home > archive > 2012 > this article

The Haunted Heaven: Chapter Thirty One: Looking Down From The Ivory Tower: Harold Bloom

By Michael Moriarty
web posted January 16, 2012

One might argue that there is no literary "aesthetic" or "canonical" worth to either Das Kapital or The Communist Manifesto. However, those two tomes have invaded and infected all of Western Civilization, particularly the performing arts, i.e. Bertolt Brecht's Berliner Ensemble, The Moscow Art Theater and New York's Group Theater.

One also cannot forget that Marx's effect upon Hollywood.

Harold BloomThe absence of Karl Marx's now classic creations in Harold Bloom's ambitious compendium of The Western Canon is, rather like a time bomb, explosively revealing.

Why this code of silence over Marx from a scholar well-known for his more than willingly bellicose opinions?

Why such a blazingly Ivory Tower omission without at least a full chapter of explanation?

"Michael, Bloom's omission is the essence of scholarship! Lines must be drawn!!"

Yet what so affected Harold Bloom's clearly calculated selections for an era of "Chaos" that he gave Karl Marx's name the briefest mention on two pages of a 546 page opinion? The last third of the book is devoted to an Age of Chaos better known as the Twentieth Century.

What and where would The Age of Chaos, the Twentieth Century, have been without Karl Marx?

With the defeat of Adolf Hitler, the last century, devoid of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung, might have been an Age of Utter Triumph Over Tyranny.

What is the deliberate intent and long term aim of the American, noticeably Ivy League Left?

Why has that Ivory Tower been so successful in blinding America to the ultimate Communist aim, which is world domination?

Rendering the name of Karl Marx into a harmless and totally acceptable corner of President Barack Obama's CV? Advertising Marxism as a noticeably Presidential admission in the story of Barack Obama's life? The Cold War with Marxist Russia eventually, after more than twenty years, brought down the Berlin Wall and virtually ended the Soviet Empire.

Looking down on such events as if they don't apply at all to literature is to ignore Napoleon's earth-shattering existence in Tolstoy's War and Peace.

A very discerning, Austrian Catholic friend of mine found Mr. Bloom's omission of Karl Marx from the Western Canon to be correct and instantly understandable. I, however, find the elimination of Marx's writings not only shocking but indicative of Academia's hair-splitting and deceptively compromising silence over the effect of Karl Marx upon not only the 20th Century but upon every corner of modern literature, American "higher" education and the founding intellectual roots of the 21st Century.

Harold Bloom's list of the great authors contains philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Nietzsche. Communist writers, from Bertolt Brecht to the writers on this list of American authors in The Chaotic Age: Robert Frost, John Dos Passos, Conrad Aiken, Robert Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, Kenneth Burke, James Agee, Richard Eberhart, John Cheever and Ralph Ellison.

Each of these poets and novelists were members of The League of American Writers a well-known and unapologetic fraternity of American Communists.

Those writers are just from the first ten letters of the alphabet. Where are the remaining sixteen letters and the names under them? Most of the writers in Harold Bloom's index are in those missing alphabetical categories from K to Z.

Harold Bloom could hardly have been a member of The League of American Writers. It was dissolved in 1943 when he was barely 13 years of age. It ended largely because of the Molotov/Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact. Too many members of The League of American Writers found the sudden, Soviet/Nazi love affair unendurable. If you add on the buckshot Harold Bloom throws at movements affiliated with the Far Left, he is no friend of Karl Marx.

However, why leave out Lucifer when compiling a kind of Biblical Index of Western Literature?

Why does Academia so soft-pedal Stalin and Mao when stressing the major distinctions of a Post-Modern and increasingly Marxist world?


Good and Evil are categories only worthy of melodramatic literature, American evangelists, right-wing fanatics and the likes of Mike Huckabee. If an English scholar begins selecting his list of the greatest writers in the world on the basis of Good and Evil, he would automatically stain his reputation as utterly unqualified to determine what is or is not of the highest quality within either fiction or philosophy.

Nietzsche came to destroy the clichés of morality; and few academics wish to cross swords with Zarathustra.

In other words, the world of Harold Bloom is, as Nietzsche proclaimed, "Beyond Good and Evil". 

The almost complete omission of Karl Marx's name in Harold Bloom's Western Canon is beyond bewildering. Karl Marx is listed in the index as being mentioned only twice: on page 24 and page 38.

Hmmm … "Looking Down From The Ivory Tower".

"What I have omitted," writes Mr. Bloom, "seem to me fated to become period pieces: even their 'multiculturalist' supporters will turn against them in another two generations or so, in order to clear space for better writings."

Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto are "period pieces"? They will eventually become the Mein Kampf of the 21st Century? They don't inherit a place among the works of Erasmus, Machiavelli and Nietzsche? Must we ignore the very literary inspiration to over one hundred million, Russian and Chinese deaths in the 20th Century?

Meanwhile, Marxism helps to elect a President of the United States, perhaps reinstate a former President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and instill a kind of permanence to all members of the Chinese Politburo.

Yet Harold Bloom insists that the world of the literary imagination and the philosophic turn of mind is an utterly separate and untouchable entity, devoid of any possible connections to the world of revolutionary literature.

As I've already indicated: it would be hard to take Tolstoy's War and Peace seriously if Russia had never been faced by Napoleon's army. Were Napoleon a fiction, the whole idea of Communism might have been lost with Robespierre's head. These Russian memories of Napoleon in the mind of Tolstoy, of course, carried their very own personal impact upon him and created what some think is his greatest work.

The wars between Good and Evil within War and Peace are inevitably self-evident and might, at times, be thought entirely melodramatic. Tolstoy's own biography, his own soulful pilgrimage to some form of inner enlightenment, mirrors the long journeys of Pierre and Nicolai through both War and a very troubled Peace.

To not place Marx on the same revolutionary level as Napoleon, Stalin and Mao is the suicidal oversight of an elitist's academia.

To not realize that Marx's tools of war were entirely philosophic and literary, easily on a par with Schoenberg's atonal revolution in music, or Wagner's revolution in opera? The occupants of such an Ivory Tower are just waiting for Pied Piper to show up.

To ignore the power of Marx's words upon the future of mankind, while obsessing upon Shakespeare's power to literally "invent us"? To not include Karl Marx in the Western Canon is, for me, the equivalent of denying the existence of Richard III in the Shakespearean canon.

Perhaps the challenge of Karl Marx to Harold Bloom's vision and his idea of the Western Canon would necessitate a whole other book. I could certainly think of worse solutions to Mr. Bloom's disturbing omission of Karl Marx than another tome by Harold Bloom.

Why won't Professor Bloom attempt it?

His colleagues, the very Ivy League fraternity he belongs to, might find a candid analysis of Karl Marx by a highly profiled "Peer" to be a complete academic revolution.

Marx's life, his work and the hell of his "economic science" is too ingrained a cornerstone within most of "higher education". For Bloom to dare examine the Marxist phenomenon might lead him to concluding that what Shakespeare "invented" is precisely what Karl Marx was attempting to destroy.

Marx's written words and their effect upon our lives, particularly modern authors, playwrights and film scriptwriters to this day, has yet to be examined by any well-known American author.

No other writer, I believe, is more capable of doing that than Harold Bloom. He is obviously, from his few observations about the "politically correct" and "multicultural" Fifth Column, warming up for the challenge.

The creator of the New York Shakespeare Festival, Joseph Papp, whom I knew fairly well and occasionally crossed swords with, made the very failing attempt, mostly as a stage director and not a producer, to inject Marx into his own idea of the Bard. It never worked. Failed every time. The New York theater critics, despite their Leftist loyalties, were not impressed with Joseph Papp's personally directed productions of Shakespeare.

They loved Joseph Papp as a producer!

Papp's Henry V, 1976, in which I played The Chorus, was a revealing encounter: a Marxist director versus, as Mr. Bloom has described William Shakespeare, "the man who invented us".

The mythic opening lines of the play:

Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention,

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

Mr. Papp's idea was to have ten or twelve extras, representing the rude multitude, on stage with me, to inject a very French, Leftist's "Les Infants du Paradis" to "back me up" with ad libs. As if one of the Bard's greatest soliloquy's wasn't enough to capture an audience.

I gave the whole idea one day to ponder and then said, "I will no longer be a part of this production." Eventually Mr. Papp promised to withdraw his very Marxist "improvements" to Shakespeare and I returned to the production.

Marx and Shakespeare? Kenneth Branagh tried, as best he could, to make an anti-war film out of his version of Henry V. Try as he might, Branagh has not unseated Sir Laurence Olivier from that great knight's very Shakespearean throne. The Olivier version of Henry V is still the undisputed best of the lot.

Yet the effect of Karl Marx on all of the arts has proven to be cataclysmic!

Here is a brilliant report on Marx's disciple, Joseph Stalin, and the "effects" he had upon the music of Dimitri Shostakovich.

Hmmm … to not put Karl Marx into the Western Canon is to deny Stalin's invasion of Finland during the earliest stages of World War II.  The literati don't deny it. They simply ignore what Finland suffered under the long term effects of Karl Marx. The over 100 million dead in Russia and China from the "purges" and "cultural revolutions" of Stalin and Mao Zedong? Such fruit on the Marxist tree could crown Karl Marx as a co-author of what Harold Bloom calls "The Chaotic Age".

Marx's intellectual partners in death and destruction, Vladimir Lenin, and that post-Marx nightmare, Adolph Hitler, and his German National Socialism?

Let's say Harold Bloom, because of his label for the Twentieth Century, The Chaotic Age, is obligated to examine the major literary forces behind that "Chaos": Das Kapital, The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf.

If The Democratic Age ended with developments brewing in the early 1900's, I hardly think The Chaotic Age that ensued arose because of novelists and poets. The Philosophers of Chaos, as a fourth addition to Harold Bloom's Western Canon, might suffice.

Such a theme could certainly begin in Bloom's Aristocratic Age with Machievelli, pass through The Democratic Age with Sir Francis Galton's works on Eugenics and culminate in the abundant, literary outpourings of Marx, Hitler and Mao.

I am certain that Harold Bloom is as much the historian and philosopher as his list for The Western Canon indicates. Until Professor Bloom opines on The Philosophers of Chaos, I am certain that The Bloom Canon will remain disturbingly incomplete. Not to mention the effect such a glaring omission will have on the reputation of what he himself admits his intellect and intelligence are: an invention by William Shakespeare.

Without a bare-knuckle encounter with Karl Marx, the lofty presumptions of a literary elite bellow at us like the pedants in Love's Labors Lost

Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,

Live registered upon our brazen tombs!

One of the Bard's most famous, American idolaters, Harold Bloom, seems to have forgotten his hero's earliest lessons about those "little Academes": selective memory is fertilized by what Voltaire called "enlightened despots".

Treating Karl Marx and his writings as inadmissible to the Western Canon?

Try teaching in depth an American anything … without the Civil War. ESR

Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at rainbowfamily2008@yahoo.com.





Site Map

E-mail ESR


© 1996-2023, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.