From misprision to travesty. Harold Bloom's use of rabbinic sources
AbstractJewish thought is assigned a privileged place in Harold Bloom’s agonistic theory of literary production and allegedly provides a model for the concepts for which he is best known: the anxiety of influence and creative misprision. Nevertheless, Bloom’s view of rabbinic exegesis as ‘rebellious’ and ‘heretical’ emerges as a travesty. His attempt to ascribe a radical, competitive individualism to what is essentially a body of collective authorship reflects a serious misconception of the nature of rabbinic thought and a scant, ill-informed reading of the sources. What I propose to do here is both descriptive and evaluative: to examine and characterize the ways in which Bloom handles rabbinic sources, and then to step outside the Bloomian circle in order to put his (mis)readings to the tests of standard scholarly inquiry. As we shall see, again and again, the test is failed. It may be that one reason for this is technical, that is, Bloom’s lack of the requisite linguistic and historical knowledge. But beyond the detailed catalogue of elementary scholarly error – a substantial affair, as we shall see – there is another story to be told. It is a story of appropriation and distortion motivated by the impact of one theory (Bloom’s) on another (the rabbinic) with which in reality it has very little in common.
Copyright (c) 2003 Inge Siegumfeldt
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