Peter Montgomery wrote:
> Bringing your personal reality into the discussion
> is risky if you wish us to keep the focus on the art,
> rather than getting personal.
The question is whether this unpublished scribble by Eliot (and similar
unpublished scribbles) _is_ art. Debra makes an eloquent argument that
it is, but I'm a bit bothered by what I guess you could call a lack of
_control_ on her construal. Consider the following.
Debra San wrote:
> Indeed, I had asked: "What
> does young Mr. Eliot do? He _shockingly_ pairs 'The Love Song of'
> with the name of a pious and supposedly asexual Christian saint"
> [emphasis added]. Perhaps I should have said that he attempts to
> redefine the genre not only for himself, but also (he hopes) for his
> If Eliot indeed was hoping to shock his audience out of their
> "certain certainties" ("Preludes") about love songs being romantic
> and lyrical, that hope is manifested (for me) in the subjunctive mood
> of its speaker throughout the poem: here's what I, Sebastian, would
> like to do; here's what I, Eliot, would like to do.
The problem (which I call lack of a control) is that there is nothing in
either the Preludes or in Sebastian to link the one to the other, and
"the reader" figures awkwardly in Debra's construal because the poem was
never published: it has (had) no reader but Eliot himself! So why can't
one hypothesize that the poem was unfinished because it was _only_ a
random (perhaps merely personal) scribble which Eliot was unable to link
to his poems of the period. If he wasn't, then why should we be able to?
Consider a famour exchange between Donne & Jonson, when Jonson
complained Donne was blasphemous (in literary terms, indecorous) for
applying to Elizabeth Drury praise more fitting for the Virgin Mary;
Donne's reply, that he described the idea of woman rather than an actual
woman, amounted to a claim that Jonson had mistaken the genre of the
poems, considering it to be personal eulogy, while in fact their
intellectual content was such as to transcend the rules of decorum for
Debra is making a similar argument for Eliot's scribble; that Eliot
intends a genre that subsumes the otherwise perverse imagery of
sadomasochism to purpose which justifies it (establishes its decorum).
And identification of genre is a matter of positing the poet's
intention. (Just as correcting a dypo requires construing the typists
intention.) And Eliot's abandoning of the scribble leaves us no grounds
for assigning genre, no grounds for assigning _any_ particular
relationship between writer and (virtual or actual) reader.
It would be just as tenable to assign it the genre of a patient's free
association on the Freudian analyst's couch.