of Dead White European Males (DWEMs). I happen to think
that the conditions that kept so many women from expressing themselves were
deplorable and in desperate need of correction. I applaud attempts to show what
women's lives were like, to find female writers behind male pseudonyms, and to
take seriously writers whose works were considered second-class because the
author's gender or intended audience. Still, even if Shakespeare's sister could
have been as brilliant, were she only given the opportunity to write, that doesn't
diminish his works in any way, or make them less worthy of study.

would condemn Bloom for stereotyping, in assuming that anyone who disagrees with
him must be a member of what he styles the School of Resentment -- Marxists,
Feminists, New Historicists -- and must mindlessly espouse the groupthink of that
school, except that I have read in so many other places that the current state of
academic literary criticism really is that moribund. Sad, if true, though I still
find it hard to believe. I've met so many people in other areas who take the most
vocal extreme wing of a movement for its mainstream (for instance, assuming that a
woman calling herself a feminist must necessarily hate men) that I wonder whether
a similar knee-jerk reaction might be happening here.

To give Bloom
credit, he appears to want to judge authors only on their merits. He may not
seeking out underappreciated writers, but then that wouldn't be appropriate in a
book entitled The Western Canon anyhow. On the other hand, he does include
Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf in his view of the
Canon. And his more modern writers include Borges and Neruda, so that ivory tower
may not be entirely impenetrable after all.

Posted by dichroic at October 16, 2001 04:59 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?