Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

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9780007292844: Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

Harold Bloom, the doyen of American literary critics and author of The Western Canon, has spent a professional lifetime reading, writing about and teaching Shakespeare. In this magisterial interpretation, Bloom explains Shakespeare’s genius in a radical and provocative re-reading of the plays.

How to understand Shakespeare, whose ability so far exceeds his predecessors and successors, whose genius has defied generations of critics’ explanations, whose work is of greater influence in the modern age even than the Bible? This book is a visionary summation of Harold Bloom’s reading of Shakespeare and in it he expounds a brilliant and far-reaching critical theory: that Shakespeare was, through his dramatic characters, the inventor of human personality as we have come to understand it. In short, Shakespeare invented our understanding of ourselves. He knows us better than we do: ‘The plays remain the outward limit of human achievement: aesthetically, cognitively, in certain ways morally, even spiritually. They abide beyond the end of the mind’s reach; we cannot catch up to them. Shakespeare will go on explaining us in part because he invented us… ’ In a chronological survey of each of the plays, Bloom explores the supra-human personalities of Shakespeare’s great protagonists: Hamlet, Lear, Falstaff, Rosalind, Juliet. They represent the apogee of Shakespeare’s art, that art which is Britain’s most powerful and dominant cultural contribution to the world, here vividly recovered by an inspired and wise scholar at the height of his powers.

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Review:

Ben Jonson claimed of his great rival Shakespeare that his art was not of an age but for all time. While this timeless approach to Shakespeare has become deeply unfashionable in recent years, riding over the horizon to rescue the Bard from the fiendish clutches of political correctness comes Harold Bloom, fresh from defending and defining The Western Canon back in 1994.

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human is not simply a passionate defence of Shakespeare from what Bloom sees as the horrors of the "School of Resentment"--namely feminist, materialist and historicist accounts of the Bard. Bloom argues that Shakespeare, "by inventing what has become the most accepted mode for representing character and personality in language, thereby invented the human as we know it". So forget Marlowe or Jonson (dismissed on the first page), or even Michelangelo (although his Sistine Chapel adorns the book's dustjacket). Returning to the character analysis of his beloved Dr Johnson and A C Bradley, Bloom offers a play-by-play account of how Shakespeare defines the category of the human as we understand it, which is personified for Bloom by the characters of Hamlet and Falstaff (Bloom's self-confessed role model).

The result is at turns fascinating, controversial, provocative and downright bizarre. There are some wonderfully aphoristic insights: Rosalind (alongside Cleopatra one of the few female characters given much space in Bloom's argument) is "Jane Austen to Falstaff's Samuel Johnson", whilst Leontes in A Winter's Tale is "an Othello who is his own Iago". But the sheer scale of Bloom's central claim, reiterated again and again, leaves the book feeling repetitious and in thrall to its own verbal fireworks, which are often substituted for any sustained analysis of the originality of Shakespeare's language. This is a pity as so much space is given up throughout the book to wonderful passages from the plays.

Bloom's book should be welcomed for injecting debate and controversy into some of the prevailing orthodoxies of current Shakespeare criticism. But would a book whose author gleefully endorsed a colleague's horrified response that it would put Shakespeare studies back a hundred years have been welcomed by the visionary and forward-looking Bard? --Jerry Brotton

Review:

‘Brilliant… a Shakespearean reading of Shakespeare which is rich in asides and incidentals.’
Robert Nye, Sunday Telegraph

‘Harold Bloom is the leading literary critic of our time… a superb advocate for the reality and influence of Shakespeare… Bloom, a great critic, also lives his literary criticism, enacts it in his soul.’
James Wood, Guardian

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 232 x 154 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Harold Bloom, the doyen of American literary critics and author of The Western Canon, has spent a professional lifetime reading, writing about and teaching Shakespeare. In this magisterial interpretation, Bloom explains Shakespeare s genius in a radical and provocative re-reading of the plays. How to understand Shakespeare, whose ability so far exceeds his predecessors and successors, whose genius has defied generations of critics explanations, whose work is of greater influence in the modern age even than the Bible? This book is a visionary summation of Harold Bloom s reading of Shakespeare and in it he expounds a brilliant and far-reaching critical theory: that Shakespeare was, through his dramatic characters, the inventor of human personality as we have come to understand it. In short, Shakespeare invented our understanding of ourselves. He knows us better than we do: The plays remain the outward limit of human achievement: aesthetically, cognitively, in certain ways morally, even spiritually. They abide beyond the end of the mind s reach; we cannot catch up to them. Shakespeare will go on explaining us in part because he invented us. In a chronological survey of each of the plays, Bloom explores the supra-human personalities of Shakespeare s great protagonists: Hamlet, Lear, Falstaff, Rosalind, Juliet. They represent the apogee of Shakespeare s art, that art which is Britain s most powerful and dominant cultural contribution to the world, here vividly recovered by an inspired and wise scholar at the height of his powers. Bookseller Inventory # AAU9780007292844

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 232 x 154 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Harold Bloom, the doyen of American literary critics and author of The Western Canon, has spent a professional lifetime reading, writing about and teaching Shakespeare. In this magisterial interpretation, Bloom explains Shakespeare s genius in a radical and provocative re-reading of the plays. How to understand Shakespeare, whose ability so far exceeds his predecessors and successors, whose genius has defied generations of critics explanations, whose work is of greater influence in the modern age even than the Bible? This book is a visionary summation of Harold Bloom s reading of Shakespeare and in it he expounds a brilliant and far-reaching critical theory: that Shakespeare was, through his dramatic characters, the inventor of human personality as we have come to understand it. In short, Shakespeare invented our understanding of ourselves. He knows us better than we do: The plays remain the outward limit of human achievement: aesthetically, cognitively, in certain ways morally, even spiritually. They abide beyond the end of the mind s reach; we cannot catch up to them. Shakespeare will go on explaining us in part because he invented us. In a chronological survey of each of the plays, Bloom explores the supra-human personalities of Shakespeare s great protagonists: Hamlet, Lear, Falstaff, Rosalind, Juliet. They represent the apogee of Shakespeare s art, that art which is Britain s most powerful and dominant cultural contribution to the world, here vividly recovered by an inspired and wise scholar at the height of his powers. Bookseller Inventory # AAU9780007292844

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, 1998. Book Condition: New. 1998. 1St Edition. Paperback. Harold Bloom, the doyen of American literary critics and author of The Western Canon, has spent a professional lifetime reading, writing about and teaching Shakespeare. In this magisterial interpretation, Bloom explains Shakespeare's genius in a radical and provocative re-reading of the plays. Num Pages: 768 pages. BIC Classification: 2AB; DSGS. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 234 x 155 x 40. Weight in Grams: 986. . . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780007292844

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers. Book Condition: New. 1998. 1St Edition. Paperback. Harold Bloom, the doyen of American literary critics and author of The Western Canon, has spent a professional lifetime reading, writing about and teaching Shakespeare. In this magisterial interpretation, Bloom explains Shakespeare's genius in a radical and provocative re-reading of the plays. Num Pages: 768 pages. BIC Classification: 2AB; DSGS. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 234 x 155 x 40. Weight in Grams: 986. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780007292844

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