Saturday, October 25, 2014

Compliments Are Nice says author, but Enough With the Cormac McCarthy Comparisons

The Daily Beast

Every author welcomes praise, but what’s a writer to do when readers persist in comparing him to an another author he’s not even that crazy about?

The “anxiety of influence” breathes and heaves almost four decades after Harold Bloom birthed that wily method of reading: during composition a work of literature is engaged in an unconscious “agon” with a certain existing work, an agon that forms the sways and contours of the new work under construction, even though the writer is probably unaware of this agon. Bloom’s theory is frequently mischaracterized as Freudian—the ambitious son attempting to overthrow the sovereign father, 

Tennyson needing to vanquish Keats before Tennyson can establish his own effective selfhood as a poet—but, as Bloom himself has repeatedly insisted, his theory isn’t Freudian because it isn’t sexual, Oedipal, or psychoanalytical. Furthermore, this agon happens between the poems or plays or novels themselves, and not between the writers. This theory for lovers of literary tradition takes some steadfast handling, but once you learn how it drives it lets you see some thrilling views.


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