11 April 17

Harold Bloom. http://vlt.tc/2srv  “Falstaff” is the 46th book by the eminent Yale professor, who even now is teaching two courses, one on Shakespeare and another on poetry. Over the years, he has won a range of distinctions, including a Fulbright fellowship (1955), a MacArthur fellowship (1985) and a gold medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1999).

“But he has also been a controversial voice over his 60-plus-year career. In “The Western Canon” (1994), he argued that certain writers, including Shakespeare, Homer, Dante and Tolstoy, are essential to any real education. He also railed against what he called the “School of Resentment”: scholars who promote reading texts from the point of view of feminism, Marxism and other ideologies and who advocate expanding the canon to be more multicultural. “To read in the service of any ideology is not, in my judgment, to read at all,” he wrote.

“He sees political correctness as a continuing problem in universities today, but he hesitates to wade into the debate again. “I’ve had too many polemics in my life,” he says. “For 50 years I fought the death of humanistic studies in the universities and colleges and, in general, the failure of our intellectual education.” He’s tired of fighting, he says. “We lost the war,” he adds. “All I can do now is a kind of guerrilla action, but in the end there’s only Shakespeare.”

“Mr. Bloom was born in the Bronx in New York City and raised in an Orthodox Jewish family. His father was a garment worker and his mother was a homemaker. He once wrote that his older sisters used to take him to the library “and thus transformed my life.”

“He studied English at Cornell University and then at Yale, where he joined the faculty after receiving his Ph.D. Today, Mr. Bloom lives in New Haven, Conn., with his wife. They have two grown children.

“In his widely discussed 1973 book “The Anxiety of Influence,” he argued that poets often have a difficult time freeing themselves from their imaginative debt to earlier poets who inspired them. Their own writing can be interpreted as an anxious reaction to those predecessors.

“Does he experience his own “anxiety of influence” when he studies Shakespeare? Mr. Bloom swats away any comparison to his great hero. “I’m not really a writer,” he says. As a critic, he writes to appreciate, he says, adding, “I’m nothing but a teacher.”

“The next book in his series on Shakespearean characters will focus on Cleopatra, followed by King Lear, Iago and Macbeth {emphasis by Abyssum}. He has turned to the playwright many times over the years. In his 1998 book “Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human,” he argued that Shakespeare was not just a brilliant writer but the genius who created our modern notions of human nature. His characters were the first to develop psychologically, Mr. Bloom wrote, leading to “the inauguration of personality as we have come to recognize it.””

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I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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