Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Bloom, Harold

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(1930-2019) US critic, anthologist and writer, most famous in the literary world for his theory – first developed in The Anxiety of Influence (1973) – that, over the past several centuries in the Western world, strong writers have created their work in part through transgressive responses to their predecessors. Within the network of publicly shared assumptions, Plot Devices and vocabulary that marks genre literatures, it is perhaps less easy to demonstrate this principle, though it could certainly be argued that Stephen R Donaldson's response to J R R Tolkien shows all the signs of a strong writer whose response to the father is (to put it mildly) revisionist. Kabbalah and Criticism (1975) extends the arguments of HB's previous book in terms relevant to scholars of the Cabbala and gnostic literature in general. Some of the arguments in Agon: Towards a Theory of Revisionism (1982) provide a framework for beginning to understand Revisionist Fantasy. The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (1994) is invaluable – in terms of fantasy – for its ample discussion of Taproot Texts writers like Chaucer, Shakespeare and Goethe; it is also informative about Jorge Luis Borges and Franz Kafka.

In his long introduction to The Book of J (texts trans from Hebrew by David Rosenberg 1990) HB argues – his conclusions have been vigorously disputed – that most of the great stories in the Old Testament were not only the work of one person (identified as J) but that this person was a woman. If he is correct, J is the first great writer of fantasy (> Jewish Religious Literature). HB's only work of fiction, The Flight to Lucifer: A Gnostic Fantasy (1979), is an over-dense presentation in story form of the central gnostic Quest for some opening out of the Bondage of unknowing into the light of Reality; it shows the influence of David Lindsay, for whom HB has expressed extravagant admiration.

HB is overall editor of the Chelsea House Modern Critical Views sequence of anthologies, projected to run to hundreds of volumes. Those of genre interest so far issued include Mary Shelley (anth 1985), Edgar Allan Poe (anth 1985), Ursula K. Le Guin (anth 1986) and Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness (anth 1987), Doris Lessing (anth 1986), George Orwell (anth 1987) and George Orwell's 1984 (anth 1987), Classic Horror Writers (anth 1993), Classic Fantasy Writers (anth 1995), Classic Science Fiction Writers (anth 1995), Science Fiction Writers of the Golden Age (anth 1995), Modern Fantasy Writers (anth 1995) and Modern Horror Writers (anth 1995). [JC]

Harold Bloom


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.