The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND KIRKUS REVIEWS

Hailed as “the indispensable critic” by The New York Review of Books, Harold Bloom—New York Times bestselling writer and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University—has for decades been sharing with readers and students his genius and passion for understanding literature and explaining why it matters. Now he turns at long last to his beloved writers of our national literature in an expansive and mesmerizing book that is one of his most incisive and profoundly personal to date. A product of five years of writing and a lifetime of reading and scholarship, The Daemon Knows may be Bloom’s most masterly book yet.
 
Pairing Walt Whitman with Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson with Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne with Henry James, Mark Twain with Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens with T. S. Eliot, and William Faulkner with Hart Crane, Bloom places these writers’ works in conversation with one another, exploring their relationship to the “daemon”—the spark of genius or Orphic muse—in their creation and helping us understand their writing with new immediacy and relevance. It is the intensity of their preoccupation with the sublime, Bloom proposes, that distinguishes these American writers from their European predecessors.
 
As he reflects on a lifetime lived among the works explored in this book, Bloom has himself, in this magnificent achievement, created a work touched by the daemon.
 
Praise for The Daemon Knows

“Enrapturing . . . radiant . . . intoxicating . . . Harold Bloom, who bestrides our literary world like a willfully idiosyncratic colossus, belongs to the party of rapture.”—Cynthia Ozick, The New York Times Book Review

“The capstone to a lifetime of thinking, writing and teaching . . . The primary strength of The Daemon Knows is the brilliance and penetration of the connections Bloom makes among the great writers of the past, the shrewd sketching of intellectual feuds or oppositions that he calls agons. . . . Bloom’s books are like a splendid map of literature, a majestic aerial view that clarifies what we cannot see from the ground.”The Washington Post

“Audacious . . . The Yale literary scholar has added another remarkable treatise to his voluminous body of work.”The Huffington Post
 
“The sublime The Daemon Knows is a veritable feast for the general reader (me) as well as the advanced (I assume) one.”—John Ashbery
 
“Mesmerizing.”—New York Journal of Books
 
“Bloom is a formidable critic, an extravagant intellect.”—Chicago Tribune
 
“As always, Bloom conveys the intimate, urgent, compelling sense of why it matters that we read these canonical authors.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Few people write criticism as nakedly confident as Bloom’s any more.”The Guardian (U.K.)


From the Hardcover edition.
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About the author

Harold Bloom is a Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University and a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard. His more than forty books include The Anxiety of Influence, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, The Western Canon, and The American Religion. He is a MacArthur Prize Fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, including the Academy’s Gold Medal for Belles Lettres and Criticism, the Catalonia International Prize, and the Alfonso Reyes International Prize of Mexico. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut, and in New York City.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Spiegel & Grau
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Published on
May 12, 2015
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Pages
544
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ISBN
9780812997835
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / American / General
Literary Criticism / Books & Reading
Literary Criticism / Comparative Literature
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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From Harold Bloom, one of the greatest Shakespeare scholars of our time comes “a timely reminder of the power and possibility of words [and] the last love letter to the shaping spirit of Bloom’s imagination” (front page, The New York Times Book Review) and an intimate, wise, deeply compelling portrait of Falstaff—Shakespeare’s greatest enduring and complex comedic characters.

Falstaff is both a comic and tragic central protagonist in Shakespeare’s three Henry plays: Henry IV, Parts One and Two, and Henry V. He is companion to Prince Hal (the future Henry V), who loves him, goads, him, teases him, indulges his vast appetites, and commits all sorts of mischief with him—some innocent, some cruel. Falstaff can be lewd, funny, careless of others, a bad creditor, an unreliable friend, and in the end, devastatingly reckless in his presumption of loyalty from the new King.

Award-winning author and esteemed professor Harold Bloom writes about Falstaff with the deepest compassion and sympathy and also with unerring wisdom. He uses the relationship between Falstaff and Hal to explore the devastation of severed bonds and the heartbreak of betrayal. Just as we encounter one type of Anna Karenina or Jay Gatsby when we are young adults and another when we are middle-aged, Bloom writes about his own shifting understanding of Falstaff over the course of his lifetime. Ultimately we come away with a deeper appreciation of this profoundly complex character, and this “poignant work” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) as a whole becomes an extraordinarily moving argument for literature as a path to and a measure of our humanity.

Bloom is mesmerizing in the classroom, wrestling with the often tragic choices Shakespeare’s characters make. “In this first of five books about Shakespearean personalities, Bloom brings erudition and boundless enthusiasm” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and his exhilarating Falstaff invites us to look at a character as a flawed human who might live in our world.
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