"Eros" is commonly misinterpreted today as the physical and psychological longing associated the sexual act. Bloom argues that this post-Freudian notion of eros is a dilapidated and impoverished one. "Eros" was not killed merely by Freud, but by his lineage of social scientists, who attempted to de-eroticize "eros" by placing it in the context of meaningless statistics and power-conflict. "Eros" was no longer a romantic notion; it rather became the victim of flakey postmodern and feminist theory that attempted to deconstruct and politicize it. What could be more unromantic than that?
Since it is impoverished from its original Greek meaning, how is it possible to capture the the historical breadth, the romantic essence and the philosophical depth of "eros"? This question represents Bloom's project in 'Love and Friendship.'
'Love and Friendship' analyzes pre-freudian authors of literature who can shed light on the nature of "eros:" Rousseau, Plato, Stendahl, Austen, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Flaubert. Bloom eschews questionable postmodern hermeneutics (queer theory, feminism, etc.) of these works. Instead, he employs textualist (or literalist) hermeneutics in unfolding the true meaning of these works. To be sure, just as no one photograph can tell us what a table truly looks like, no one author reveals the true essence of "eros." However, many different photographs shed light on the various dimensions of a table, just as a textual analysis of great literature gives us a truer philosophical understanding of romantic love.
This book is a gem. Bloom, who lashes out at the animalism of postmodernity in his seminal 'Closing', extends his project by engaging politicized literary theory on their own turf. However, unlike 'Closing,' this book is not aimed at the ill-read. It would be more prudent for one to read first some of the works analyzed in this book. (e.g. Red and Black, Anna Karenina, Emile, Symposium, Pride and Prejudice, Antony and Cleopatra, etc.) Such background reading is requisite to appreciate and criticize Bloom's analysis.