The Anatomy of Influence Literature as a Way of Life Harold Bloom

Publication date:
17 Apr 2012
Yale University Press
368 pages: 235 x 156mm
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'Literary criticism, as I attempt to practice it', writes Harold Bloom in The Anatomy of Influence, 'is in the first place literary, that is to say, personal and passionate'. For more than half a century, Bloom has shared his profound knowledge of the written word with students and readers. In this, his most comprehensive and accessible study of influence, Bloom leads us through the labyrinthine paths which link the writers and critics who have informed and inspired him for so many years. The result is 'a critical self-portrait', a sustained meditation on a life lived with and through the great works of the Western canon: Why has influence been my lifelong obsessive concern? Why have certain writers found me and not others? What is the end of a literary life?

Featuring extended analyses of Bloom's most cherished poets - Shakespeare, Whitman, and Crane - as well as inspired appreciations of Emerson, Tennyson, Browning, yeats, Ashbery, and others, The Anatomy of Influence adapts Bloom's classic work The Anxiety of Influence to show us what great literature is, how it comes to be, and why it matters. Each chapter maps startling new literary connections that suddenly seem inevitable once Bloom has shown us how to listen and to read. A fierce and intimate appreciation of the art of literature on a scale that the author will not again attempt, The Anatomy of Influence follows the sublime works it studies, inspiring the reader with a sense of something ever more about to be.

Harold Bloom (1930–2019) was Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. 

"As provocative, as gloriously preposterous and as captivating as ever...The breadth of thinking and the range of reference in The Anatomy of Influence are astonishing."—John Banville, The Guardian

"He is, by any reckoning, one of the most stimulating literary presences of the last half-century" —Sam Tanenhaus, International Herald Tribune

"The Anatomy of Influence crackles with a rhetorical energy more suited to the public lecture theatre than the graduate seminar." —Jonathan Derbyshire, New Statesman

"Bloom reveals his own magisterial, sometimes mischievous self, in his meditations on the masters with whom he connects."—Iain Finlayson, The Times

"Criticism, [Bloom] believes, should be ‘personal and passionate’ and, in fact, personal passion has always been his greatest strength… Like all Bloom’s finest work [The Anatomy of Influence] is a genial amalgam in which insight is inseparable from extravagance."—Eric Ormsby, Literary Review

"Wise, funny, maddening…… [Bloom is the] most irrepressible and irreplaceable of critics.”—Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, The Daily Telegraph

"The confessional and elegiac tonalities contained within Bloom’s narrative stay long within the memory."—Dr Graham Allen, Sunday Business Post (Ireland)

"A treasure-trove of a book... This volume is a testimony to Bloom’s assertion that he is still ‘hopelessly passionate about the poets I loved best.’"— John Montague, Irish Times 

"If the pronouncements of Bloom are sometimes cryptic, and wayward, his insights can be brilliant, as when he suggests that Shakespeare might be exploring his relationship to his mighty precursor Marlowe in the relationship between the half-brothers Edmund and Edgar in King Lear; or when he remarks that Milton could not have presented an unfallen Satan in Paradise Lost because he would have been too much like Hamlet; or when he explores the wide and varied influence of Walt Whitman, whom he considers the greatest of American poets."—Bernard Manzo, The Tablet

"Harold Bloom’s magisterial pronouncements are liable to raise irritation (he virtually assumes ownership of Shakespeare) but these are outweighed by his huighely stimulating approach to lit crit." -CH, Independent

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