even as

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RockNote

Member
Danish
The American literary critic Harold Bloom often uses the phrase "even as." I suspect he derives it from King James, e.g. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt 5:48). "Even as" here indicates simultaneity, bringing together an imperative and a fact. Its meaning is clear. However, in Bloom's introduction to a book on William Blake the phrase, it seems to me, is used slightly differently. I am unsure what it means exactly. Here is the phrase in context:

"Literary biography found its masterpiece in James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson. Boswell, when he treated Johnson's writings, implicitly commented upon Johnson as found in his work, even as in the great critic's life." (William Blake. Chealsea House, 2006. p. ix).

What does the adverbial "even as in the great critic's life" apply to? The meaning seems to be this. When writing his biography of Johnson, Boswell not only comments upon Johnson the living man, he also comments upon Johnson as he appears in his writings. Perhaps a solution would be to say that it is elliptical, i.e. that this has been omitted: "he commented upon Johnson as found." The adverbial in its entirety would then read: "even as he commented upon Johnson as found in the great critic's life." This restores the simultaneity - we now have two explicit facts occurring at the same time: "Boswell, when he treated Johnson's writings, [1] implicitly commented upon Johnson as found in his work, even as [2] he commented upon Johnson as found in the great critic's life."

What do you think? Further, is Bloom's use of "even as" in the book on Blake standard (American) English? Thank you.
 
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  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I don't find the little phrase "even as" unusual, just a little old-fashioned maybe. I read it as "just as, in exactly the same way as" , in both your examples. There is not always the idea of simultaneity. Boswell commented upon Johnson as he was revealed by his work, and also (in a similar way) as he was revealed by his life. Both his work and his life were Boswell's sources for his portrayal of the man.
     
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