Thursday, August 12, 2004

I'm too young to remember this debate (discussed on Bemsha Swing), but my sense of Bloom (I once took a class with him at NYU, btw, which only reinforced this sense) is that he is not, properly speaking, a critic. He is someone who really really wanted to be a poet and decided (or was decided upon) to figure out how to do so before he started. The essentializing nature of all his theory sounds to me like someone desperate to create a narrative which they can then enter. His curmudgeonliness fits this too, defending the foundation for his eventual (& at-this-point forgotten) entry into composition. In this he is like the protagonist in "A Painful Case," never getting there.

That he would have entered into a discussion whereby criticism is considered an aesthetic production in its own right makes sense to me along these lines too. I always try to consider poems on their own terms, and poets too, to see them from the inside-out. If you do this with Bloom--apply all his inventive and perversely-specific constructions to his own presence--you see a man who was too scared to write the poems, and used the approach/avoidance of criticism to release some of that creative/relational energy. I ^do^ gain great aesthetic pleasure from reading Bloom, but I don't think I mean it as Jameson means it, in that I don't read it as straight criticism, by which standards it is laughable as a whole (I'm not including his earlier stuff on the Romantics, btw, which really is drop-dead gorgeous. I do think the taste of Blake's systematology may have ruined him, though), though he has incredible specific insights when he lets them out.

So yes, taken strictly as a poet, he is a bad poet, but taken for what he is, he is masterful at his form. I think this would be obvious if he wasn't so threatening.

"though he has incredible specific insights when he lets them out"

Hmmm. I don't know about this. I think he does have specific insights, but unfortunately he relies too much on vague argumentation to support his assertions. I'm not convinced by his thesis that Shakespeare invented the human, which is a typical eurocentric assertion; neither am I convinced by his belief that the aesthetic cannot accomodate the political, the economic, the racial, and even the formal; many of the works in his so-called canon belie his claims.

No, your right about the thesis he advances in "Shakespeare: the invention of the human"--it's like notes towards a good poem--that was written by Yeats ~70 yrs ago, "The Statues." & who knows how many other times. The Shakespeare book is what I'd refer to as part of Bloom's laughable criticism. I personally find it interesting, as a personal utterance, but that's me.

By specific I mean when he focuses on specific texts. Have you read his analysis of Blake's "The Tyger" from his book "The Visionary Company?" That shows that he can be extraordinarily sensitive to language when he's not impressing it into his army. His earlier criticism, while still extremely euro-centric, really isn't as--well, as much whatever it is he's become.

I'm certainly not arguing for him to be treated as he ^asks^ to be treated.
specifically, my sense is that he is unable to internalize the relationship between the aesthetic and the human Yeats advances in his poems (which is Pater with a twist)and use it to write poems, so instead he tries to write it with the poems he has read, on the people who he preaches to, which is a form of bullying (towards both us and the poems). Notice this mechanism is one he discusses in the Shakespeare book . . . that's the beauty of reflexive reading, you can let unsatisfactory ideas take themselves apart, back to the person.
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