Frye Alert: “The Anatomy of Influence”

Here’s a review of Harold Bloom’s The Anatomy 0f Influence in The National Post. Bloom’s relationship to Frye has always made me uneasy, and Frye himself seemed to wrestle with it, as you can see from a previous post here. If anyone else wants to weigh in, that’d be great. I’ll keep my eye out for other reviews.

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7 thoughts on “Frye Alert: “The Anatomy of Influence”

  1. Bob Denham

    As for Bloom’s 1967 nightmare which caused him to abandon his devotion to Frye, two years later he is still writing to Frye, asking about Frye’s recent writings, trying out his theory of the anxiety of influence, sending him a paper on poetic influence, and inquiring about Frye’s “myth of concern.” His correspondence with Frye in 1969 contains no hints about turning away from his critical father.

    1. Michael Happy Post author

      Thanks, Bob. The correspondence I refer to at the link to our earlier post cites Frye’s correspondence before and after the publication of The Anxiety of Influence. Anything you can add to make better sense of the relation to Frye and Bloom and the anxiety of influence is welcome.

      Just to be sure there’s no confusion, that correspondence is here:

  2. Veronica Abbass

    There is an interview with Bloom in The Boston Review where Bloom mentions his nightmare:

    “On my 37th birthday, I woke up from a terrible nightmare, something almost out of Blake’s Four Zoas. It featured a covering cherub pressing down upon me. Very frightening stuff! No doubt, a Freudian interpretation would be very different. I sat at this table and had a shocked breakfast with my wife. She said, “Well don’t bring it to the breakfast table!” So I spent the next three days writing a ferocious dithyramb, which six years later after much revision became the first chapter of The Anxiety of Influence. ”

  3. Jonathan Allan

    My article “Anatomy of Influence, Anxiety of Criticism: A Study of Northrop Frye and Harold Bloom” recently appeared in the Canadian Review of Comparative Literature. In this article I pay a great deal of attention to the letters Bloom wrote to Frye during the period of 1959-1969 and Frye’s reaction to Bloom’s theory of poetic influence.

  4. Jonathan Allan

    Jonathan Allan here provides the first paragraph of a recently published paper which we hope soon to post here.

    “Canadian literary theorist Northrop Frye in his notebooks remarked that Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence is “an embarrassing book to me, because it’s about him & not its subject, & I’m one of the influences he’s anxious about” (CW IX: 334). Late in life, Frye’s position had not seemed to change: “It doesn’t matter how often I’m mentioned by other critics: I form part of the subtext of every critic worth reading” (CW VI: 205). Given that Frye is certainly a central theorist in the twentieth century, it seems necessary to consider how profound his influence may or may not have been. However, what does Frye mean when he refers to The Anxiety of Influence as “embarrassing” and recognizing himself “as one of the influences”? This study considers Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence and his own ‘anxiety of influence’; accordingly, Bloom’s work will be considered in the shadow cast by Frye. This question will, as shall be demonstrated, be mapped out and established through a series of letters and close readings of Bloom’s work. Arising out of this analysis is another, and perhaps more profound, question about the nature of the anxiety of having influenced; as such, this study moves to consider Frye’s reaction to the influence he had upon Bloom.” (137)


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