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Out19

Roth on Bloom


Vasco M. Barreto

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What Bloom would call a “knowing,” Marxist-Historicist reading of his criticism would locate it within and as part of a high point of mid-American individualism, less of the rugged than the spiritual kind. He belonged to the cultural moment that gave us Clement Greenberg, Abstract Expressionism in both art and poetry, American Buddhism and the new age movement. His Falstaff was a cold war figure and one of the few times that he conceded the word to a contemporary comes when he quotes Anthony Burgess: “The Falstaffian spirit is a great sustainer of civilization. It disappears when the state is too powerful and when people worry too much about their souls.” That this individualism was never unitary or solipsistic is one of the ironies that Bloom haters and also his very few remaining conservative cultural cheerleaders love to miss.

“The greatest of all fictive wits dies the death of a rejected father-substitute and also of a dishonored mentor”—Bloom about Falstaff, again. Like many of his generation, Bloom strived to ensure that he would avoid this fate, but misapprehended the danger: He permitted no Prince Hals. He founded no school, unlike de Man down the hall, and appeared to disown some of his best students before they could disown him. There was an actual son, rumored to be troubled—either in mind or body—and much beloved. It was for the sake of his health care, it was said, that Bloom had submitted to the indignity of writing all those cheesy Chelsea House introductions and then The Western Canon, the work where he sold out most clearly to a side in a game of politics and political criticism he’d previously refused to play.

Unsurprisingly, this is the work that has most immediately damned him to be misconstrued in the immediate construction of his posterity. The vociferous canon debates, both at the time and ongoing, slowly took the place of the conversations within canons that Bloom thought made original writing possible. And Bloom, with his lists and rankings and fiat value judgments, even when he could always back them up, contributed greatly to this, and so, ultimately, to the misunderstanding and outright decanonization of his own early work. One could hear the usual smirking and jeering in the early version of the New York Times obituary hed: “Critic Who Embraced Western Canon.” They made it sound like a conversion experience, or a shipwreck. Marco Roth (provalmente o melhor texto sobre Harold Bloom entre todos os que li e também os que não chegarei a ler)

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