The Yale Alumni Magazine, in the latest issue, collects anecdotes about the late Harold Bloom, testifying to both his genius and his eccentricity.
Bloom was wearing a stretched-out orange sweater, and he had begun reading from the moving Conclusion to Walter Paterâ€™s The Renaissance. While continuing to recite (he knew this, like all texts, by heart), Bloom began to remove the sweater. But it got stuck as it passed over his head, so we could hear oracular utterances about lifeâ€™s irredeemable evanescence continue to come from out of a gyrating mass of wool, until, the garment subdued at last, Bloom pronounced: â€œThat is the most profound thing that was ever written.â€
–Richard Brodhead â€™68, â€™72PhD
Bird White Housum Professor of English at Yale
Dean of Yale College 1993â€“2004
President of Duke 2004â€“2017
Harold was as devoted a teacher as Iâ€™ve ever known. â€œI am,â€ he often said, â€œa teacher first and last, and theyâ€™re going to have to carry me out of the classroom in a coffin.â€ It came close to that: he taught on Thursday, and died on Monday.
He was hungrier for poetry than anyone I have ever encountered. Once, when my wife and I were over at the house on Linden Streetâ€”just after heâ€™d returned from a long stay at rehab following an illnessâ€”we were sitting in the living room and talking when Haroldâ€™s eyes shifted a little to the right of, and just above, my shoulder while I was midsentence. Heâ€™d spotted the mailman coming up the path to the front door, and interrupted me: â€œPeter, could you get the mail?â€ as we heard the storm door opening and the bundles hitting the floor. I brought them to him. He began ripping into envelope after envelope with his teeth, clutching his cane, and ignoring us entirely. â€œHarold, expecting something important?â€ I asked him. Without looking up, and in total seriousness, he answered: â€œMaybe someone has sent me a great poem.â€ Most writers I know run the other way when other peopleâ€™s poems draw near; there was the great Bloom, at 81 or so, just back from a hospital stay, panting after them like a golden retriever.
–Peter Cole, Senior Lecturer in Judaic Studies and