For the past half century, the critic Harold Bloom has stood as something of a lone warrior in the literary world. In the 1950s, he battled T. S. Eliot, whose New Criticism was then the prevailing trend in literature classrooms. In the 1970s, he sparred with the Deconstructionists, a group of mostly European intellectuals who believed that language was essentially devoid of meaning. In the 1990s, after publishing his book The Western Canon, Bloom found himself facing off against literary feminists and multiculturalists. Most recently, Bloom incensed thousands of Harry Potter fans by expressing unambiguous disdain for the boy wizard in the op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal.
Depending on one's ideology, Bloom can be perceived in one of two ways: as a Don Quixote tilting at the whirring blades of social progress or as a noble Sir Lancelot, defending a literary kingdom whose nobility includes Homer, Milton, and Dante. In this second paradigm, Bloom's King Arthur is William Shakespeare, the writer to whom he reverently refers as "my mortal god."
Bloom's newest book, Hamlet: Poem Unlimited, is essentially a love letter to Shakespeare and his most famous creation. The book was born out of Bloom's dissatisfaction with his own 1999 work, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. After devoting a lengthy chapter to Hamlet's themes and origins, Bloom realized that most of his true feelings about the play had not made it into print. To remedy this mistake, he wrote Poem Unlimited, a slim volume that strips away history and theory to reveal Bloom's most personal responses to his favorite work of literature.