Harold Bloom | Critical Essay by Alvin Rosenfeld

This literature criticism consists of approximately 18 pages of analysis & critique of Harold Bloom.
This section contains 5,174 words
(approx. 18 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Essay by Alvin Rosenfeld

SOURCE: "'Armed for War': Notes on The Antithetical Criticism of Harold Bloom," in The Southern Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, Summer, 1977, pp. 554-66.

In the following essay, Rosenfeld explores the various influences involved in the development of Bloom's antithetical criticism of poetry.

A good critic … is armed for war. And criticism is a war, against a work of art—either the critic defeats the work or the work defeats the critic.

                                —Jacob Glatstein

It is a duty of critics, as Harold Bloom has recently defined it, to make a good poet's work harder for him to perform, for it is only in the overcoming of genuine difficulties that strong poetry emerges. A corollary of this view—never stated as such but clearly implicit in Bloom's writings—is that a critic should do his work in such a way as to make a reader's work also more difficult for him to perform, and for much the same reasons, namely, to achieve interpretations strenuous enough to be adequate to the age. "Strength" is a central term in Bloom's critical vocabulary, just as it is the goal of all of his intellectual labors. The designation "reader" must, in this case, apply to the professional reader—fellow critics, among whom Bloom values, and increasingly seems to write almost exclusively for—those relatively few "deep readers" of poetry who, in various independent ways, are attempting to formulate a theory of literature that might serve as the basis for a new practical criticism. Certainly that is Harold Bloom's aim, yet those who have been encountering him in his latest and most difficult phase, more often than not, have been finding him perplexing and extravagant in his views, with the result that Bloom has emerged as not only the most powerful but also the most provocative and controversial critic of the day. More and more, in fact, the argument over his theories is set forth in personal terms: is Harold Bloom truly "brilliant" or just "mad"; "outrageous" by temperament or willfully "offensive" to the rest of the profession; "serious" or merely "putting us all on"?

Bloom's reply to such questions—and they are increasingly ad hominem in nature, increasingly polemical—is perhaps the most outrageous thing of all: he writes another book. The Anxiety of Influence (1973), the small volume that first presented the author's formulations of an antithetical criticism, was followed two years later by the companion volume. A Map of Misreading (1975), an effort at developing a new practical criticism based on a revisionist theory of poetic creation. If the first volume provoked a good deal of dismay in academic circles and generated a controversy in criticism rather rare in recent times, the second one heightened perplexity and exacerbated the dispute. For in A Map of Misreading Bloom not only extended his earlier view that "the meaning of a poem can only be another poem" but pronounced against the very existence of the poem itself: "there are no texts, but only relationships between texts." In an attempt to discover and clarify the intricate nature of these relationships, Bloom developed, in The Anxiety of Influence, a set of six "revisionary ratios" that might aid the critic in traversing "the hidden roads that go from poem to poem." In the companion volume, these ratios were not only tested in a series of close readings of individual poets but drawn together into a "map of misprision," where they combined with coordinating sets of psychic defenses, poetic images, and rhetorical tropes to form the most elaborate apparatus for literary interpretation given us since the early work of Northrop Frye. Bloom's affinities with Frye have often been noted, but inasmuch as his evolving subject is now clearly in the realm of psychopoetics, or the philosophy of composition, he seems closer at this point to Kenneth Burke, our most gifted and perhaps most advanced rhetorician to date. Finally, though, Bloom seems destined to find a direction for his work independent of both Frye and Burke, a direction quite possibly that will move him to approximate or even partake of the most formidable system of textual commentary yet devised—Bible commentary, or, as Bloom would understand it, interpretation as a struggle for priority with Text Itself. This prospect was hinted at in A Map of Misreading when the author turned to Lurianic Kabbalism as "the ultimate model for Western revisionism from the Renaissance to the present" and stated his intentions for further study along just these lines. With Kabbalah and Criticism (1975) and Poetry and Repression (1976) he has sought to make good on these promises.

Bloom has set himself a three-fold task in Kabbalah and Criticism: one, to offer an exposition of the rich but complex system of Kabbalistic thinking; two, to relate this thinking, and especially that branch of it formulated by Isaac Luria, to a theory of reading poetry; and three, to explain and defend the adoption of a Kabbalistic model for literary interpretation and to show its value for the practice of an antithetical criticism.

Antithetical criticism is a means of understanding poetry from within the long tradition of poetic history, which is to say, it is a non-reductionist attempt at appreciating poetic lineage. Poems, as Harold Bloom would have us see them, descend from and are "about" other poems before they arise from and are about the poet's reactions to life; as such they share a "family relationship" not unlike human relationships. To grasp the essential character of poems, therefore, it becomes necessary to perceive a poetic text in terms of its formative precursors—those antecedent and influential texts that help to shape and misshape the literature that follows them. Creation is always a function of influence, and the "anxiety of influence" suffered by later poets in relationship to their forebears is the hidden but motive force behind all poetry. Bloom sees this anxiety of influence as especially acute in the Post-Enlightenment period, where to write poetry at all means to wrestle for living space with the mightiest of the dead—principally Milton and Wordsworth in the British line, Emerson and Whitman in the American line—who among them not only defined but largely occupied the central ground of poetic tradition. Those who come after suffer the limitations of an inevitable belatedness, which they try to throw off in complex but identifiable ways. It becomes the goal of criticism to perceive and explain these moves to resist or offset a crippling influence, to expound poetry's life struggle with its own grand but limiting past. Antithetical criticism, dedicated to observing and clarifying the procedures of influence as it forms and malforms poets, is Harold Bloom's important theoretical contribution to such a practical criticism.

Bloom, an uncommonly learned and prolific scholar, has worked ambitiously in these four books to formulate and refine his ideas, yet it must be stressed that his theory is still very much a theory-in-progress, one beset by its own searchings and anxieties. The thinkers who have contributed most to it are Vico, Nietzsche, and Freud. But while these continue to exert their influence, it is apparent that Bloom has been attempting of late to assimilate a more ancient system of thought, namely Gnosticism—more specifically, Jewish Kabbalism. Why align criticism with the Kabbalah? Because, in Bloom's view, Kabbalah, while generally valued as a form of mysticism, is most interesting as the embodiment of "a theory of writing" and, as such, "offers both a model for the processes of poetic influence, and maps for the problematic ways of interpretation." Accordingly, the author sets out in Kabbalah and Criticism to investigate the Kabbalistic system in terms of its rhetoric, to see it even as a theory of rhetoric, a mode of speculation whose ultimate importance lies less in the doctrines it announces than in the stance it takes against "not only a closed Book but a vast system of closed commentary." More than anything else, it was the ability of the Kabbalists to accept such a formidable system of canonical texts and, at the same time, to find the means for an independent spiritual assertion that moves Bloom to admiration in this book.

Basing himself on the life work of Gershom Scholem, as any student of this subject must, Bloom offers brief but reliable and wholly readable accounts of the evolution of Kabbalah from the Sefer Yezirah ("Book of Creation") and the Sefer ha-Bahir ("Book of Brightness") to the masterpiece of Jewish esoteric thinking, the Sefer ha-Zohar ("Book of Splendor"). Along the way he registers lucid and personally-felt appreciations of Moses Cordovero (1522–1570)—"the best example of a systematic thinker ever to appear among the Kabbalists"—and his pupil, Isaac Luria (1534–1572)—"the archetype of all Revisionists." The burden of exposition in this part of the book is carried with remarkable ease, and the resulting essay will stand for many as a most convenient and clarifying brief introduction to Kabbalah. Bloom works his way knowingly through powerful but recondite texts to offer an explanation of the ten Sefirot, the mystical names or emanations of God, in terms of poetic images and rhetorical tropes. To Bloom, the Sefirot are, in fact, very much like poems, and since to him poems are essentially commentaries on or readings of earlier poems, he advocates an appreciation of Kabbalism as among "the first Modernisms." The characteristic impulse in Modernism, as Bloom understands it, is revisionism, in this case "a reaction to the double priority and authority of both text and interpretation, Bible and the normative Judaism of rabbinic tradition." The importance of Kabbalah and its interest for literary interpretation, therefore, are to be found in the answers it managed to give to an abiding question, one that all new creativity of whatever kind must struggle with:

The Kabbalists of medieval Spain, and their Palestinian successors after the expulsion from Spain, confronted a peculiar psychological problem, one that demanded a revisionist solution. How does one accommodate a fresh and vital new religious impulse, in a precarious and even catastrophic time of troubles, when one inherits a religious tradition already so rich and coherent that it allows very little room for fresh revelations or even speculations?

Accepting the challenge of this dilemma—and in terms of poetic tradition every new poet must face something similar to it—the Kabbalists "developed implicitly a psychology of belatedness, and with it an explicit, rhetorical series of techniques for opening Scripture and even received commentary to their historical sufferings, and to their own, new theosophical insights." The genius of this development, and consequently the hero of Kabbalah and Criticism, is Isaac Luria, whose revisionary theory of creation as a regressive process is adopted by Bloom as "the classic paradigm upon which Western revisionism in all areas was to model itself ever since."

Just what was the system that Luria worked out? In brief, it stated that the world came into being as the result of a divine contraction—in Hebrew, zimzum, or God's withdrawing into Himself. What fell off or remained after this event was world—in Kabbalistic terms, an unredeemed fragment or vessel of divinity. Luria and his followers thereafter introduced an involved ethical system to coordinate with this startling version of genesis-as-catastrophe, but since Bloom's subject is origins and not ethics, he chooses to concentrate attention solely on the processes of creation. Nevertheless, he does adapt the ethical language of Lurianic Kabbalah to his concerns with writing and the problems of original genius and introduces two more basic terms to the discussion—shevirat ha-kelim and tikkun, the breaking apart and mending, or restitution, of the vessels. Taken together with zimzum, these comprise, in Bloom's summation and translation of Luria, a triple rhythm of "limitation, substitution, and representation," the model of Bloom's own dialectic of revisionism and, as he sees it, "the governing dialectic of Post-Enlightenment poetry."

The claim will startle, both for its boldness of assertion and its extravagant esotericism. Most poets and readers of poetry, after all, will never have heard of Isaac Luria; how then can Harold Bloom possibly expect them to give assent to Luria's sudden centrality? Bloom is willing to answer that question, but only in terms of his own working formulations of poetic influence. Digesting these from several separate passages this is what results:

The center of my theory is that there are crucial patterns of interplay between literal and figurative meanings in post-Miltonic poems, and these patterns, though very varied, are to a surprising degree quite definite and even over-determined. What determines them is the anxiety of influence…. I do not say that these patterns produce meaning, because I do not believe that meaning is produced in and by poems, but only between poems…. A modern poem begins with a clinamen that depends upon the renunciation of an earlier poem…. The creation through contraction of an internalized precursor text, which is the Kabbalistic mode, is precisely the dialectical mode of belated or Post-Enlightenment poetry…. The hidden roads that go from poem to poem are: limitation, substitution, representation; or the dialectic of revisionism.

To chart these hidden roads as they move through English poetry—from the great Romantics; through the major Victorians; to the American giants Emerson and Whitman; and finally to their modernist inheritors, Yeats and Stevens—Bloom has given us Poetry and Repression, a mapmaker's guide to poetic revisionism. The subject of this book is once more the psychopoetics of literary origins, although this time Bloom depends somewhat less on the Kabbalistic model of creation than he does on some of the theories of Nietzsche and Freud. His method is that of antithetical criticism, although by now this has become far more than a procedural means of literary investigation and amounts to a hermeneutical passion; indeed, Bloom has moved from an initial position that asserted the usefulness of an antithetical approach to the study of poetry to a point where he now views poetry in the Post-Enlightenment period as possessing an essentially antithetical character. One major consequence of this shift is that, more and more, the distinctions between poet and reader have begun to dissolve. As he stated it in Kabbalah and Criticism, the "ephebe's [or later poet's] misreading of the precursor is the paradigm for your misreading of the ephebe," a formula that renders all poetry a kind of errant criticism and all criticism, errant poetry. In his own words, which upon reflection are not in fact as mystifying as they may first appear, "reading is mis-writing and writing is mis-reading." The most notable element in Poetry and Repression, however, and the one that is certain to trouble most readers of the book, is its strongly deterministic stance, as illustrated in such assertions as these:

In studying poetry … we are studying a kind of labor that has its own latent principles, principles that can be uncovered and then taught systematically…. [The patterns of any poem] are as definite as those of any dance, and as varied as there are various dances. But poets do not invent the dances they dance, and we can tell the dancer from the dance…. I am afraid that there does tend to be one fairly definite dance pattern in Post-Enlightenment poetry, which can be altered by strong substitution, but still it does remain the same dance.

Attendant upon this view, Bloom sets out, in a series of intricate readings, "to uncover the pattern of revisionism" in key poems by ten different authors. His aim in each case is to "trace the network of ratios, tropes, defenses, and images" in the poems and, in such a manner, to answer the question that he finds at the center of all new poetic creativity: "What is being freshly repressed? What has been forgotten, on purpose, in the depths, so as to make possible this sudden elevation to the heights?" Such questions arise inevitably because "a poem's true subject is its repression of the precursor poem." What necessitates this repression? The fact that "poetry lives always under the shadow of poetry," so that in order to come into being at all, a new poem must find the means to translate its own belatedness into an earliness, must necessarily contend with and attempt to neutralize or escape the overriding power of priority. The history of poetry, in this view of it, is "an endless, defensive civil war," in which new poets engage the strongest of their precursors in a contest for and against canonization, "the final or transumptive form of literary revisionism."

Since Bloom understands poems themselves as "acts of reading"—instances not so much of fresh writing but of rewriting—he turns his major attention to what he perceives to be the essential intertextual relationships that comprise poetry. Thus, in interpreting the well-known lyric "London," Bloom focuses on Blake and Ezekiel, the biblical text identified as the crucial antecedent for Blake's revisionary or antithetical poem. In the cases of Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats, the dialectical pairings are with Milton; in the case of Tennyson, with Keats; of Browning, with Shelley; of Yeats, with Browning, Blake, and Pater, etc. Bloom's emphases throughout are on the way poems originate and behave, or rather misbehave, for he has posited misprision as a basic principle of poetic existence and likes to concentrate particularly on the necessarily wayward behavior patterns of poems vis-a-vis their precursors. The results of his interpretive mappings are time and again startling, especially as he contends with works so central to the tradition that not only they but by now some of their readings have become "received" as basic. It is certain that there will be arguments with Bloom's analyses of such poems as "London" and "Tintern Abbey," "Prometheus Unbound" and "Song of Myself," for following his persistently revisionist impulse, Bloom has pitted himself, strength for strength, against all previous commentators on these works—including the earlier Bloom! The largest point of issue will come, however, not so much over particular differences in opinion between Bloom and other critics but over the method chosen to study poems in Poetry and Repression.

For it is clear that Bloom has turned away from the admirable insistence to avoid all reductionism in criticism, first voiced in The Anxiety of Influence, to a critical practice that now demands reduction—in this case to his network of "ratios, tropes, defenses, and images," as well as to certain fixed areas in which he finds poetic language invariably centering itself: "presence and absence, partness and wholeness, fullness and emptiness, height and depth, insidedness and outsidedness, earliness and lateness." These, he concludes, "are the inevitable categories of our makings and becomings," and although individual poets can give them a various emphasis, none can escape them. The dance pattern may alter, but it does remain the same dance.

The new gains for Bloom's practice as a critic must be carefully weighed against the losses, for while his critical cartography does unquestionably allow him some exceptionally challenging insights, it also tends to break down into the formulaic repetitions of a new jargon and, hence, to become monotonous; worse yet, it threatens to make the poetry itself appear severely limited and monotonous. Bloom would contend, of course, that it is not his interpretive method that restricts poetry but the consequences of poetry's own belatedness. This assertion will not easily be accepted by most readers, who will rightly resist the tendency to flatten poems into predetermined schemes, however ingeniously conceived. More than anything else, it is this reductionist, or algebraic, character of Bloom's critical method that must be questioned.

What accounts for it? Is reductionism an unavoidable consequence of Bloom's critical revisionism? At the time of The Anxiety of Influence, it seemed not to be, but, with the publication of Poetry and Repression, a book that completes a tetralogy of the author's studies in antithetical criticism, we are confronted by such an unexpected and sorrowful acknowledgement as this: "All reading is translation, and all attempts to communicate a reading seem to court reduction, perhaps inevitably." If that is so, then why reduce to the Kabbalistic paradigm and not some other?

Bloom reached this dilemma, it seems, when he turned to a hermeneutical principle that projects the reader as a commanding, even controlling, figure in the life of poetry—the critic suddenly elevated to a level that acknowledges him as equal in importance to and virtually one with the creator. That is a Gnostic turn—Gnosticism being in this case a defense against the blinding force of textual antecedence and a challenge to its authority. In the history of literature, there is only one Text with that kind of overpowering force, just as there is only a single Creator grand enough in conception to be responsible for it. Gnosticism, whose stance Bloom values as the central model for literary interpretation, was a thrust against this primacy, an exercise of the will-to-power over the Prime Precursor Himself. In its Jewish expression, the Kabbalah, this strain of revisionary defiance was greatly feared by the rabbis, who correctly understood its antinomian impulses. For to the Gnostic, knowledge is always knowledge of origins, ultimately a rival claim upon origins, which in human terms inevitably means an attempt to transform man into God. The means to this magical and forbidden end? A radical or revisionary hermeneutics, interpretation conceived as an effort to reach some equivalence with Original Text through substitution or displacement.

Now what, it can legitimately be asked, does all of this Jewish esotericism have to do with English and American poetry? In Bloom's case, just about everything. What, after all, is the ambition of "strength" in his work if not to reach an equality of power and place with textual priority? In his own words, "according to the strong reading, it and the text are one." A Talmudist could never say that, but a Kabbalist (at least in Bloom's conception of him) could and does say only that. The issue, once more, is one of stance—the Talmudist arguing for the maintenance of a proper piety, the preservation of some human distance from not only a canonized Text but a canonized Commentary; while the Kabbalist must argue—in revisionary, antithetical, and finally anti-textual terms—that the Text is no more than the mirror of his own making, his own mis-making, as Bloom likes to call it, his Necessary Error. Reduced to the secular plane, here is how Jacob Glatstein, the modernist Yiddish poet, formulated one side of this ongoing contest between reader and text: "The poet writes not only his poem, but in fact also his own criticism. The critic only transcribes the poet's criticism of himself, rewrites it and expands it. The poet puts the words in the critic's mouth, and tells him: 'This is what you will say.'" One can hardly imagine a situation more intolerable than this for a critic of Harold Bloom's disposition and drive. To accept the attitude of secondariness implicit in these words is tantamount to accepting servility, which may be all right for the pious but clearly is all wrong to one who maintains, with Bloom, that "a theory of poetry must belong to poetry, must be poetry, before it can be of any use in interpreting poems."

Now Bloom knows that criticism, however imaginative or "inspired," is not poetry, and that if it aspires to the condition of poetry, it is bound to find itself locked in a futile and unequal conflict which it can never win. If poets are not as self-begotten as they would have us and themselves believe—and no one has argued more forcefully and persuasively against the idealization of poetic origins than Harold Bloom—critics are even less independent and self-originating. It is in the nature of things that the critic depends upon and follows a primary text—for most critics, a normal enough state of affairs and the cause for no special anxiety. Yet just as there resides a critic within the soul of every powerful poet—a proleptic or forward-vaulting spirit that wants to dictate to others the interpretations of its own makings—so there resides a poet within the soul of certain powerful critics—a restless, contentious sprite that looks to traduce poetry and make of it a mere illustrative metaphor for theory or interpretation. Bloom is such a critic, one who comes to his work armed for war, for he understands that reading is "always a defensive process," even a form of "defensive warfare," a counter-thrust against an antecedent hegemony of mind that condemns the reader to the melancholy position of one-who-comes-after. In visionary or intellectual terms, that is tantamount to being expelled from paradise. No wonder, then, that Bloom has aligned himself with the Kabbalah, a paramount part of the elaborate Jewish defense system against expulsion and exile.

In adopting Kabbalah as a metaphor for the act of reading—reading here understood as an attempt to reclaim centrality by undoing the priority, autonomy, and singularity of text—however, Bloom has courted not only hyperbole but reduction. While he has revealed much of the heretofore unknown dynamics of the intertextual, he has overleapt the bounds of the critically plausible by denying the legitimacy or even the existence of individual texts. On the strictly literal, even grammatical, level, he would surely acknowledge that there are both poems and relationships between poems. On this same level, he would have to grant as well the obvious and more sober distinctions between poetry and criticism, an acknowledgement that must see reading for what it is—an act that necessarily, even if reluctantly, follows upon the act of writing. Bloom has convincingly argued that the writer is a kind of reader, that there is no creative work that is not also interpretive, but that is not the same as proving that a critical reading of a poem, however "strong," and the text are one. To argue that point is to make a claim for solipsism—a claim not only for survival but for the solitary and exclusive right to survive. Poets, as Bloom has by now amply demonstrated, may be solipsists of this order, at least at their most "anxious," but there is no reason why critics must be, unless, of course, the poets within them become anxious for a fuller and freer release than they normally enjoy.

Actually, if Bloom is able to adjust his new hermeneutics a bit—modify his sense of the reader's ability to affect or determine meaning in poetry—he can retain the major emphases of antithetical criticism and perhaps escape the cul-de-sac of reductionism into which he has recently been led. Moreover, he can continue to do this form within the sphere of Jewish thinking—and from his earliest adaptations of Buber to his more recent expropriations of Luria and Freud his work is recognizably Jewish in its origins—a thinking which, in the Post-Biblical period, he correctly recognizes to be predominantly interpretive and commentative.

Biblical hermeneutics, in its most normative Jewish expression, maintains a continual dependency of text upon commentary, commentary upon text. To be sure, the world and all that flows from it rests upon the centrality of Torah, but far from being a closed text, the Torah remains open to study and commentary, without which it simply cannot exist intelligibly or be transmitted through the generations. "No interpretation of the Bible of the various traditional kinds," as Simon Rawidowicz has written, "means no expansion, no continuation of the people of the Bible." Consequently, "interpretatio is Israel's creatio continua…. Interpret or perish is the voice Israel hears incessantly since Sinai." According to at least one line of rabbinic thought, God Himself, the eternal Creator, is also an "eternal learner," whose passion it is to study the teachings of His interpreters. In a fine revision of Leviticus 19:2 that must delight any critical heart, Rawidowicz offers us this imperative: "Ye shall be interpretatores for I am an interpretator," Interpretation in this view of it is clearly more than an adjunct to text but provides the necessary language for its setting and transmission, its ongoing life.

Nevertheless, while interpretation is invested with an immense authority—to the point where it at times even takes for itself some of the power of the primary source that is its occasion—it can never fully wrest priority of place from the text but must coexist with it in a mutually reinforcing continuum:

What did God give to Moses and Moses bring to Israel? A "text" for interpretatio; not a finished, independent, self-sufficient text, but one which is open and has to remain open to interpretatio; more than that, one which demands interpretatio, obliges Israel to go on interpreting, thus discovering in the process of learning the Torah the duty of interpretatio; also of interpretatio as a secret of the account Israel was able to give of itself in history.

Rawidowicz, himself a considerable master of interpretation, even if a generally unknown one, has described the dynamics of this interdependency in a way that both illuminates and confirms much of the thrust of Harold Bloom's theory of antithetical criticism while at the same time providing a necessary balance or corrective to it:

Interpretatio lives by crisis in various degrees…. [It] can be characterized by a particular attitude of the interpretator who struggles between preserving and rejecting some forms or content of the world at his interpretive "mercy," by a tension between continuation and rebellion, tradition and innovation. It derives its strength both from a deep attachment to the "text" and from an "alienation" from it, a certain distance, a gap which has to be bridged. Interpretatio is the "way out" when man is compelled to "take it" or "break it."

Within the Post-Enlightenment period, Harold Bloom would say, this "crisis" has heightened to the point where "breaking it" has become the familiar first option to succession, the "way out" of the tradition being a radical one for most aspiring poets. There is much in the four books considered here to bear him out. These writings also contain evidence of a hermeneutical crisis, however, the critic himself subjecting the canonized works of poetic tradition to a radical "breaking." There is a certain amount of good in that, for a closed thing is a dead thing, but the heavy critical determinism that marks the readings in Poetry and Repression seems calculated not so much to revive or "open" poetry as to reduce it, and hence to deprive it of much of its natural primacy. When that happens, when the interpretive stance takes precedence over the text at its mercy, the loss is near total for both.

What is needed now is some greater distance between poem and reader. That need not diminish the authority invested in criticism, which will remain considerable, but it may help to bring back into equilibrium the vitalizing tension that must exist for reading itself to exist—the tension between continuation and rebellion, tradition and innovation, preservation and loss. Bloom has shown us the awesome power of shevirat ha-kelim—"the breaking of the vessels." If he can now adjust his critical stance in a way that will allow for restitution, a new power may be his. The most humanizing move at this point would have to be tikkun—in critical terms, the restoration of those conditions of possibility that permit the poem to be in the difficulty of what it is to be: a poem among poems, even a poem among commentaries, but also "a thing final in itself and, therefore, good."

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