The Struggle For A Critic’s Soul

David Mikics profiles literary critic Harold Bloom, capturing how a "cataclysmic midlife crisis" generated his most enduring work, The Anxiety of Influence:

For months, he was stricken with insomnia and unable to read. What saved him, when he could read again, was Emerson, the inescapable American Romantic thinker. Emerson is the apostle of the self that, no matter how severe the blows of fate it suffers, returns to its own light and recovers its strength. The pessimistic angel with whom Emerson competes for Bloom’s soul is Sigmund Freud, the 20th century’s far darker believer in fundamentally ironic lives: We do not—we cannot—know the truth about what we’re doing, Freud insists. Whether we are daring or cautious in our loves, these loves cannot sufficiently transform us. Every bout of eros leads us back to the parents whom we first struggled with, and who always win the battle. From this point on, Bloom became locked between Freud and Emerson in agonized, fruitful tension.