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Glossary of Literary Theory
by Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown

Anxiety of influence:

A term used by Harold Bloom to describe the overriding sense of belatedness that creative writers feel when they confront the rich plenitude of a literary tradition that seems to leave little room for novelty. According to Bloom, strong writers make literary history by misreading and misinterpreting their titanic predecessors so as to clear imaginative space for themselves. Every poem is a misprision or misconstrual of a hypothetical parent poem. Bloom's theory of the genesis of poems has a self-admitted psychoanalytic resonance, Sigmund Freud's Oedipal scenario being used as an analogy for the relationship between poet and predecessor.

© Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown,
University of Toronto
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University of Toronto English Library
Director: Ian Lancashire.
Last modified: March 31, 1997