Some Twitter comments on his death:
Armed with a photographic memory, Professor Bloom could recite acres of poetry by heart â€” by his account, the whole of Shakespeare, Miltonâ€™s â€œParadise Lost,â€ all of William Blake, the Hebraic Bible and Edmund Spenserâ€™s monumental â€œThe Fairie Queen.â€
Never speak ill of the dead, like Harold Bloom, who told my American lit seminar that we should feel free to report his sexism and homophobia to the university president who, Bloom explained, would rather hide under his desk than fire him.
Harold Bloom was once asked why he was writing a multi-volume history of literary theory. “I can’t sleep anyway,” he said.
In 1999, Emmy Chang of the Yale Free Press interviewed Professor Bloom, and got a good sample of Bloom talk.
YFP. In the Shakespeare book you mention that since Shakespeare, weâ€™ve taken more after Iago than Othelloâ€™weâ€™ve learned more from Iago. And I wanted to ask you if you thought that was Shakespeareâ€™s fault or if it was our fault.
HB. That questionâ€™s unanswerable because we have been so formed by Shakespeare. That I think is the irony of [the Tenure Action Coalition]â€™the words they use are frequently words that he invented, that werenâ€™t in the language until he coined them. I think that it was Owen Barfield who said that it can be positively humiliating for us to realize that what we want to call our emotions, turn out to be Shakespeareâ€™s thoughts. Shakespeare is the Canon because Shakespeare is ourselves, and the answer therefore to the question of, Is the way in which weâ€™ve imitated Iago our fault or Shakespeareâ€™s fault, is both. Iâ€™m not sure that until you have the representation you call Hamlet, that you have anywhere, (in any language Iâ€™m able to read anyway), someone who changes every time he or she speaks, and who does it by this weird thing of overhearing oneself, which I canâ€™t find before Shakespeare. But if youâ€™re really going to talk about Shakespeareâ€™s culpabilityâ€™so far as I can tell, Shakespeare invented what Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky, and others afterwards started to call nihilism. Itâ€™s a pure Shakespearean invention.
YFP. [I wondered] whether you think the people who say that Shakespeare has nothing to say to themâ€™whether itâ€™s just a question of their being unwilling to listen, or if itâ€™s actually possible that they canâ€™t hear.
HB. Let me tell you an anecdote. As part of the early manifestation of [the Cornell Revolution of â€˜68-â€˜69], the black students of the university were instructed by their leadership to go into the library stacks and bring out as many books as they could carry and just dump them on the front circulation desk with the dramatic statement, â€˜These books are irrelevant to me as a black student.â€™ And it so happened [that] I was trying to check out a book at just that moment, when a young lady dumped a huge armful of books right next to me and shouted, â€˜These books are irrelevant to me as a black student.â€™ And one slid over to meâ€™it was the Oxford edition of the Collected Poems of John Keats. And I said to the young lady, who scowled at me, â€˜Are you quite sure that the poetry of John Keats is irrelevant to you? Have you read any of the poems of Keats?â€™ And she looked at me angrily and repeated, â€˜These books are irrelevant to me as a black student,â€™ and off she marched. So. But what can I possibly say to that? Thatâ€™s ideological, isnâ€™t it? To arrive here and say that itâ€™s your function to obliterate the best that has been read, the best that has been thought and said, in thirty centuries. They should go somewhere else. If they really think Shakespeare is irrelevant to them, why do they want to go to a university anyway? To get a union card of some kind?
YFP. You said before that we read to learn to talk to ourselves.
HB. I am not, as you know, a Shakespeare scholar, just an enthusiastâ€¦I assume that reading Shakespeare with the whole intensity of your being and with your awakened mind, with all of you, itâ€™s bound to be a kind of training in consciousness. I assume that that is as good a way of awakening that [inner] spark, of lighting it up, or of making that pneuma, that breath, come faster, and stronger, than any other. [It] doesnâ€™t necessarily make you a better person, [but it] certainly [makes] you a more capacious soul than you were already. I really feel that I can teach a more or less receptive and sensitive Yale undergraduate how enormous a work Shakespeareâ€™s Hamlet isâ€¦ You can teach peopleâ€™you can open them to wonder. To more wonder. Which is what Shakespeare is for. I talked [in Shakespeare] about awe as being the proper response. Maybe the really proper response is wonder.
HT: John Brewer.