The final week of the year is a still week. The calendar counts down the days of December, and although there is always work to be done, people might be able to enjoy a day or two of recreation.
The Prophet Elijah learned that God speaks not in a heavy wind nor in an earthquake nor in a fire, but a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-13), and so I’ve tried to be a bit more attentive to finding wisdom during this still week. As you might expect, this attentiveness has come in the form of reading, and the latest works of two great scholars have been my guides. It is nearly impossible to do justice either to Harold Bloom or to Wm. Theodore de Bary, and so I won’t even dare to write about them together. For today, then, I’ll focus on Bloom’s latest book The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life, and I’ll have to leave de Bary’s edited collection Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics until next week.
In the Anatomy of Influence, which Bloom describes as his “final reflection upon the influence process” (ix), the gnostic of New Haven writes that “the art of literary criticism for the present time” is to “read, reread, describe, evaluate, appreciate” (24). A key component of Bloom’s description, evaluation, and appreciation is his argument is that all literary influence is labyrinthine. He writes, “Belated authors wander the maze as is an exit can be found, until the strong among them realize that the windings of the labyrinth are all internal. No critic, however generously motivated, can help a deep reader escape from the labyrinth of influence. I have learned that my function is to help you get lost” (31). It all depends, I suppose, on how you define “lost.” Read the rest of this entry »