Background Image
Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  291 / 176 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 291 / 176 Next Page
Page Background


’s Discourse


It is in this respect that Bloom’s understanding of influence

and its inherent “anxieties” allows us to reexamine the problem of

tradition and the role that individual authors play within it.



“[w]eaker talents” tend to “idealize” and faithfully reproduce the

work of those who come before them, “stronger” ones are “figures

of capable imagination” who “appropriate for themselves” by

misreading others and thus clearing an “imaginative space for

themselves” (Bloom, 1997: 5).


While the outlook of an

individual author is largely determined by the work of her forebears

who have left a lasting mark or influence, the process of

self-individuation requires a misprision or a “creative

interpretation” of such sources (Bloom, 1997: xxiii). Since the

world in which we are born is always “belated” in the sense that

culture never appears as a

tabula rasa

but as a set of pre-established

traditions or canon, it remains vital for a writer to individuate

herself without necessarily breaking away from those traditions,

which can only be achieved through the process of misprision. In

order to acquire a sense of her own worth or individuality, a writer

must avoid merely mimicking the work of her predecessors and

therefore be unfaithful to their work. Only through the process of

misprision, “a complex act of strong misreading,” can a writer

(whether she be a poet or a critic) acquire her own voice and style

(Bloom, 1997: xxiii).



Like Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, I am critical of Bloom’s masculinist

reading of literary tradition. And by adopting the general outline of his theory, I

do not discount the validity or importance of the feminist critique of his work,

particularly Gilbert and Gubar’s discussion of the Anxiety of Authorship. See

Gilbert and Gubar (1979).


Bloom uses the term “strong poet,” which I will avoid here. Although the scope

of his analysis is largely confined to English poetry, there is no reason why it does

not apply to any “story, novel, play, poem, or essay” (1997: xxiii). While poetic

misinterpretation tends to be “more drastic than critics’ misinterpretations or

criticism,” this difference, as Bloom points out, is only “a difference in degree and

not at all in kind” (94-95).


Although many critics have viewed the “anxiety of influence” in terms of

“Freudian Oedipal rivalry,” Bloom denies that there is any merit to this reading