The popular image of the critic is no longer the dishevelled and much loved figure of Dr Johnson, half-blind and bent over, a tattered coat heaped around his great carcass, a head swollen with reading, hands hanging at his sides like fallen nests. Nor is it any more Natasha and Crispin Critic, the smug, name-dropping, urban airheads sent up by Viz at the end of the twentieth century. The image of the critic today, if he or she is imagined at all, is of someone neither learned nor elite. Once revered and then despised, the contemporary critic is now regarded as redundant, and for an increasing number of critics this is literally the case.
These are the best of times and the worst of times for literary criticism: the best of times because at least we still have Harold Bloom, who is always right, to tell us how and what to read; and the worst of times because Bloom says they are.