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The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,029 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence has cast its long shadow of influence since it was first published in 1973. Through an insightful study of Romantic poets, Bloom puts forth his central vision of the relations between precursors and the individual artist. His argument that all literary texts are a strong misreading of those that precede them had an enormous impact on ...more
Paperback, 2nd Edition, 208 pages
Published April 10th 1997 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1973)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,452)
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Cymru Roberts
Apr 22, 2015 Cymru Roberts rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
Harold Bloom is an easy guy to dislike, and even easier to make fun of. Watching his interviews has become somewhat of a hobby of mine, and in them he often seems sullen and dismissive. He’s a portly bloke with bushy eyebrows and a weird accent from teaching himself English at the age of six. He also has a tendency to say that your favorite author or favorite book is utter garbage, and that really seems to piss people off, as if no one should ever have their taste challenged or have to formulate ...more
Sherwood Smith
Every time I reread this, I become more dissatisfied with Bloom's central thesis about the poet's necessary "misprision" in order to clear the way for creative expression. "Misreading," to me assumes a correct reading, and I had it up to here with professorially mandated "correct" readings decades ago in college. Age and experience has convinced me that every reader's engagement with a text is "correct" for that reader, the question is the ability to convey our ideas of the text.

I also believe t
...more
Tom
Mar 03, 2009 Tom rated it really liked it
Bloom is here an American Nietzschean ventriloquist speaking through the dummy of William Blake's corpse, a rhetorician almost as eloquent and just as evil as Milton's Satan.
aarthi
Aug 27, 2011 aarthi marked it as to-read
Shelves: didn-t-finish
"When he was 35, Harold Bloom fell into a deep depression, and in the midst of that depression he had a terrible nightmare that a giant winged creature was pressing down on his chest. He woke up gasping for breath, and the next day he began writing a book that would become The Anxiety of Influence, in which he argues that all great writers are obsessed with breaking away from the great writers of the past. The book made him famous, even though few people could understand it. A year after it was ...more
Brent Myers
Dec 28, 2010 Brent Myers rated it it was amazing
Shelves:
It works to woo the ladies.
Anya
Aug 31, 2014 Anya rated it it was ok
Honestly i can't believe i read it, as it's laughable and borders On unreadable. Bloom is wrong when he means to be profound, occasionally profound when he doesn't seem to notice, misunderstands and has more in common with the people he disdains, and, as usual, never backs up his arguments with anything substantive. This last part is why my score low, as just spouting your opinions on flimsy evidence is decent in conversation, but infuriating in a book that's meant to be taken seriously.
It gets
...more
James
Jan 05, 2010 James rated it it was amazing
''All modern schools believe that metaphor, or figurative language of any kind, is founded upon a pattern of error, whether you ascribe an element of will or intentionality to it, as I do in my belief that writers creatively misunderstand one another, or whether you ascribe it, as deconstructionists do, to the nature of language. But when fallacy is universal, it doesn't seem to make much sense any more to talk about specific fallacies - affective, pathetic, intentional, or whatever. They have v ...more
Sandra
Jul 12, 2007 Sandra rated it did not like it
I hate this book.
Harold Bloom is an idiot.
Lee Foust
Oct 09, 2013 Lee Foust rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hard for me to critique a book of criticism as its usefulness to one seems, to me, rather more subjective than even the overall value of a work of fiction. Also, as a writer, I will probably tend to be more critical of critics, resenting their critiques of what I do more than the attempts, either successful or failed, of fellow writers of fiction and poetry in their efforts at self-expression. So, that said...

Having heard capsulized versions of Bloom's argument here for years in Graduate school
...more
Andrew Boomhower
Apr 08, 2014 Andrew Boomhower rated it really liked it
Bloom's ideas about poetic influence aren't perfect, but they aren't as terrible as his detractors would lead you to believe. I agree with the general theory of influence he puts forth, but his idealized conception of the literary canon and ignorance of the political, social and cultural contexts that inform the process of canonization are what bring the work down. I usually encounter people too enmeshed in cultural warfare to actually write an objective review on Bloom - individuals who tend to ...more
h
Mar 15, 2013 h rated it it was ok
although this purports to be a general theory of poetry, i find it extremely limited in its scope. bloom has insightful things to say, but they aren't as universally applicable as presented (nor will everyone agree about his judgements as to who actually constitutes a great poet). if you are into freudian analysis and male anglo poetry, then this will probably be a 5-star read for you. if your interests take you farther afield, then you may end up feeling similarly excluded by the text. i hate t ...more
Brianne
Ok I tried to tackle this last night. From my notes in the book, it looks like I didn't make it past the first chapter the first read-through. Was probably assigned this book for class.

So: Bloom's poetics: Stages 1-3: The poet's last hurrah, progressing through a series of gestures resembling the last gasps of air and fight a person takes before drowning; Stages 4-6: The poet's gradual emptying of self and personality until the poet is able to hold the predecessor's work so blankly that it appea
...more
Michael O'brien
May 24, 2016 Michael O'brien rated it it was ok
Poetry is not an influence in response to being haunted by apparitions of past genius and the anxiety of defeating previous masters like some Freudian Oedipus defeating a predecessor, as Harold Bloom would suggest, but rather the generational reconfiguration of definitions and the act of defining, interpreting, and affirming the archetypes of humanity through each new set of definitions. In short, the poet defines what it means to be human using the definitions in his/her own generation. The poe ...more
Caracalla
Jan 30, 2016 Caracalla rated it liked it
A very odd work which was in some ways quite disappointing. It seems to represent a sort of third way for criticism; blatantly anti-positivist in its insistent use of a sort of assertive intuition that seems to guide his insight into the mechanics of tradition and inter-poetic relations, it is also fairly indifferent to the sort of political issues that excite normal theorists. People often talk of this being a Freudian reading of intertextuality but I realized that this was mostly a way people ...more
Charles
Feb 11, 2015 Charles rated it really liked it
While Harold Bloom's seminal work 'The Anxiety of Influence' is considered to be a confusing book for the majority of its readers and students, I believe that it offers a valid argument and contribution to literary criticism.

'The Anxiety of Influence' does not simply propose another manifesto for antithetical criticism, but posits an alternative way of regarding the astronomical force that is poetic influence: "We reduce-if at all-to another poem. The meaning of a poem can only be another poem.
...more
Allison Andrews
May 20, 2016 Allison Andrews rated it it was amazing
one of the most influential (no pun intended) pieces I've ever read. I would say this is a MUST MUST read for every artist, whichever their expertise, but we are all artists in our own way. illuminating, intoxicating. at first this would be devastating for someone who considers himself an original thinker. but with further meditation and self-reflection, one can gain validation and reinforcement from this work. similar to a hegelian dialectic, we can sadly confront our unoriginality and uniforma ...more
Liam Guilar
May 26, 2014 Liam Guilar rated it liked it
One of those books in which the magisterial critic sits in judgement on the practices of poets and hands out the label of his approval, "Strong Poet" in this case, to whoever he considers most worthy. No matter how many times i reread this book it baffles me that it was so influential.
ماهر Battuti
Apr 04, 2013 ماهر Battuti rated it it was amazing
من أفضل الكتب فى النقد الأدبى ، الى جانب كتب رينيه ويليك .يتناول المشكلة الأزلية هى وجل الكاتب من أن يستبين فى كتاباته أثر كتاب آخرين تأثر بهم
وذلك على الرغم من استحالة أن يكتب أحد من المؤلفين كتابا إلا بعد أن يهضم الكثير من أعمال السابقين عليه .
Paul Wilner
Dec 15, 2007 Paul Wilner rated it it was amazing
Nutty, but brilliant - this was before he got REALLY out there. (No offense, Harold, who's probably out there somewhere reading this stuff obsessively.)
Douglas
May 11, 2012 Douglas rated it it was amazing
Shelves:
Love this informative, well written work that makes you bend your mind to get out of that box you don't know you're in.
Andy Myles
Feb 23, 2016 Andy Myles rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: nerds
goddamn reading it for the third time

theory of poetry seems to outline my interaction with 'strong' people
i.e. anxiety of influence
etc etc.

puts you onto good western poets and also philosophy like emerson, nietzsche, etc.

i appreciate bloom's perspective

"what has been lost is the solitude of the reader"

etc. etc.

"Shakespeare, who more than any other writer, or any other person that we know of, thought everything through again for himself"

feeling like taking some books to the mountains rn
...more
i!
The basic structure of Bloom's Influence Theory makes sense in a limited way (I don't think it's necessary for successful poets to have to free more specifically external aesthetic space for their projects, for instance), and is generally enjoyable to read about albeit basically useless. His reading of poetry genealogically was refreshing and the best thing about the book imo (although when he finally lines up Ashbery and Stevens near the end it is difficult to see working in action), as was his ...more
s.
Jul 11, 2014 s. rated it it was amazing
This is a good book even for non-writers like myself.
There is one single concept to take away, and I can describe it briefly. Prof. Bloom describes writers engaging in an almost olympian inner battle with their influences or predecessors, to prove to the literary world, history, themselves that they are better than their heroes. They do this by denying any influence the hero or rolemodel may have had, so in turn, proving, they are truly greater. The resulting uneasy anxiety is the "Anxiety of In
...more
Mihai Zodian
Oct 12, 2013 Mihai Zodian rated it really liked it
"Înțelegerea unui text reprezintă o întreprindere dificilă deseori. Bloom dorește să ne arate că actul creației înseamnă nu doar un drum plin de greutăți, ci și o suferință și un risc major pentru poeți. Parcurgerea tradiției nu-i pur și simplu o desfătare pe Câmpiile Elizee, pare mai curând „o sabie a lui Damocles”.

Poate cel mai cunoscut critic literar american și cu siguranță, un spirit combativ, ca și teoria sa, Harold Bloom a scris enorm și variat, de la lucrări de specialitate la discuții d
...more
Dan Geddes
Nov 06, 2013 Dan Geddes rated it really liked it
After a generation characterized by psycho-criticism and the New Criticism, Harold Bloom's The Anxiety Of Influence must have come to its first readers as a balm. Bloom argues that new poems originate mainly from old poems; that the primary struggle of the young poet is against the old masters. He, the ephebe, must "clear imaginative space" (1) for himself through a creative misreading of the strong poets of the past. Only strong poets can overcome this anxiety of influence; lesser lights become ...more
Gabriel Oak
Jun 11, 2014 Gabriel Oak rated it liked it
Bloom's theory of poetic influence is one of the most influential works of 20th-century literary criticism. In a nutshell, Bloom proposes that at least since Milton, all "strong poets" have worked in the shadows of their forebears, and that their best poetry consists of misreadings of the poetry of those forebears. Bloom's prose style is engaging, equal parts bombast and incisive intelligence. I was surprised, however, that in setting forth a theory with such broad implications, that Bloom did n ...more
Alex
Apr 25, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing
Excellent book! Very insightful and I really enjoyed how we inevitably become inspired by authors and their works when writing our own. It's frightening, it's nerve-racking and scary when you think you're writing is reflecting a work that has already been published and given to the world but its also a great comfort in knowing you're being inspired by the right people! Great great read! Thought-provoking.
Paolo  Merolla
Jul 05, 2015 Paolo Merolla rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The essays collected in this volume offer a consciously polyphonic range of theories and interpretations, suggesting to the reader a variety of theoretical frameworks and practical illustrations of how a discussion of poetry may be firmly grounded in modern literary theory.
Abe Brennan
If I understand this aright, Bloom contends that a poet overcomes the burden of her literary past and “clears imaginative space” for herself by intentionally (if unconsciously) misreading her forbears. This “misprision,” as he calls it, allows for the appropriation of poetic matter (whether that be thematic, tonal, topical, language-based, or other), which, if reworked properly, results in an amalgam of material—both the annexed old and the refashioned new—that is original. The man can turn a ph ...more
Işıl
Oct 28, 2015 Işıl rated it did not like it
no. i thought i could read this, not thinking of the course in which this reading is assigned, but no. bloom comes off as attempting to be sensational via basically throwing shit at your every single favorite author and literary work but no; doing so does not make the critic groundbreaking. his book is like twitter accounts of famous newspapers where they make a shocking headline so that they'll get more link click hits. And oh, guess what in the link its all horseshit. i had to toss this book a ...more
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Bloom is a literary critic, and currently a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than 20 books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He has edited hundreds of anthologies.
More about Harold Bloom...

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