anxiety of influence

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Harold Bloom's theory of poetic influence and succession. First outlined in detail in The Anxiety of Influence (1973), but central to all his subsequent work, Bloom's thesis is that all poets must confront their precursors in a quasi-*Oedipal struggle in order to create an imaginative space for themselves. The strong poets are able to digest, or sublimate their precursors via a process Bloom refers to as creative misreading. That is, these strong poets find their own truth in the work of their precursors and use that as their source of inspiration. In contrast, weak poets are only able to idealize and imitate their precursors. Bloom extended this idea to all forms of creative writing in The Western Canon: The Books and the School of the Ages (1994).

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Harold Bloom (b. 1930)