Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review: Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom

Shakespeare: The Invention of the HumanTitle: Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

Author: Harold Bloom

Pages: 745

Source: Personal library

Rating: 9/10

Summary (From Barnes & Noble):

Remember the controversy attending the publication of The Western Canon? Well, hold on to your mortarboards -- critic, scholar, and Falstaffian gadfly Harold Bloom returns with his magnum opus, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. Whether deriding the tenets of the so-called "School of Resentment" or trumpeting the 39 plays of William Shakespeare as "the fixed center of the Western canon," Bloom is here at his audacious best, offering a passionate analysis of the ways Shakespeare not only represented human nature as we know it today but actually created it. Infusing literary criticism with an unusual narrative force, Bloom helps us to understand ourselves through literature, revealing "not only of how meaning gets started...but also of how new modes of consciousness come into being."

My Two Cents:

As much as I love Shakespeare biography and criticism, I've shied away from reading any Bloom for years simply because I've heard nothing but how arrogant and pompous he is. And, while I do get that from this book (Honestly, what academic publishing a book isn't somewhat arrogant and pompous?), it didn't distract me from my reading at all.

Bloom certainly knows his stuff. He's read all the plays many times over and has looked for through-lines and connections that casual readers normally wouldn't see. He links Shakespeare's earlier characters with their counterparts from later, completely opposite plays. Some of the connections seemed, to me, a bit of a stretch, but most of his observations were incredibly insightful and had me looking at some of the plays in a completely new light.

His writing is, obviously, somewhat hard to decipher at times. He's an academic who is really fond of the million-dollar words. But, all that is just part of the aura that surrounds Bloom and makes the book just a little more fun to read, I thought. Sure, it was difficult to get through sometimes, and I had to put it down and read something much simpler from time to time, but this book wouldn't be what it was without the overblown language.

If you're a fan of Shakespeare, or just want to read a really long, really in-depth discussion of each of his plays, this is the book for you. But, it's not for the faint-of-heart! 

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