When Ryan Taylor ’04 went to shop humanities professor Harold Bloom’s “Genius and Genius” seminar last week, he didn’t find the acclaimed scholar he expected. Instead, he found a sign saying that Bloom had decided to cancel all his classes this term.
“I showed up to his class and nobody was there,” Taylor said. “I was disappointed and very confused.”
Faced with health problems, Bloom decided last week to cancel his two seminars, Associate Dean of Yale College Penelope Laurans said. Late last week, Bloom was undergoing a series of tests at Yale-New Haven Hospital, English Director of Undergraduate Studies Vera Kutzinski said.
Laurans, Kutzinski and Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead all said they were unsure when Bloom would return to teaching.
Bloom could not be reached for comment and medical details were not available.
Both Laurans and Kutzinski said they were not surprised by Bloom’s decision because the 72-year-old professor had not been in good health recently.
“If I were him, I would’ve canceled my classes too,” Laurans said.
Laurans, a close family friend of Bloom’s, added that Bloom would only have canceled his classes if he really believed he would not be able to teach.
“He’s rigorous and he teaches punctiliously all the time. He loves to teach and he always does it, so if he’s not teaching this semester, then there’s got to be a good reason,” Laurans said. “It’s not like he’s cooling his heels in some tropical place.”
Jonathan Cain ’03, who took Bloom’s “Shakespeare and the Canon” courses last year, said he was slightly surprised by Bloom’s decision because he was in reasonably good health last year.
“He seemed like an old guy, but he never seemed to be in particularly bad health,” Cain said. “He absolutely loved teaching and his students, so I’m sure he’s doing what he has to do.”
Brodhead said he was aware of Bloom’s condition the week students returned to campus. Brodhead added that Bloom was timely in his decision to cancel classes before they actually started, instead of terminating the courses in the middle.
“Harold Bloom is an extremely conscientious teacher, so he kept us informed,” Brodhead said. “If he had thought there were a good chance he could teach the whole semester, he would’ve done it.”
Kutzinski said several students who had intended to take Bloom’s two seminars have expressed disappointment over the cancellations.
David Haltom ’04, who has been turned away from “Genius and Genius” before, said he was both disappointed and worried.
“I was fascinated by [“Genius and Genius”] even before I was a freshman,” Haltom said. “I was very much looking forward to taking the class, and now I’m worried that he’s not going to return.”