Friday, January 22, 2016

Anxiety of Influence

Anxiety of Influence

Anxiety of influence, in the unusual view of literary history offered by the critic Harold Bloom, a poet's sense of the crushing weight of poetic tradition which he has to resist and challenge in order to make room for his own original vision. Bloom has in mind particularly the mixed feelings of veneration and envy with which the English Romantic poets regarded Milton, as a 'father' who had to be displaced by his 'sons'. This theory represents the development of poetic tradition as a masculine battle of wills modelled on Freud's concept of the Oedipus complex: the 'belated' poet fears the emasculating dominance of the 'precursor' poet
and seeks to occupy his position of strength through a process of
misreading or *MISPRISION of the parent-poem in the new poem, which is always a distortion of the original. Thus Shelley's 'Ode to the West Wind' is a powerful misreading ofWordsworth's 'Ode: Intimations of Immortality', through which the younger poet seeks to free himself from the hold of his predecessor. Bloom's theory is expounded in The Anxiety ofInfluence (1973), in which he claims that 'the covert subject of most poetry for the last three centuries has been the anxiety of influence, each poet's fear that no proper work remains for him to perform'.

(Source: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms by CHRIS BALDICK)

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