Comparing Individuality In Bloom's And Dickinson

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How to Live and Why : Connecting Individuality in Bloom’s and Dickinson’s Work

To live and to read share undeniable similarities. In life, the same principles that are applied to daily actions and decisions should be considered when reading. The importance of individuality and the necessary process of strengthening oneself, even the benefit of a degree of selfishness, are themes that appear throughout How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom and “I Stepped from Plank to Plank” by Emily Dickinson. Harold Bloom’s thesis is that how and what one reads has to be distinctly personalized to themselves; because of our constant race against the clock, reading needs to be for the individual alone. Dickinson enforces this idea of solitary exploration and
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Outside guidance can be acknowledged, but individual interpretation is essential. When the speaker in “I Stepped from Plank to Plank” chronicles events in her life, she describes aspects that “some” may call experience (Dickinson 8). The speaker hears the voices of this “some” and determines on her own whether she agrees or disagrees with their statement. This individual determination is key - the speaker does not just simply listen and accept. Harold Bloom acknowledges that a good teacher can help point out here wisdom can be found, “yet finally you are alone, going on without further meditation” (Bloom 19). The opinions of some may provide enrichment, but in the end the individual must form their own opinions. Bloom later describes phantoms that will be removed by the process of deep reading, and the “most pernicious” of those is that “language does the thinking for you” (Bloom 28). Read the words on the page, then proceed to interpret them with an individual mind. This concept applies to life as well: acknowledge the opinions of others, but each individual must make their own based off of them. In the speaker’s case in Dickinson’s poem, she seems to agree with the beliefs of the “some,” but only through her own individual reasoning. Virginia Woolf notes in her essay “How Should One

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