James Wood, Harold Bloom, and the Aesthetic Approach

Cross posted at close Reading:

A morning without class! What a relief… immediately tempered by the awareness that a morning which includes a leisurely patrol through both the newspaper and the blogosphere must be followed by an afternoon of intense study of an opera of the epic theater school, requiring notes for a review, and, alas, an evening of writing a review of Remainder. The machinery of education never stops, grinding inexorably to its conclusion regardless of the wishes of the student.

In the morning’s peregrination was an e-mail of a book review, courtesy of Powell’s, that was enjoyable, but which also had,in the sidebar, a review of The Road that I had not seen before. In our classroom study, we have come across the name James Wood and, seeing that he was the author of said review, I dove in. Believing in the total immersion method of learning, I also resolved to read the review using the technique (at least as I understand it) advocated by Francine Prose in her wonderful book Reading Like A Writer.

I liked Wood’s review for his analysis, his appreciation for the words and the style, and for an absence of the politicization that one sees in some reviews/criticism in other writing. Perhaps, in a moment of clarity, I liked it because I agreed with it (thus injecting my bias, but so what?). Having the luxury of a few moments to invest in an investigation, I searched the blogosphere for information about Woods. Quickly found was his interest in the aesthetic approach to criticism, also an approach favored by Harold Bloom. Given that we have so far seen many different approaches to reviews and criticism, it occurs to me that the first, and maybe most important, lesson of this course is that we should be free to say whatever we think, or feel, about the subject of our reviews. Now erased from the memory banks is the notion that the formulaic approach to writing papers, that forms the syllabus of introductory English classes, is the preferred approach to writing. It is as if we have been provided a foundation upon which to write correctly, and now we are freed to write from our hearts instead of with our minds.

Interesting.

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“Life’s hard, son. It’s harder when you’re stupid.” — The Duke.

Education is a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate,no despotism can enslave. At home, a friend, abroad, an introduction, in solitude a solace and in society an ornament.It chastens vice, it guides virtue, it gives at once grace and government to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage. - Joseph Addison
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