Geoffrey Hartman and Harold Bloom:
Orrin N. C. Wang, University of Maryland
The last half-century study of literature and romanticism, and of their relation, is unintelligible without some type of encounter with Geoffrey Hartman and Harold Bloom. From Shelley's Mythmaking and Wordsworth's Poetry to The Anxiety of Influence and The Fate of Reading a certain form of romanticism is at once summarized and surpassed. Whether that romanticism is the dominant form in romantic studies today is precisely a question that cannot be answered without a serious reading of both Hartman and Bloom. One might say the same of other attendant questions, such as whether there is such a thing as literature itself, as opposed to culture, history, or religion; and whether there is such a thing as the human, as opposed to the post-human or the Other, or to language or nature or Yahweh. These are big questions, of course; if we know them also to be romantic ones, that is because of Hartman and Bloom.
It's obviously also a mistake to list simply critical works of the two from the 1960s and 70s, and to imagine that as the high water mark of their engagement with romanticism, or literature, for that matter. (See also Bloom's comment about the relation between his latest book, Jesus and Yahweh , and The Anxiety of Influence.) They have both written several careers worth of scholarship since then, and in no way seem to be slowing down their critical production as the first decade of the twenty-first century works toward its conclusion. Hence this present volume of Romantic Circles Praxis. Earlier interviews of romanticists in RCP have conceived of themselves as cameos; this volume might appropriately use more modernist language and present itself as a set of snapshots of each scholar, catching them less in repose and more in the active process of continuing two storied, foundational careers.
If these are snapshots, they capture the two in different settings and modes of inquiry. The interview with Geoffrey Hartman was conducted last August in the lobby of the conference hotel for the 2005 North American Society for the Study of Romanticism that was held in Montreal, Canada. Romanticism is a mainstay of the conversation between Hartman and Marc Redfield, centering on Hartman's life-long shaping of Wordsworth as the paradoxically both radical and measured bearer of modernity. Their discussion also touches upon a wide range of topics that include the necessity of a multi-linguistic approach to literature, the nature of terror, and how Hartman and Bloom read differently. The interview with Harold Bloom occurred in his home in New Haven, Connecticut, shortly after Thanksgiving 2005, with family members of both Bloom and Laura Quinney present. In Bloom's and Quinney's conversation, romanticism is not so much the focus but rather a constant presence, signaled by references to Blake, Wordsworth, Emerson, and Whitman. Mixing the convivial and domestic with the sublime, Bloom keeps his attention fixed on the question of Yaweh, in a way less about what brings comfort than what unsettles, or even dismays.
Many thanks are in order for this volume's creation: to my co-editors, Marc Redfield and Laura Quinney, for the keen intelligence and sharp intrepidness that they brought to this project; to Kate Singer, William Flesch, and Lisa Marie Rhody for the technical support that made the interviews possible; to Jeanne Bloom for her gracious hospitality and Daniel and Julian Flesch for their patience during the interview in New Haven; and to Geoffrey Hartman and Harold Bloom for the uncommon generosity and openness, intellectual and otherwise, that they evinced from the beginning to the end of this project.