POETRY AND REPRESSION

REVISIONISM FROM BLAKE TO STEVENS

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. 21, 1975

ISBN: 0300026048

Page Count: 293

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1975

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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