Harold Bloom #1: Did Shakespeare invent the human?

Posted on January 22, 2015 by Paul Woodward | 2 comments

The brilliant, but controversial, literary critic Harold BloomThe American critic Harold Bloom certainly thinks so. In his most controversial book,Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, he argues that Shakespeare is responsible for “the invention of the human, the inauguration of personality as we have come to understand it”. He is not merely claiming that Shakespeare was the first writer to write successfully abouthuman beings; he believes that Shakespeare created us – orrecreated us. “The dominant Shakespearean characters… are extraordinary instances not only of how meaning gets started, rather than repeated, but also of how new modes of consciousness come into being.” In other words, Shakespeare changed the way we think about ourselves, and others. Had he died young, before writing his great masterpieces, we “all of us might be gambolling about, but without mature Shakespeare we would be very different, because we would think and feel and speak differently.”


2 Responses

Eric Plumer
Eric Plumer

March 29, 2019

A runner up in this competition would be St. Augustine of Hippo. Phillip Cary made the argument for him in Augustine’s Invention of the Inner Self (2000), and Bloom himself acknowledges Cary in one of his more recent books.


October 15, 2016

Ah yes, nicely put, evyonree.

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