Bloom’s Tragic Aesthetics

Bloom’s Tragic Aesthetics November 5, 2003

And in case there is any doubt that Bloom’s aesthetics is tragic: He claims that a poet is always one who is “rebelling more strongly against the consciousness of death’s necessity than all other men and women do.” (Call this the “heroic poet,” operating by the code of heroic honor and glory.) Each poet quests for an “impossible object,” as did his predecessors. And then this: “That this quest encompasses necessarily the diminishment of poetry seems to me an inevitable realization, one that accurate literary history must sustain. The great poets of the English Renaissance are not matched by their Enlightenment descendants, and the whole tradition of the post-Enlightenment, which is Romanticism, shows a further decline in its Modernism and post-Modernist heirs. The death of poetry will not be hastened by any reader’s broodings, yet it seems just to assume that poetry in our tradition, when it dies, will be self-slain, murdered by its own past strength. An implied anguish throughout this book is that Romanticism, for all its glories, may have been a vast visionary tragedy, the self-baffled enterprise not of Prometheus but of blinded Oedipus, who did not know that the Sphinx was his muse.”

But of course Bloom sees tragedy everywhere: He’s an avowed gnostic.

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