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Today in Literature

July 11, 2009

11 July 1930:  Noted literary scholar Harold Bloom was born in New York.  He was born into a Yiddish speaking family and was reading English poetry before he had heard it spoken.  At a very young age he began reading Hart Crane and Walt Whitman and has not yet stopped his voracious consumption of literature. He is currently the Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University and one of the few remaining literary rock-stars–not that anyone but English majors ever thought there were literary rock-stars.  He is one of the few great theorists who still hold that great literature is a product of individual genius, not the product of a nurturing environment (another remaining literary rockstar, Stephen Greenblatt, holds the opposite view of Prof. Bloom).  Harold Bloom’s name seems to be attached to everything in the last several years: his series of critical collections called Bloom’s Modern Critical Views (which, if the Don DeLillo edition is an accurate portrayal, is a great resource); his numerous manuscripts including The Anxiety of Influence (which, of course, is the title of this blog) Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?, and The Western Canon; and countless novel introductions.

Personally, Bloom’s theory of the anxiety of influence was the first current literary thought that really struck a chord with me.  The notion that an author finds success by simultaneously fearing and adapting the work of his or her predecessor reached out and grabbed me.  Happy birthday Professor Bloom, many returns.

Also on this date:

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, was published in 1960.

E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web among titles, was born in 1899.

Thomas Bowdler, famous for his attempts to censor–or bowdlerize–the works of Shakespeare, was born on this day in 1754.

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