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  • Published: 17 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9780525562474
  • Imprint: Vintage USA
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 544
  • RRP: $37.00

Possessed by Memory

The Inward Light of Criticism




The great critic now departs from polemics to give us a moving, elegaic four-part spiritual autobiography: made up of brief, luminous readings of poetry, drama, and prose, Possessed by Memory finds Bloom sharing with us the works that he knows by heart

In this inward journey from childhood to ninety, Bloom argues with nobody but Bloom, interested only in the influence of the mind upon itself when it absorbs the highest and most enduring literature. He offers more than eighty meditations on poems and prose that have haunted him since childhood and which he has possessed by memory: from the Psalms and Ecclesiastes to Shakespeare and Dr. Johnson; Spenser and Milton to Wordsworth and Keats; Whitman and Browning to Joyce and Proust; Tolstoy and Yeats to Delmore Schwartz and Amy Clampitt; Blake to Wallace Stevens—and so much more. And though he has written before about some of these authors, these exegeses, written in the winter of his life, are movingly informed by “the freshness of last things.” He writes: “One of my concerns throughout Possessed by Memory is with the beloved dead. Most of my good friends in my generation have departed. Their voices are still in my ears. I find that they are woven into what I read. I listen not only for their voices but also for the voice I heard before the world was made. My other concern is religious, in the widest sense. For me poetry and spirituality fuse as a single entity. All my long life I have sought to isolate poetic knowledge. This also involves a knowledge of God and gods. I see imaginative literature as a kind of theurgy in which the divine is summoned, maintained, and augmented.”

As Bloom writes movingly: "One of my concerns throughout Possessed by Memory is with the beloved dead. Most of my good friends in my generation have departed. Their voices are still in my ears. I find that they are woven into what I read. I listen not only for their voices but also for the voice I heard before the world was made. My other concern is religious, in the widest sense. For me poetry and spirituality fuse as a single entity. All my long life I have sought to isolate poetic knowledge. This also involves a knowledge of God and gods. I see imaginative literature as a kind of theurgy in which the divine is summoned, maintained, and augmented."

  • Published: 17 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9780525562474
  • Imprint: Vintage USA
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 544
  • RRP: $37.00

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Praise for Possessed by Memory

"Our era’s Samuel Johnson...Possessed by Memory really is a kind of valediction... Bloom has loved literature deeply—and that love is, even in the face of death, a life-giving force." —Commonweal Magazine  "These essays reveal a deeply personal attachment and fresh perspective. An eloquent and erudite rereading of the author's beloved works." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "A rich lifetime of readership and scholarship can be found within the covers of this equally rich book." —Publishers Weekly

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