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Harold Bloom

Biography and Timeline

  • Harold Bloom, a nontraditional yet controversial theorist, was born in 1930 in New York City.
  • His writings were popular during the 1950s and 1960s in America during post World War II, a time of oppression, anxiety, urban development, and capitalism. Bloom’s theory thus was influenced by these cultural atmospheres.
  • His theory is described to have developed within three phases:
    • The first criticized traditional ways to read English romantic poetry, the second supported a revitalization of Renaissance poetry, and the third was a spin off of the Gnostic Christian belief, Marxism, and feminism in literature.

Main Ideas and Key Terms Related to Intertextuality

  • Bloom wrote his first book, “The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry”, (1973) to convey his belief in remodeling the loose American writing in to reflect traditional European genres, poetry, and tactics.
  • In “The Anxiety of Influence”, he declared that when reading literature, it is not the texts we are comparing but the relationship to one another that we compare. The book focused on male individualism, inheritance of power, and democratic development which excluded women, minority races, and the economic lower class who could not relate to these freedoms.
  • This work and other writings by Bloom attempted to bring back Romanticism since he wrote about an inner search for supremacy, power, and self improvement. Calling back upon such literature would allow us to be influenced by their messages once again.
  • Bloom was often in opposition of Julia Kristeva between 1950 and 1960 even though both redefined Greek concepts to suit their perspectives and both used Freudian psychoanalysis as evidence of text to text or poet to poet relations.
  • Kristeva argued that poetry of the elites represented the negative side of the caste system where the poor was abused for the sake of the rich, while Bloom argued that poetry of the upper class represented man’s triumph of power thus showing individualism.
  • Kristeva’s theory is coined as the continuation of Mikhail Bakhtin’s versus Bloom’s theory which is most comparable to that of Jacques Derrida, one of which deconstructed western metaphysics or philosophies about reality.
  • Bloom contributed to New Criticism which sought to eliminate old methods of studying literature through reading biographies, author’s sources, and details about his or her life. He suggested close reading in relation to the self and also suggested that revisionism, misreading, and misprision would reverse mistakes created by old methods.

Key Terms Related to Intertexuality:

  • Misprision- rebuttal stemming  from misunderstanding of another author’s writings.
  • Misreading- failure to understand correctly.
  • Revisionism- support of ideas that differ from and try to change accepted ideas, especially in a way that is seen as wrong or dishonest.

Legacy (Important Works and Impact)

Theoretical Debate (Kristeva and Feminist Approach)

Kristeva’s Approach

    • Definition of intertexuality was developed around the 1960s
    • In her essay,”Word, Dialogue and Novel,” she defines intertextuality as “a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another. The notion of intertextuality replaces that of intersubjectivity, and poetic language is read as at least double.” (1966)
    • Bloom’s definition was introduced in the 1980s.
    • Some sources state that Bloom’s approach satisfied what Kristeva did not mention when defining intertexuality, further posing them against each other.

Feminist Approach

    • In the 1990s, Harold Bloom received an immense amount of commentary from literary feminists.
    • Bloom was vigorous in his defense of Shakespeare from feminist critics- commentators and foes pointed out his “forces of resentment.”
    • One event that gained attention from feminists was when he observed Hamlet and stated, “Queen Gertrude, recently the recipient of several Feminist defenses, requires no apologies. She is evidently a woman of exuberant sexuality, who inspired luxurious passion first in King Hamlet and later in King Claudius.” He believed he only stated the interpretation of the works and meant no harm towards anyone, therefore he did not need to apologize.
    • Bloom claimed that politics had no relation to the critisms of literacy. The feminists who read Hamlet, read it with a feminist approach, causing them to create an interpretation based on their beliefs and not from the history of the work.



Works Cited

    • Orr, Mary. Intertextuality: Debates and Contexts. Polity Press, 2003.
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