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Our Foremost Literary Critic On Our Most Essential Writers, From Emerson And Whitman To Hurston And Ellison, From Faulkner And O Connor To Ursula K LeGuin And Philip RothNo Critic Has Better Understood The Ways Writers Influence One Anotherhow Literary Traditions Are Madeand No Writer Has Helped Readers Understand This Better, Than Harold Bloom Over The Course Of A Remarkable Sixty Year Career, In Such Bestselling Books As The Western Canon, Shakespeare The Invention Of The Human, And How To Read And Why, Bloom Brought Enormous Insight And Infectious Enthusiasm To The Great Writers Of The Western Tradition, From Shakespeare And Cervantes To The British Romantics And The Russian Masters Now, For The First Time, Comes A Collection Of His Brilliant Writings About The American Tradition, The Ultimate Guide To Our Nations LiteratureAssembled With DavidMikics Slow Reading In A Hurried Age , This Unprecedented Collection Gathers Five Decades Worth Of Blooms Writings Much Of It Hard To Find And Long Unavailableincluding Essays, Occasional Pieces, And Introductions As Well As Excerpts From His Books It Offers Deep Readings Of Essential American Writers, Reflecting On The Surprising Ways They Have Influenced Each Other Across Than Two Centuries The Story It Tells, Of American Literature As A Recurring Artistic Struggle For Selfhood, Speaks To The Passion And Power Of The American SpiritAll Of The Visionary American Writers Who Have Long Preoccupied BloomEmerson And Whitman, Hawthorne And Melville, And Dickinson, Faulkner, Crane, Frost, Stevens, And Bishopmake Their Appearance In The American Canon, Along With Hemingway, James, OConnor, Ellison, Hurston, LeGuin,Ashberyand Many Others Blooms Passion For These Classic Writers Is Contagious, And He Reminds Readers How They Have Shaped Our Sense Of Who We Are, And How They Can Summon Us To Be Better Versions Of Ourselves Bloom,Mikicswrites, Is Still Our Most Inspirational Critic, Still The Man Who Can Enlighten Us By Telling Us To Read As If Our Lives Depended On It Because, He Insists, They DoFor Readers Who Want To Deepen Their Appreciation Of American Literature, There S No Better Place To Start Than The American Canon Anti Trump comments often the only update in Harold Bloom s The American Canon. In general, I like to read Yale s late literary critic Harold Bloom 1930 2019 because in my estimate, he is a master of the art of critical literary appreciation but I do not always agree with his estimates of certain authors and works Even so, I always find him thought provoking, which is why I am writing this essay about his thoughts regarding what he refers to as the American religion of self reliance.But I have mixed feelings about David Mikics editing decisions about the chronologically arranged by the year of the writer s birth 45 selections by Bloom covering 47 writers that he reprints in the book The American Canon Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon Library of America, 2019 The title of Mikics edited book echoes the wording of the titles and subtitles of three of Blooms books 1 The Western Canon The Books and Schools of the Ages 1994 , 2 Genius A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds 2002 , and 3 The Daemon Knows Literary Greatness and the American Sublime 2015.Now, my biggest complaint about Mikics editing is that he does not indicate the date of publication and specific source of each of the 45 selections For example, the undated selection about Ralph Waldo Emerson pages 13 38 has been updated, presumably with Bloom s consent, to include passing references to President Trump e.g., pages 13, 22, 23, and 24 but other undated selections contain passing references to earlier contemporary presidents of the United States, but with no updated references to Trump.In the first paragraph of the selection about Emerson 1803 1882 , Bloom says, Emerson, by no means the greatest American writer, perhaps an interior orator than a writer, is the inescapable theorist of all subsequent American writing page 13 Later in the selection, Bloom says, Emerson s power as a kind of interior orator stems from this i.e., his practice of self deification that is, from his practice of mak ing thinking and seeing the same activity, one that culminated in self deification i.e., the deification of the self page 19.The American Jesuit Renaissance specialist and cultural historian Walter J Ong 1912 2003 Ph.D in English, Harvard University, 1955 details the tendency of mak ing thinking and seeing the same activity in his massively researched 1958 book Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason Harvard University Press the published version, slightly revised, of his Harvard doctoral dissertation Perry Miller in English at Harvard, an atheist who happened to be an alcoholic, served as the director of Ong s dissertation, which was a follow up study to Miller s own massively researched 1939 book The New England Mind The Seventeenth Century Harvard University Press In other words, the Ramists in seventeenth century Harvard College founded in 1636 and elsewhere in New England were historically the visualist precursors in Bloom s terminology in American culture of Emerson s practice of mak ing thinking and seeing the same activity Because Ong works with the aural visual contrast in cognitive processing throughout his 1958 book and elsewhere, we should note here that the Victorian Jesuit classicist and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins 1844 1889 , a convert to Roman Catholicism, was deeply attuned to oral aural dimension of language I will discuss Ong s 1986 book about Hopkins below.For further discussion of Hopkins attunement to the oral aural dimension of language, see James I Wimsatt s 2006 book Hopkins Poetics of Speech Sound Sprung Rhythm, Lettering, Inscape University of Toronto Press.Incidentally, Bloom has edited a collection of essays by literary critics about Hopkins, Gerard Manley Hopkins Chelsea House, 1987.Now, in Bloom s selection about Emerson, he also says, Emerson dismisses the fear that we are nothing and insists upon the necessity of the single self achieving a total autonomy, of becoming a cosmos without first ingesting either nature or other selves He wishes to give us to ourselves, although these days supposedly he preaches to the converted, since it is the fashion to assert that we live in a culture of narcissism, of which our President is the indubitable epitome Emerson, in the time of Trump, should be cited upon the limitations of all American politics whatsoever page 14.After Bloom then quotes a lengthy passage from Emerson about the limitations of American political parties, he says, Emerson writes of the Democrats and of the Whigs precursors of our modern Republicans in the early 1840s, when he still believes that Daniel Webster foremost of Emerson s the best men will never come to advocate the worst cause of the slaveholders Though his politics have been categorized as transcendental anarchism, Emerson was at once a believer in pure power and a prophet of the moral law, an apparent self contradiction that provoked Yvor Winters 1900 1968 in an earlier time and A Bartlett Giamatti 1938 1989 recently pages 14 15.But let s pause briefly here Updated Bloom here says that Emerson preaches to the converted because we contemporary Americans are already converted to what Emerson is preaching But Bloom does not stop to explore whether or not, or to what extent, Emerson s thought may be related to the spirit of political liberalism also known as our American experiment in democratic governance of checks and balances , on the one hand, and, on the other, economic liberalism also known as capitalism , both of which emerged forcefully in American culture However, if we were to disregard American political liberalism and economic liberalism as the cultural matrix out of which Emerson s American religion of self reliance emerged historically, then we would be making a big mistake as Bloom himself does.Subsequently, Bloom says, I think Emerson remains the American theoretician of power be it political, literary, spiritual, economic because he took the risk of exalting transition for its own sake page 17 his italics.Subsequently, Bloom qualifies this extraordinary claim You track him Emerson best, as writer and person, by learning the principle proclaimed everywhere in him that which you can get from another is never instruction, but always provocation But what is provocation, in the life of the spirit Emerson insisted that he called you forth only to your self, and not to any cause whatsoever The will to power, in Emerson as afterwards in Nietzsche, is reactive rather than active, receptive rather than rapacious, which is to say that it is a will to interpretation Emerson teaches interpretation, but not in any of the European modes fashionable either in his day or in our own, modes currently touching the nadir in a younger rabblement celebrating itself as having repudiated the very idea of an individual reader or an individual critic pages 21 22.In addition, Bloom says, He Emerson has the peculiar dialectical gift of being precursor for both the perpetual New Left of student non students and the perpetual New Right of preacher non preachers The American Religion of Self Reliance is a superb literary religion, but its political, economic, and social consequences, whether manifested Left or Right, have now helped place us in a country where literary satire of politics is impossible, since the real thing is far outrageous than even a satirist of genius could invent page 22 his italics and capitalizations.Bloom also says, As a poem already written, the past was not a force for Emerson it had lost its power, because power for him resided only at the crossing, at the actual moment of transition page 24.But Bloom also says, Place everything upon the nakedness of the American self, and you can open every imaginative possibility from self deification i.e., deification of the self to absolute nihilism But Emerson knew this, and he saw no alternative for us if we were to avoid the predicament of arriving too late in the cultural history of the West page 25.Now, without any explicit reference to Emerson or to the term provocation that Bloom uses here, Ong discusses the evocative quality of all kinds of literary texts in his 1958 essay Voice as Summons for Belief Literature, Faith, and the Divided Self that he reprinted in his 1962 book The Barbarian Within And Other Fugitive Essays and Studies Macmillan, pages 49 67 His essay is also reprinted in An Ong Reader Challenges for Further Inquiry Hampton Press, 2002, pages 259 275.For further discussion of Ong s relevant thought, see Thomas D Zlatic s essay Faith in Pretext An Ongian Context for Melville s The Confidence Man in the book Of Ong and Media Ecology Hampton Press, 2012, pages 241 280.Incidentally, Bloom says, The Confidence Man, also now admired, is a botch, though not a disaster like Pierre page 103.By way of provocation, Bloom, a bit earlier in the selection about Emerson, quotes a passages from Emerson s journal entry dated October 27, 1831, in which he says, in part, It is God in you that responds to God without, or affirms his own words trembling on the lips of another quoted on page 18.Now, because I was in the Jesuit order 1979 1987 in the Roman Catholic Church, founded by the Spanish Basque mystic St Ignatius Loyola 1491 1556 , I should point out here that the Jesuits have long had a motto about finding God in all things In effect, in Emerson s journal entry dated October 27, 1831, he is articulating an insight congruent with the Jesuit motto.In effect, the Dutch Jesuit theologian Frans Jozef van Beeck 1930 2011 explores something like the insight Emerson articulates in his journal entry dated October 27, 1831, in his 600page book Christ Proclaimed Christology as Rhetoric Paulist Press, 1979.By way of further provocation, Bloom says, On November 21, 1834, he Emerson wrote in his journal When we have lost our God of tradition and ceased from our God of rhetoric then may God fire the heart with his presence Our God of tradition, then and now, is as dead as Emerson and Nietzsche declared him to be He belongs, in life, to the political clerics and the clerical politicians and, in letters, to the secondary men and women including Ong Our God of rhetoric belongs to the academies That leaves the American imagination free as always to open itself to the third God of Emerson s prayer page 25.Ong, an orthodox Roman Catholic priest, perceptively discusses Nietzsche s declaration that God is dead in his 1961 essay that he reprinted as Post Christian or Not in his 1967 book In the Human Grain Further Explorations of Contemporary Culture Macmillan, pages 147 164.Bloom, for one, writes triumphantly about a supposed post Christian era For example, Bloom says, He Emerson was the true American charismatic and founded the actual American religion, which is Protestant without being Christian page 17 Never mind that many Americans to this day say that they are Christians, Bloom to the contrary notwithstanding.For Ong s most sustained discussion of the self, see his 1986 book Hopkins, the Self, and God University of Toronto Press , the published version of his 1981 Alexander Lectures at the University of Toronto In it, Ong makes three important statements 1 Hopkins experience of the self falls within this same tradition as St Ignatius Loyola however inwardly turned, the self in Hopkins is never solipsistic page 83 2 T he present day subject oriented not simply subjective , historical minded Catholic theology of Karl Rahner, Walter Kasper, and the Tubingen school, which through the earlier work of Joseph Marechal and others, connects at crucial points with the now better understood work of St Thomas, though it can hardly be styled Thomism, if such an ism is in fact even possible page 95 3 This inward turn of consciousness in Romanticism , as explained earlier chap 1 , develops in counterbalance with the extreme outward turning implemented by the distancing or objectivizing technologies of writing, print, and computers including now the internet and online social media , so that it is clear that self consciousness is not the only feature marking the modern sensibility But it is a major feature It has as concomitant and related phenomena the subjectivity or solipsism with which modern art and literature are often charged, the modern sense of alienation the self feels itself in the extreme isolation of the nameless, pronominal I the sense of loss the world of names has spent its force, become secondary to the anonymous self , a certain rejection of history the I, as earlier noted, is historically free floating, though it can and eventually does bring vast reaches of history into itself , the rejection of organized society which relates named people in namable structures in favor of community which relates people personally, on an I you basis page 130.But Bloom is not attuned to the distinctions that Ong makes about the self However, Pope Francis and practicing Catholics should be attuned to Ong s distinctions.For a well informed biography of Hopkins, see Paul Mariani s Gerard Manley Hopkins A Life Viking Penguin, 2008.Finally, because Bloom uses the expression self deification i.e., deification of the self , I should call attention to the following nine books about the history of thought about deification in Western culture 1 Adam G Cooper s Naturally Human, Supernaturally God Fortress Press, 2014 2 Bernhard Blankenhorn s The Mystery of Union with God Dionysian Mysticism in Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas Catholic University of America Press, 2015 3 Daria Spezzano s The Glory of God s Grace Deification According to St Thomas Aquinas Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, 2015 4 A N Williams The Ground of Union Deification in Aquinas and Palamas Oxford University Press, 1999 5 Norman Russell s The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition Oxford University Press, 2004 6 M David Litwa s We Are Being Transformed Deification in Paul s Soteriology De Gruyter, 2012 7 Litwa s Iesus Deus The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God Fortress Press, 2014 8 Litwa s Desiring Divinity Self Deification in Early Jewish and Christian Mythmaking Oxford University Press, 2016 9 Litwa s Becoming Divine An Introduction to Deification in Western Culture Cascade Books Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013. RIP Harold Odd to have received your last book the day after you passed I have not started it yet will post another review once I have.