POETRY AND REPRESSION by Harold Bloom

POETRY AND REPRESSION

Revisionism From Blake To Stevens
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KIRKUS REVIEW

This is the concluding volume to the tetralogy that Yale professor Harold Bloom initiated in The Anxiety of Influence, his 1973 manifesto for so-called "antithetical criticism." Kabbalah and Criticism and A Map of Misreading, which demonstrated the theory's critical application, were published in 1975. This book is his reinterpretation of our literary tradition, surveying post-Enlightenment English and American poetry as it developed from "the severe father of the Sublime mode," John Milton, through close readings of poems by Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Browning, Whitman, Yeats and Stevens. According to Bloom, each of these "strong" poets has literally rewritten, via a creative misreading, the work of a greater predecessor. He carries the genealogy of influences linked by "misprision" to this extreme endpoint: "I suspect that Tintern Abbey is the modern poem proper, and that most good poems written in English since Tintern Abbey inescapably repeat, rewrite or revise it." Bloom's own philosophical mentors include Freud, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Vico, Emerson and Isaac Luria, a 16th century Jewish Kabbalist. His concept of repression is a revisioning of Freud which refers not to a sexual but to a tutelary primal scene, "the Scene of Instruction": "It is only by repressing creative 'freedom,' through the initial fixation of influence, that a person can be reborn as a poet." As you may imagine this maze of intellectual underpinnings plus a rhetoric which sometimes begins to sound like a language system unto itself, is something to try the soul of any but the strongest of "strong" readers. Taken together, Bloom's theoretical works have been hailed as a major contribution to 20th century literary criticism. He's as radical as he is erudite, and has a great deal to teach us about poetics, the canon, and the art of reading.
Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1975
ISBN: 0300026048
Page count: 293pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1975




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