The Sons of Behn
This chapter explores the connections between notions of influence, generation, and genealogy in the construction of literary traditions, and asks: what would it mean to be able, by the addition of the odd ‘h’, to talk about the sons of Aphra Behn? Undoubtedly Behn was a source to many 18th-century writers, but in current thinking this does not make her an influence. In this chapter, Harold Bloom explains his own very influential theory of influence. Clearly poetic fatherhood is here conceived as a spiritual relation, quite distinct from the transmission of mere verbal material. The importance of maintaining this matter-spirit distinction is evident in the contempt Bloom expresses for ‘those carrion-eaters of scholarship, the source hunters’, whose project may at first seem to resemble his own, but who show by their obsession with matter, and dead matter at that, that they do not understand the living spirit that passes between poets.
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