Volume 69, Issue 4 | December 2008

Special Issue: Influence

Author Title
Andrew Elfenbein Defining Influences
Author Title
Paul H. Fry How to Live with the Infinite Regress of Strong Misreading  
Harold Bloom in his "anxiety of influence" phase is often thought to insist on an intertextual dynamic that is ahistorical. This view might seem to be confirmed by comparison with the text of Bloom's "strong precursor," Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent." The reason for this widespread response to Bloom—and to Eliot—is that although Bloom is as authentic an historian of literature as Gadamer, as the late Russian Formalists (e. g., Tynjanov), or as Jauss, he shares with all these figures a sense of a fundamental and unchanging intertextual dynamic that overrides conditions imposed by broader historical or even literary change. The essay argues finally that Bloom's theory does in fact accommodate change just insofar as it belies his own claim that he is not interested in narrowly verbal allusion. It shows, in a series of examples, that even in Bloom's most broadly imaginative moments, relations with past texts are inspired by verbal signals.
Asha Varadharajan The Unsettling Legacy of Harold Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence   
Harold Bloom's idiosyncratic poetic history is a perdurable cultural force with implications for our present, and not just for Bloom's own. Bloom's story of influence, his attention to the cultural and historical imaginary of "Europe," can thus lend itself to postcolonial contexts that are equally concerned to trace how this imaginary insists and persists at our behest and against our political will. This essay produces a provocative constellation of Bloom's unlikely and unquiet heirs on the contemporary critical scene to open his kingdom of culture to the sufferings of history and to those who have been denied a place in it.
Andrew Elfenbein On the Discrimination of Influences  
Although influence remains a pervasive term in literary criticism, little has changed in its theoretical framework since the work of Harold Bloom in the early 1970s. This article argues that adaptations of findings in cognitive and social science open up new and more finely-nuanced means of analyzing literary influence. The Picture of Dorian Gray is the test case for such adaptations. I examine two forms of influence: local allusion and global revision of thematic and narrative structures. The psychology of memory for language provides tools for distinguish among allusions by stressing the differences between the processes of encoding and retrieval and the consequences of these differences for literary works. To analyze global influence, I return influence to its ordinary language meaning of persuasion. The social psychology of persuasion provides an alternative to Bloomian psychoanalysis as a means of describing the multiple factors involved in persuasion and their interactions.
Katherine Elkins Memory and Material Significance: Composing Modernist Influence  
This essay explores a modernist revision of influence distinct from a Bloomsian model of struggle and misprision. Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf articulate new representations of composite memory that suggest an alternative. When memories of past works collide with a changed present, they inspire creative adaptation and forgetful recombination. This revision of influence also challenges viral theories of cultural transmission by positing a more active role for the artist. More important than Harold Bloom’s anxiety of influence is an anxiety of significance emerging from the self’s confrontation with a world of fast-paced change.
Ankhi Mukherjee The Death of the Novel and Two Postcolonial Writers  
This essay examines the anxiety of influence of the postcolonial English language novel. It focuses on texts that are constituted by metropolitan (Western, European) forms of the realist novel, albeit in a reactive mode. My claim is that postcolonial revisions of canonical novels reinvent the Eurocentric canon for a global age while enacting a death of the romance of the novel. The essay has three parts: the first examines Naipaul’s vexed identification with and shadowing of Conrad, and the second discusses Coetzee’s deconstructive interpretation of the national and cultural provenance of the classic English novel. The concluding section examines contestations around questions of canonicity, fictionality, and the historical embeddedness of postcolonial novels.
Author Title
Julia Reinhard Lupton Kenneth Gross, Shylock is Shakespeare
Shaj Matthew Kirstie Blair, Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart
Melanie Micir Russ Castronovo, Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era
Daniel O'Hara Paul Giles, Atlantic Republic: The American Tradition in English Literature
Paul Giles Wai Chee Dimock, Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time
Bruce Robbins Srinivas Aravamudan, Guru English: South Asian Religion in a Cosmopolitan Language
Aamir R. Mufti, Enlightenment in the Colony: The Jewish Question and the Crisis of Postcolonial Culture
Donald Wesling Jerome McGann, The Point is to Change It: Poetry and Criticism in the Continuing Present
David Simpson Bruce Robbins, Upward Mobility and the Common Good: Toward a Literary History of the Welfare State
Herbert Lindenberger Garrett Stewart, The Look of Reading: Book, Painting, Text

Modern Language Quarterly | Department of English, Box 354330 | University of Washington | Seattle, WA 98195-4430