The Anatomy of Influence

“All literary influence is labyrinthine.” Page 31, The Anatomy of Influence, Harold Bloom.

I picked this book up a while back at Half-Price Books. Borrowing the words of Sir Francis Bacon, yesterday was the first time for me to taste it, and having done so I know that I am not yet ready to devour it. The book is on the interconnections and influences of various English writers on other English writers, many of which I have heard of but little more than that. I have read some Shakespeare, but little or none of Yeats, Shelley, Tennyson, Whitman, Winburne, Emerson, and others he discusses. Though we should all make a practice of reading things that are “out of our league,” this is too far out for me to benefit from reading all of it. Perhaps those of you who have done more reading in this area would find it to be useful.

This bothers me because recognizing literary influence is one of the most valuable skills you can develop as a reader. To bring it closer to my areas of interest, not recognizing literary influence will seriously impedes a reader’s ability to understand the Scriptures, other early Christian literature, or ancient philosophy. In Bloom’s words, this influence can sometimes seen labyrinthine. Though English literature and its inter-relations has no bearing on ancient literature, seeing Bloom parse that out might have been instructive. I think this will have to wait for me, however. The opening chapters were interesting and readable though, containing a mixture of general thoughts on influences and miscellaneous biographical notes about Bloom.

A man's got to know his limitations

I have not read a lot of Bloom’s work, but the following is expected. “I happily plead guilty also to charges that I am an ‘incessant canonizer.’ There can be no living literary tradition without secular canonization, and judgments of literary value have no significance if not rendered explicit...there is such a thing as great literature, and it is both possible and important to name it.” Pages 17-18.

On to another book for me.

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