Harold Bloom

Harold Bloom


In the New York Times Magazine last year, Adam Begley wrote: “(Harold Bloom) is a colossus among critics…Everything about him is outsized: an encyclopedic intellect, exuberant eccentricity, a massive love of literature. The legend of his genius, ratified by a 1985 MacArthur fellowship, spans four decades.” That genius lies not only in his enormous intellect, but also in his uncanny ability to hit sensitive cultural nerves with his timely and provocative ideas. Case in point: Bloom’s 1994 controversial best-seller The Western Canon, which took our entire literary tradition and fomented vehement debate among academics and non-academics alike. It was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and appeared on bestseller lists on both coasts.

Born into a Yiddish-speaking household in the Bronx in 1930, his parents Russian and Polish immigrants, Bloom learned English by reading William Blake. He finished at the top of his class at Cornell and spent a year as a Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He joined the English faculty at Yale, after receiving his Ph. D. from that iniversity in 1955.

As The Paris Review has pointed out, “no critic in the English language since Samuel Johnson has been more prolific.” Bloom has written over twenty books and has served as General Editor for the Chelsea House Library of Literary Criticism, providing the introductions for some five hundred volumes in the series. His books, among them The Visionary Company, The Anxiety Of Influence, Agon and Ruin The Sacred Truths, rank among the most influential works of modern day literary criticism, garnering admiration and stirring debate. Recent books have extended the reach of Bloom’s brilliant, controversial mind: The American Religion angered the religious establishment by pinpointing the almost heretical individuality that faith assumes in our country, while the best-selling The Book Of J shocked theologians and laypersons alike by attributing the first book of the Bible to a woman.

Bloom’s many achievments include simultaneously holding teaching positions at two universities as Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale and Berg Professor of English at New York University. He spent sabbaticals teaching at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and at the Universities of Rome and Bologna. A past Charles Eliot Norton Lecturer at Harvard and Flexner Lecturer at Bryn Mawr, Bloom received the Christian Gauss Award for the best book of literary criticism. He is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of many other awards, honorary degrees and prizes. His essays and reviews appear regularly in The New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and other periodicals.

Alfred Kazin has said, “Bloom is all literature, (he) positively lives it,” and The New York Times called him “the most original literary critic in America.” He lives in New Haven and New York.

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