Ralph Waldo Emerson’s immortality in American poetry and prose has never been in doubt. In his philosophy of self reliance, the “American Plato,” it is said, invented the American mind, and maybe the American religion in this nation of sturdy believers. The keeper of the literary canon, , calls Emerson a “living presence in our lives today.”
I remember listening to this show 8 years ago while working with the Peace Corps as an English teacher in Uzbekistan. I was already an enthusiast of Bloom but after listening to your show I became a fan of yours as well. I can’t imagine a better pairing for Old Uncle Bloomstaff than yourself. I’m hoping this rerun is only a prelude of things to come. There are reportedly two projects in the works by Bloom. One a book on American literature and the other a stage play on Walt Whitman! Let it come to pass.
I read the article, mynocturama. It’s by Naomi Wolfe. You have to read the entire thing to get to her very reasonable pursuit, though it can never be known if her accusation about Harold Bloom is true – she describes one incident 20 years ago – she didn’t set out to punish him or even publicize her claim. She simply wanted to push Yale for an open and accountable system of processing any claims of harassment. She describes in detail her attempts to get at what she wanted and how their fear response about being sued derailed her. This public statement is the end of a rather long process.
A review of The American Religion by Harold Bloom. In his new book, The American Religion, he attempts to do for American religion what he once did for About Harold Bloom: Bloom is a literary critic, and currently a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence has cast its own long shadow of He is the author of numerous publications including A Map of Misreading, Yeats, The Book of J, The American Religion, The Western Canon, and Omens of the Anchor Books: New York: Doubleday and Co., 1963. The Book of J: Translated from the Hebrew by David Rosenberg; Interpreted by Harold Bloom. August 1993); The Western Canon: The Books and School of the15 Jun 2009 Harold Bloom is one of the most towering figures in American literary put what I had to say about it in a book called How To Read And Why in
Regarding Harold Bloom I am grateful for this pre-ROS interview. I very much appreciate Bloom’s sensibilities, his thoughts on literature, what he has to offer. Agree with him or not on points, he is discerning. He’s got good, no, excellent taste and the scholarship to go with it. I had asked for this to be available for us here since it was no longer online except for those with Harvard addresses. So I thank CL and MM.
So, when Bloom says that Emerson isnâ€™t interested in being a philosopher, I agreed with him. But, as Cornell West said to Chris, Emerson is a philosopher only if we think of philosophy in the etymological sense of the word; that Emerson is a seeker of knowledge, and not a possessor. Is this what you mean, mynocturama, when you say:
Today, Gnosticism is best considered not as a heresy and certainly not as something to be sniffed out, detected, and overthrown, but instead as a certain impulse that often rises in Christianity whenever the claims of the faith and the structures of the church are perceived as implausible, or perhaps worse, as rigid, intellectually dishonest, confining, violent and oppressive.
In contemporary Gnosticism, we see not some kind of counterinsurgency to orthodoxy, but instead as a place of spiritual refuge, a place where thinking Christians often go when they can no longer make sense of the creeds and can no longer abide what they perceive as mindless and dogmatic authoritarianism and institutional failure in the churches.
I love these posts. Regarding Flow’s question which part of Emerson is genuinely and authentically orginal, I did not think the question serious when first posed on the “Self-reliance” thread. I took it to be humerous, but it was not apparently. I did so because Emerson indicates that he is tapping into that which is much larger that himself and orginality is not the issue. Originality is connected to ego, or claiming originality is. In the spiritual realm, there is no individual originality. Authenticity is another thing. I would not couple that with originality. Emerson preaches authenticity. Whether he embodied it in his life is hard to say as Bobby indicates. It’s not really important, or not important to me anyway.
One of his favorite Emerson quotes, and one of mine too, comes from the Divinity School Address: “Truly speaking, it is not instruction, but provocation, that I can receive from another soul.” And that’s what he’s largely about, kick-starting in the reader a sense of literary grandeur, of what literature can do for mind and soul, stressing its affective effects in particular. As I said in another post, he can definitely overstate the influence of the writers he loves. Which can get tiresome. Sometimes it sounds like he’s saying that everything and anything starts with Shakespeare. And at some point, you begin to wonder how useful or fruitful this is, seeing Shakespeare suffused everywhere. It can collapse and conflate things together, rather than bring them into sharper relief.
What I meant to say is that Emerson expresses what comes through, his spirituality, rather than his self, originating from his self, his ego etc. He lets go of that. Living a genuinely spiritual life is different from being religious or living a religious life.
At least that’s the impression he gives to me, when I watch him at his best. He seems peculiarly inwardly directed, self-absorbed in some sublime way. He’s seeking simply to embody himself. And that seems to me the purest Emersonianism.
The post in the Self-Reliance thread was indeed intended as humor because it concerned Emerson not Bloom. That is to say an artist not a critic.