My Teacher, Harold Bloom

Gary Saul Morson at The American Scholar:

The positive lesson was that the most important thing a teacher can convey is a deep love of literature and an understanding that it offers insights, wisdom, and experiences to be found nowhere else. Nothing could be further from Bloom than the usual ways in which most students are taught literature today. Most learn mechanics: let’s find symbols. Others are instructed to see the work as a mere document of its times. And many are taught to summon the author before the stern tribunal of contemporary beliefs so as to measure where she approached modern views and where she fell short. (Bloom was to name such criticism “the school of resentment.”) Each of these approaches places the critic in a position superior to great works, which makes it hard to see why it is worth the effort to read them. Bloom instructed us to do the opposite: presume that the poets are wiser than we are so we can immerse ourselves in their works and share in their insights. Then the considerable difficulty of reading Milton or Spencer or Shelley makes sense.

more here.

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