Harold Bloom


American Literary Critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University

Author Quotes

We read, frequently if not unknowingly, in search of a mind more original than our own.

We read, I think, to repair our solitude, though pragmatically the better we read, the more solitary we become.

We'll try this first. If it doesn't work, we'll try something else. That's life, isn't it?

What Emily Dickinson does not rename or redefine, she revises beyond easy recognition.

What I think I have in common with the school of deconstruction is the mode of negative thinking or negative awareness, in the technical, philosophical sense of the negative, but which comes to me through negative theology.

What is literary tradition? What is a classic? What is a canonical view of tradition? How are canons of accepted classics formed, and how are they unformed? I think that all these quite traditional questions can take one simplistic but still dialectical question as their summing up: do we choose tradition or does it choose us, and why is it necessary that a choosing take place, or a being chosen? What happens if one tries to write, or to teach, or to think, or even to read without the sense of a tradition? Why, nothing at all happens, just nothing.

What is supposed to be the very essence of Judaism - which is the notion that it is by study that you make yourself a holy people - is nowhere present in Hebrew tradition before the end of the first or the beginning of the second century of the Common Era.

What matters in literature in the end is surely the idiosyncratic, the individual, the flavor or the color of a particular human suffering.

What we call a poem is mostly what is not there on the page. The strength of any poem is the poems that it has managed to exclude.

When critics surrender to the prevailing orthodoxy, the author says they adopt the rhetoric of an occupied country, one that expects no liberation from liberation.

You get too much at last of everything: of sunsets, of cabbages, of love.

We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; that we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are. Yet the strongest, most authentic motive for deep reading?is the search for a difficult pleasure.

You know, I don't want to be offensive. But 'Infinite Jest' [regarded by many as Wallace's masterpiece] is just awful. It seems ridiculous to have to say it. He can't think, he can't write. There's no discernible talent.

We read frequently if unknowingly, in quest of a mind more original than our own.

We read just to pass the time or moved by a serious need, but the time will come when we will read fighting against time.

We read not only because we cannot know enough people, but because friendship is so vulnerable, so likely to diminish or disappear, overcome by space, time, imperfect sympathies, and all the sorrows of familial and passional life.

We read to find ourselves, more fully and more strangely than otherwise we could hope to find.

All writers are to some extent inventors, describing people as they would like to see them in life.

Contrary to what some say Parisians, the text is not there to give pleasure, but the high displeasure or harder pleasure a smaller text will not.

Great literature will insist upon its self-sufficiency in the face of the worthiest causes

I don?t believe in myths of decline or myths of progress, even as regards to the literary scene. The world does not get to be a better or a worse place; it just gets more senescent. The world gets older, without getting either better or worse and so does literature.

Indeed the three prophecies about the death of individual art are, in their different ways, those of Hegel, Marx, and Freud. I don't see any way of getting beyond those prophecies.

Monsters of selfishness and exploitation. To read in the service of any ideology is not, in my judgment, to read at all. The reception of aesthetic power enables us to learn how to talk to ourselves and how to endure ourselves.

Our neo-historicist current, with its curious mixture of Foucault and Marx, are only a very minor episode in the long history of Platonism. Plato hoped, banishing the poet also banish the tyrant. Banish Shakespeare, or rather reduce it to their contexts, will not rid us of our tyrants.

Shakespeare and his few peers invented all of us.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Birth Date

American Literary Critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University