Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University, is highly acclaimed for his work in literary criticism. He is the author of, among many other books, Omens of Millennium: The Gnosis of Angels, Dreams, and Resurrection; The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages; The American Religion; The Map of Misreading; and The Anxiety of Influence. The following is Joseph Epstein's take on Bloom's most recent works:
"Proust says that in art, medicine, and fashion, there have to be new names, by which he meant that new names will arise whether they are worthy or not of being known." So writes Joseph Epstein in the summer 2002 issue of the Hudson Review. His article, "Bloomin' Genius," is support for the claim he makes directly after paraphrasing Proust. His claim? That said principle explains why critic and writer Harold Bloom has gained such broad recognition in the field of literary criticism. Bloom's career as a literary critic began with promise, Epstein says (see Bloom's critique of Romantic poetry, The Visionary Company). But since then his works have been characterized by "confident obscurity," and have fallen into the category of "bombast." His most recent major books, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages and Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, do not measure up to the two standards that lift criticism to the level of literature: neither book is so well-written as to bring pleasure to its readers, nor can the works be sited for "the elucidating power of [their] ideas."
In order to save the art of literary criticism so it can once again be taken seriously, Epstein sets about "puncturing" Bloom's inflated reputation. ". . . T. S. Eliot once said that the best method for being a critic is to be very intelligent," writes Epstein. "Harold Bloom isn't very intelligent. . . . He has staked out his claim for being a great critic through portentousness, pomposity, and extravagant pretension, and, from all appearances, seems to have achieved it." [Posted January 2003, ALG]