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Monday, August 30, 2021

Influence and Anxiety of influence – Literary terms

Literary terms influence, Literary terms Anxiety of influence, Influence and Anxiety of influence

Influence and Anxiety of influence – Literary terms

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The anxiety of influence:  

A phrase used by critic Harold Bloom to identify his theory that a poet, in attempting to preserve a sense of artistic autonomy and originality, "misreads” the work of a predecessor to avoid being influenced by it.

See also: INFLUENCE.


A term used by literary historians and critics to describe

the effect of earlier writers and their works upon later writers. During the early part of the twentieth century, a good many critics occupied themselves with tracing obvious, subtle, and sometimes farfetched influences upon prominent writers. However, the method became strained and gradually fell into disrepute. More recently the theory of influence has undergone radical revision, due largely to the work of critic Harold Bloom and the theory he calls the anxiety of influence. Bloom feels that anxiety of influence (fear that the work of previous poets makes truly original POETRY impossible) forces a poet to read a precursor's work “defensively," distorting it beyond conscious recognition in order to protect his or her sense of autonomy and originality. Still, despite this defensive tactic, the poet unavoidably embodies the distorted earlier work into his or her own original poem. While Bloom originally applied his theory to both the writing and the reading of POETRY, other critics have applied his theory to FICTION as well.

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