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  “genius” in creative odysseys
gary e. davis
May 2020
Bloom may be most well known for his conception of creative individuation as struggle with one’s precursors: “Anxiety of influence” leads through an “agon”
of work to authoriality by, relative to precursors, “poetic misprision.” But this only makes sense relative to a critics’ retrojection of an author’s influences, while authors themselves regard the Work (prior to presentational works) relative to their own horizons. Any polemos (classical Greek struggle in hitorical art) is relative to the orienting appeal of elating realizations (or revelations—eureka moments) which draw creativity into actualizing its ownmost potential.

Bloom grants that modern senses of ‘genius’ trend toward de-transcendental-ization as “our inclination or natural gift, our inborn intellectual or imaginative power….” (Genius: 10), but he doesn’t evidently realize that creativity in play is primarily play filled—primarily playing into its explorations and prospecting,
not coping with precursors (which presumes one’s own play).

I’m not surprised that “the ancient Roman made an offering to his genius on his birthday, dedicating that day to ‘the god of human nature,’ as the poet Horace called each person’s tutelary spirit” (ibid). That spirit—of one’s human nature—primarily inspires.

“Each of us presumably can locate what is best in herself or himself,” Bloom notes (think: Socratic enabling of the young through maieutic), “but how do we find that which is oldest?” (11). I think our potential for unprecedented articulation expres-ses an evolved depth. “The ancient answer is that there is a god within us, and the god speaks…” (12). Her name is Sophia (meaning “creative intelligence,” more than “wisdom”), and loving Her is a calling: philoSophia.

Indeed, according to Bloom (an ambivalent storyteller),“Emerson and ancient Gnosticism agree that what is best and oldest in each of us is no part of the Creation, no part of Nature or the Not-Me.” (ibid).

Perhaps, “Homer fought a concealed contest with the poetry of the past” (2), as Odysseus resisted the Sirens. But we who love difficult faring find joy in the challenge—which also returns to know the familiar, as if for the first time, again.

However, I admire Bloom’s agon: “The ultimate anxiety of influence always may be, not that one’s proper space has been usurped already, but that greatness may be unable to renew itself, that one’s inspiration may be larger than one’s own powers of realization” (6). (That was Heidegger’s lament, 1946, “What are poets for?”) So many gods to capture—so many domains to comprehend—so little time.

“The genius of influence transcends its constituent anxieties, provided we become aware of them and then surmise where we stand in relation to their continuing prevalence” (9). But his mentality here is about consolidating a presence relative to a past, rather than consolidating a past relative to the appealing horizon of the Work. The promise of the Work is the pole star of “becom[ing] aware” of where one stands: not prevalently relative to influence (let alone anxiety); rather, relative to discovery, disclosure, promise, and prospects—which also have uncertainties—of course—about exactly how one relates to influences, which basically doesn’t matter, if I get the formulation that satisfies—especially so that I may learn from others better ways to go (please).

For creative Self actualization, there’s no canonical “relationship of fresh genius to a founded authority” (ibid.). Authority by unprecedented individuation may be original because it’s given to its prospective faring.

We each want to leave a generative legacy of our flourishing—a lasting (exemplary), generative fruitfulness of comprehensive aspiration.

That’s mirrored in the appeal of others’ extraordinariness. Howard Gardner rhetorically asks, near the end of Extraordinary Minds, 1997 (138), “Does it make sense to continue on our life paths without having rich knowledge of the heights and the depths of which other human beings are capable?” Any person drawn to creativity says “No.”

Yet, Gardner’s point is more about life paths than Bloom’s awed reverence. One’s own aspiring draws influence by enowned others into one’s ownmost faring.

next—> 4-fold character of genius



  Be fair. © 2020, gary e. davis