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Shakespeare the Invention of the Human

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Shakespeare the Invention of the Human Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

From Powells.com:

Harold Bloom is America's most formidable living literary critic, possibly the closest thing we have to an intellectual icon. With his opinionated, controversial 1994 bestseller, The Western Canon, Bloom lambasted the so-called "School of Resentment" (by which he meant all multiculturalists, Marxists, feminists, neoconservatists, Afrocentrists, New Historicists, and their friends), creating a national controversy that not only made him as many enemies as it did friends, but also overshadowed the undisputed merits of his book. Though Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human has not sparked the same national debate, it is intellectually no less audacious. More than 400 years after his death, Shakespeare's plays are produced, on both stage and screen, far more than any other single writer's. Many critics have explained that Shakespeare continues to fascinate because his characters embodied universal human qualities better than any other writer before or since. Bloom takes this a step further. He argues that we keep coming back to Shakespeare not because he created superior characters ? though of course he did ? but because he invented the modern conception of character itself, an idea that has had a revolutionary impact on western culture. The ideas we use today to define ourselves as human were first developed by Shakespeare through the creation of Hamlet, Falstaff, Iago, Cleopatra, Macbeth, Rosalind, Lear, and the rest. The culmination of a life's work reading, writing about, and teaching Shakespeare, Bloom's masterwork is indispensable for anyone interested in the works of Shakespeare, the history of ideas, or in simply exploring what it means to be a human being. C. P. Farley, Powells.com

Review:

"A magisterial survey of the Bard's complete dramatic oeuvre by the always stimulating author of The Western Canon...Bloom accurately describes himself as ``Brontosaurus Bardolater, an archaic survival among Shakespearean critics.'' He unabashedly follows Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt, and the great writer-critics of English Romanticism in concerning himself primarily with the dramatist as a peerless creator of characters and profound explorer of our deepest existential questions; he decries the ``School of Resentment'' (Bloom's blanket term for feminists, Marxists, deconstructionists, et al.) and high-concept modern directors, all of whom, he argues, interpret the plays in terms of historical particulars instead of universal truths. For Bloom, as the subtitle suggests, Shakespeare's greatest achievement was ``the inauguration of personality as we have come to recognize it . . . [he] will go on explaining us, because in part he invented us.'' This emphasis makes the author an engaging explicator of the comedies, histories, and some aspects of the tragedies, which all feature personalities remarkable for their ``inwardness''; his masterpieces are the discussions of the anguished, antic skeptic Hamlet and the jovial pragmatist Falstaff, whom he claims as ``the fullest representations of human possibility in Shakespeare.'' Bloom is less effective with late works like The Winter's Tale, in which the Bard largely abandoned psychological realism in favor of a visionary mood that seems to make the critic uncomfortable. Philosophically, Bloom stresses the nihilism that animates Shakespearean villains and torments many protagonists; he tends to underrate the moments of hard-won reconciliation that close many of the plays. In short, the author offers a personal view with inevitable omissions and weaknesses (unnecessary repetition and gratuitous polemics against political correctness among them). Nonetheless, this is a splendid book: elegantly written, scholarly yet accessible, radiant with Bloom's love for Shakespeare in particular and literature in general. Less interesting as a salvo in the ongoing culture wars than as an old-fashioned exercise in narrative criticism for the general reader and, as such, very nearly perfect. Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN:
9780965686822
Author:
Bloom, Harold
Publisher:
PENGUIN PUTNAM TRADE
Binding:
BOOK CLUB PAPERBACK

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Drama » Shakespeare » Criticism

Shakespeare the Invention of the Human Used Book Club Paperback
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Product details pages PENGUIN PUTNAM TRADE - English 9780965686822 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A magisterial survey of the Bard's complete dramatic oeuvre by the always stimulating author of The Western Canon...Bloom accurately describes himself as ``Brontosaurus Bardolater, an archaic survival among Shakespearean critics.'' He unabashedly follows Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt, and the great writer-critics of English Romanticism in concerning himself primarily with the dramatist as a peerless creator of characters and profound explorer of our deepest existential questions; he decries the ``School of Resentment'' (Bloom's blanket term for feminists, Marxists, deconstructionists, et al.) and high-concept modern directors, all of whom, he argues, interpret the plays in terms of historical particulars instead of universal truths. For Bloom, as the subtitle suggests, Shakespeare's greatest achievement was ``the inauguration of personality as we have come to recognize it . . . [he] will go on explaining us, because in part he invented us.'' This emphasis makes the author an engaging explicator of the comedies, histories, and some aspects of the tragedies, which all feature personalities remarkable for their ``inwardness''; his masterpieces are the discussions of the anguished, antic skeptic Hamlet and the jovial pragmatist Falstaff, whom he claims as ``the fullest representations of human possibility in Shakespeare.'' Bloom is less effective with late works like The Winter's Tale, in which the Bard largely abandoned psychological realism in favor of a visionary mood that seems to make the critic uncomfortable. Philosophically, Bloom stresses the nihilism that animates Shakespearean villains and torments many protagonists; he tends to underrate the moments of hard-won reconciliation that close many of the plays. In short, the author offers a personal view with inevitable omissions and weaknesses (unnecessary repetition and gratuitous polemics against political correctness among them). Nonetheless, this is a splendid book: elegantly written, scholarly yet accessible, radiant with Bloom's love for Shakespeare in particular and literature in general. Less interesting as a salvo in the ongoing culture wars than as an old-fashioned exercise in narrative criticism for the general reader and, as such, very nearly perfect.
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