Full Text

anxiety of influence


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


A term in literary theory, used especially by Harold B loom to refer to a consequence of the impact of responsive reading on “strong” poets or readers. When a strong poet or reader, such as William Blake, registers the full impact of a precursor's work, Milton's Paradise Lost for example, the initial response is to feel genuinely overwhelmed by the earlier poet's achievement and momentarily to believe that nothing more is possible in the mode of such achievement, such as English epic P oetry . This state of anxiety of influence may make the later poet experience a condition of imaginative claustrophobia, or a sense of the exhaustion of imaginative opportunity by what has been previously written. Rather than being defeated by such a sense, a strong poet sets about the task of interpretatively reducing the predecessor's work by an act of willful misprision, thus claiming, as Blake did, that Milton was in chains when he wrote of God but free when he wrote of Satan, because he was a true poet and unconsciously of the Devil's party. Such productive M isreading opens up the possibility of new creative activity in the reclaimed imaginative space. Although Bloom develops his theory on the basis of meticulous commentary on the practices of English Romantic poets – initially Shelley and Blake – it roughly parallels D errida's independent theory of D econstruction . Although in its early ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top