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Life Arts    H4'ed 5/18/15

Harold Bloom's Thought-Provoking New Book (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Bloom perceptively refers to "the Voice of the Daemon" (his capitalizations, page 153).

No doubt the ancient Hebrew prophets heard the Voice of the Daemon in their psyches calling out to them, which they interpreted to be the voice of God in their psyches.

In the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis, the Voice of the Daemon in Eve's psyche is symbolically represented as the talking serpent, who inspires Eve to become the Prometheus-like hero of the story.

In Maurice Friedman's revised edition of his book PROBLEMATIC REBEL: MELVILLE, DOSTOIEVSKY, KAFKA, CAMUS (1970), Friedman provides an informed discussion of the modern Promethean hero. In addition to discussing the Modern Prometheus, Friedman discusses the Modern Job. He even intimates that the Modern Prometheus and the Modern Job may be two sides of the same coin, so to speak.

In Friedman's terminology, Bloom in his new book emerges as a Modern Prometheus (that's Eve in his Jewish psyche coming through) and something of a Modern Job in his later years of suffering, but not a theistic Modern Job. Bloom is far too disillusioned with the monotheistic deity of his Jewish ancestors to put his trust in God, as the biblical character Job is portrayed as doing.

In Friedman's terminology, it was also Ong's fate in life to be both a Modern Prometheus and a Modern Job in his later years of suffering.


Concerning ancient people hearing voices for daemons, see Julian Jaynes' book THE ORIGINS OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND (1977).

For further reading about voice, see Walter J. Ong's 1958 essay "Voice as Summons for Belief: Literature, faith, and the Divided Self" that is reprinted in AN ONG READER: CHALLENGES FOR FURTHER INQUIRY, edited by me and Paul A. Soukup (2002, pages 259-275) and Thomas D. Zlatic's essay "Faith in Pretext: An Ongian Context for [Melville's novel] THE CONFIDENCE-MAN" in the anthology OF ONG AND MEDIA ECOLOGY: ESSAYS IN COMMUNICATION, COMPOSITION, AND LITERARY STUDIES, edited by me and Paul A. Soukup (2012, pages 241-280).

(Article changed on May 19, 2015 at 13:17)

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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