Harold Bloom, Yale professor, MacArthur fellow, and the world's best known literary critic, has died at the age of 89. He taught his final class last Thursday.
Best known for his rearguard defence of the Western canon against feminists, Marxists, and multiculturalists, Bloom abhorred the notion that literary status should be accorded on the basis of the writer's gender, skin colour, or political beliefs, insisting instead that the aesthetic qualities of a text — he championed Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare, Wallace Stevens, and Hart Crane — mattered more than anything else. In his later years, he also became known for his derisive take-downs of popular contemporary authors such as Stephen King ("an immensely inadequate writer") and J. K. Rowling ("if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do").
Many of his colleagues saw him as a dinosaur, and his devotion to the "dead white male" literary canon as an institutional embarrassment — but many will remember him for his passionate devotion to serious reading, something about which few care anymore.