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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Teacher Tom: The Invention of the Human

Teacher Tom: The Invention of the Human

The Invention of the Human

In his book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, literary critic Harold Bloom makes the argument that the great storyteller literally invented the modern human being. It's a grandiose claim, one that crosses the line into ridiculous, but at the same time, it's undeniable that the telling and re-telling of his stories has had an outsized influence on Western civilization. His language has become our language. It's almost impossible to speak English without relying upon metaphors, turns-of-phrase, and linguistic concepts of Shakespeare's invention. His characters like Hamlet, Falstaff, Juliet, Shylock and the Nurse have become archetypes around which we spin most of the stories we tell today. His plots are, both consciously and unconsciously, not only the soil from which contemporary plots emerge, but form a foundation for the stories of ourselves and others.

Of course, human storytelling predates Shakespeare by millennia. Indeed, Homo sapiens have been telling stories since the invention of language, and probably even before, making sense of our world, placing our experiences in context, weaving them into narratives that inform and create and explain and question. These stories invented not just Shakespeare himself, but all of us. In other words, Bloom is not wrong when he asserts that Shakespeare invented the human, he just leaves out the part about how every single one of us is a storyteller and as such we are all the inventors of "the human."

There are stories we tell and stories that tell us. And they are all part of the same story. 

We are born into the story of our mothers, our parents, our CONTINUE READING: Teacher Tom: The Invention of the Human