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Harold Bloom obituary

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American literary critic and author who delighted in overturning orthodoxies

“Criticism,” observed the literary critic Harold Bloom, who has died aged 89, “starts (it has to start) with a real passion for reading.” Blessed with extraordinary gusto as a reader, Bloom claimed to have read everything. He could quote the classics of English and American poetry by heart. He forgot nothing, and retained his passionate love for literature and belief in its supreme value through dark decades in which “literary theory” – a term he scorned – threatened to displace the study of literature in US higher education.

Bloom’s reputation was made as a forceful and innovative reader of Romantic poetry. Shelley’s Mythmaking (1959) and The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry (1961) were written at a time when academic opinion about Romanticism was emerging from the shadow of TS Eliot. Bloom emancipated himself from Eliot while an undergraduate at Cornell University, New York, through a reading of Northrop Frye’s study of Blake, Fearful Symmetry.

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