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The Blooms, the Bard and great books

19 21 0
23.12.2019

The writer holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham, UK and works in Islamabad.

It was Dr Manzoor Ahmed, well-known teacher of philosophy and former vice-chancellor of Hamdard University, who brought Harold Bloom to my notice. I am sure he doesn’t remember that now, as it has been over 15 years that he was member of a job-interview panel where I appeared as a candidate. He asked me if I had read any book by Prof Bloom.

Assuming that he was asking about Allan Bloom, I responded by mentioning ‘The Closing of the American Mind’, a book by the academician and philosopher that I had read during my doctoral studies. Dr Manzoor corrected me — or just tried to gauge the breadth of my knowledge — by pointing out that there was another, Prof Harold, Bloom. Not knowing a bit about him, I confessed my ignorance, but irrespective of the outcome of the interview, I ended up reading Harold Bloom who died in October this year at the age of 89, exactly 27 years after Allan Bloom had died in October 1992 at the age of just 62.

This gives me an excuse to discuss both Blooms who had a couple of things in common: love for the idea of Great Books, an enchantment for the Bard, and a dislike for some new theories of literary criticism. Both were born in 1930, studied and taught at some of the top universities in the US, and had shining careers as writers. Allan Bloom was more of a philosopher whereas Harold Bloom had a lifelong love for literature but both had an interdisciplinary approach to reading, teaching, and writing — making them stand tall, despite their relative conservatism.

That is the reason Allan Bloom’s first book was ‘Shakespeare’s Politics’ in 1964 (with Harry Jaffa) in which he provides an analysis of four plays guided by the political philosophy of Leo Strauss. Beginning from the introduction of that early book, Allan Bloom expresses his pessimism about the state of contemporary education. He lamented, as Harold Bloom did a bit later, that students considered literature irrelevant to their lives; and that there was a need to continue with some........

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