Three’s a Crowd
In the previous chapter I argued that the language Harold Bloom employs in his theory of literary influence promotes a reading of texts as enactments of a struggle for power. While he maintains that it is “aesthetic power” that is fought for through his “Revisionary Ratios,” a different kind of battle conforms to his paradigm as well: that of a writer’s attempt to clear “canonical space” for himself. In the case of Thomas Hardy and Leslie Stephen, Hardy’s struggle with his presumed precursor took place for the most part on public ground. Indeed, Hardy’s strongest act of disempowerment was not his having written a premature epitaph for Stephen, but having published that poem in Maitland’s biography. By doing so, Hardy ensured that his reimagined portrait of Stephen would be read and circulated: it would have influence. As Stephen’s later biographers have tended to rely on Hardy’s reminiscences, and even to cite “The Schreckhorn” in their works, Hardy’s private desire to overthrow his precursor was successful: it became public. I would argue, therefore, that although Bloom’s paradigm is meant to account for a personal, solipsistic negotiation of indebtedness, in fact Bloomian readings tend to locate those influences that are enacted upon publicly centered battlegrounds. Thus the usefulness of Bloom’s theory as a critical tool may be limited; some literary influences are negotiated in private. In this chapter, I plan to explore the very different dynamics of artistic indebtedness as mediated through public and private means.
KeywordsLiterary History Journal Entry Previous Chapter Open Book Canonical Status
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