Harold Bloom 1930–
American critic and editor. See also Harold Bloom Criticism (Volume 103).
Bloom is an important, if sometimes controversial, literary critic whose theories are based, for the most part, on his readings of English poetry from Romanticism to the present. Central to Bloom's criticism is his belief that writers in the modern period suffer from what he calls "the anxiety of influence." These writers are anxious because they fear that their poetic voices will be muted by those of the past, that they can say nothing original, achieve nothing profound.
As Bloom perceives it, poets gain a voice, and thus a place in the history of literature, as they revise and sometimes displace their predecessors' work. Because he believes all poets build on the "misreadings" of their literary ancestors, Bloom has little interest in analyzing the meaning of a poet's words. Bloom is extremely concerned, however, with how intensely poets struggle to assert themselves as unique imaginations against the long line of poets who have by chance come before them. For Bloom, a poet's genius is defined in this struggle to be heard.
Bloom introduced his version of the theory of influence in The Anxiety of Influence. In addition to laying the foundation for ideas that are developed in later volumes, this book is a clear indication of the extent to which Bloom has been influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud. In Agon: Towards a Theory of Revisionism, Bloom was no longer merely concerned with the struggle between individual poets and the past, but rather proposed his concept of "revisionism" which Helen Vendler defines as "a later text challenging an earlier text"; Bloom then employed this theory in relation to psychoanalysis and Gnosticism.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 13-16, rev. ed.)