Harold Bloom


American Literary Critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University

Author Quotes

All that a critic, as critic, can give poets is the deadly encouragement that never ceases to remind them of how heavy their inheritance is.

Consciousness is the materia poetica that Shakespeare sculpts as Michelangelo sculpts marble. We feel the consciousness of Hamlet or Iago, and our own consciousness strangely expands.

Gertrude Stein remarked that one writes for oneself and for strangers, which I translate as speaking both to myself (which is what great poetry teaches us how to do) and to those dissident readers around the world who in solitude instinctually reach out for quality in literature, disdaining the lemmings who devour J. K. Rowling and Stephen King as they race down the cliffs to intellectual suicide in the gray ocean of the Internet.

I define influence simply as literary love, tempered by defense. The defenses vary from poet to poet. But the overwhelming presence of love is vital to understanding how great literature works.

In the finest critics one hears the full cry of the human. They tell one why it matters to read.

Memory is always in art, even when it works involuntarily.

Oscar Wilde?s beautiful untrue things that save the imagination from falling into careless habits of accuracy.

Seeking comfort through continuity, as grand voices somehow hold off the permanent darkness that gathers though it does not fall.

The Bible itself is less read than preached, less interpreted than brandished. Increasingly, pastors may drape a limply bound Book over the edges of the pulpit as they depart from it. Members of the congregation carry Bibles to church services; the pastor announces a long passage text for his sermon and waits for people to find it, then reads only the first verse of it before he takes off. The Book has become a talisman.

The unity of a great era is generally an illusion.

Tradition is not only bending down, or process of benign transmission. It is also a conflict between past genius and present aspiration in which the price is literary survival or canonical inclusion.

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.

The creator of Sir John Falstaff, of Hamlet, and of Rosalind also makes me wish I could be more myself. But that, as I argue throughout this book, is why we should read, and why we should read only the best of what has been written.

The very best of all Merwin: I have been reading William since 1952, and always with joy.

Unless you have read and absorbed the best that can be read and absorbed, you will not think clearly or well.

Almost anything at all can be transmuted into a labyrinth.

Criticism in the universities, I'll have to admit, has entered a phase where I am totally out of sympathy with 95% of what goes on. It's Stalinism without Stalin.

Great writing is always rewriting or revisionism, and is founded on a reading that clears space for the self.

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American Literary Critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University