Comparative Literature: Harold Bloom and T.S Eliot

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With close reference to The Anxiety of Influence and ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’, compare and contrast Bloom’s and Eliot’s views on literary influence. Support your arguments with apposite literary examples.

Literary critics have always recognized the ‘tension between the uniqueness of artistic creation and the awareness of tradition, and the tension between the acknowledgment of literary influence and its rejection’. Nowadays, writers are judged according to their originality and uniqueness. However, as T.S Eliot in ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ and Harold Bloom in The Anxiety of Influence suggest, a writer should not be evaluated in these terms, but rather, on how he produces art by acknowledging his predecessors. Nevertheless, they declare that the poet must not imitate blindly previous poets. Henceforth, this essay will aim to portray further the ideas put forth my Bloom and T.S. Eliot, showing comparisons and contrasts in their arguments.
Both critics, in their essays, try to define the great poet. In The Anxiety of Influence, Bloom states that his ‘concern is only with strong poets, major figures with the persistence to wrestle with their strong precursors, even to the death’. Furthermore, he exhorts the idea that the strong poet must not repeat his predecessors but look to them to be original. He claims that ‘poetic influence… often makes [the poetry] more original’. Thus, he employs the idea that the poet must misinterpret previous works to create something personal; the poet must deny influence by intentionally ‘misreading’. A poem must purge itself from any influence but through this purgation should display the particular influence at work. Hence, the ideas of ‘misinterpretation’ and ‘poetic misprision’, advocates the idea that past poets always have an effect on their descendants. Bloom goes so far as to add that ‘the meaning of a poem can only be another poem’. In addition, Bloom introduces six revisionary ratios that represent



Bibliography: Eliot T.S., ‘Tradition and The Individual Talent’ in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921), pp. 42-53 Heffernan James A Hyman Stanley Edgar, ‘The Rape of the Lock’, The Hudson Review, 13 (1960), 406-412 Luxon Thomas H, ‘John Milton’s Lycidas’ in The John Milton Reading Room <http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/lycidas/index.shtml> [accessed 8 February 2013] The Rape of The Lock and other poems: Alexander Pope, ed. by Martin Price (New York: New American Library, 2003) The Selected Poetry and Prose of Shelley, ed [ 2 ]. Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 5. [ 8 ]. The Cambridge Companion: Alexander Pope, ed. by Pat Rogers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 15. [ 9 ]. The Rape of The Lock and other poems: Alexander Pope, ed. by Martin Price (New York: New American Library, 2003), p. 49. [ 15 ]. Stanley Edgar Hyman, ‘The Rape of the Lock’, The Hudson Review, 13 (1960), 406-412 (p. 406). [ 16 ]. T.S.Eliot, ‘Tradition and The Individual Talent’ in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921), pp. 42-53 (p. 43). [ 23 ]. James A. W. Heffernan, ‘"Adonais": Shelley 's Consumption of Keats’, Studies in Romanticism, 23 (1984), 295- 315 (p. 295). [ 24 ]. The Selected Poetry and Prose of Shelley, ed. by Bruce Woodcock (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2002), p. 507.

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