10 ene. 2006

Over at a Spanish blog I frequent, the question of the superiority of American literature comes up. The feeling that Spain does not have novelists of the stature of Pynchon, poets like Ashbery, or critics like Bloom. The difference of perspectives always comes into play. I have had to admit to my friend Vicente Luis Mora that I don't particularly admire Bloom. I can see how he might be admirable from afar, of course. My single most significant complaint about Bloom is that he never says anything useful, or usable. That is, I can never pin him down to an insight that I can actually paraphrase and apply in some other context. It's the kind of mind I am not drawn to. I don't just mean because his "canon" differs from mine. I mean in the sense that he has never said anything about Ashbery that makes me understand Ashbery any better, or Stevens, or any other poet we both might admire. Maybe it's the refusal to read the text closely on his part, to say something significant about the text on the page. He seems to want to do the opposite: impose a theoretical metalanguage on the reader that will prevent reading from ever taking place: the terrain of critical discussion is taken to some abstract where Bloom's own issues are the focus. That's why Bloom is much worse that even Helen Vendler, who at least is a close reader.

Take Bloom's recent book on Wisdom Literature. I can read a few pages, but only get the sense that wisdom writers are very wise and want us to be wise. There's no critical argument, just the sense that we should sit back and admire Bloom's own wisdom.

I suppose I should distinguish between the Bloom/Theorist of the Anxiety of Influence and the Bloom/Middle-brow Cultural Hero of the later anthologies and popularizations. One thing in common is that he is an uncommonly bad writer.

5 comentarios:

Jordan dijo...

Say what? Agon not paraphrasable or usable? Clinamen not borderline hilarious??? C'mon! Give him *some* props...

Jonathan dijo...

Yes, clinamen is borderline hilarious.

Jonathan dijo...

But the revisionary ratios are not usable by anyone else. Even if I could remember what they were, I wouldn't be able to recognize another case of any particular one of them. It would be like trying to find "hasosismo" in real Latin American poetry.

Archambeau dijo...

One way to make Bloom less irksome is to take any of his huge universal claims (about the anxiety of influence, say) and pretend that instead of talking about everyone everywhere, he's just talking about Keats. It works, and is a lot of fun to try at parties, providing you're looking to get your ass kicked as a pretentious poetry dweeb, of course.

Jonathan dijo...

Couldn't you take it further and just say he's come up with an interesting theory about the way his own mind works?