Dear Rick and all,
Rick's example is quite different from what Jennifer and Marcia point to.
For example "April is the cruelest month" may mean a wide range of
things, but if you say, for example, that it means "light in August" hurts the
eyes because "cruel" makes you feel the pain of migraine, you are just
wrong. The lines are not about that; they are not about August or about
Faulkner or about migraine. It is, in other words, customary, to engage
what the words can mean rather than to say whatever you "feel" on
encountering words you cannot define.
Any act of representation involves the representation itself (here the poem),
the creator of it (here Eliot), the receiver (here any reader), and the thing or
idea represented (here spring and the pain it may or could or does evoke).
To eliminate the words, the creator, and the spring, and to imagine that
your own reaction to anything is all that is involved, is to do violence to the
engagement of reader and poem.
Date sent: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 12:20:02 -0600
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From: "Richard Seddon" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Carbuncular
Marcia and Jennifer
I agree in principle with you both, however, does not the very nature of
allegory draw the reader outside of the poem.
Brooker and Bentley in "Reading the Waste Land" conceive of a
loop where TSE deliberately draws the knowledgeable reader out of the
into a consideration of outside sources which since this does not
completely satisfy forces reader back to the poem for satisfaction.
"When we read 'April is the cruelest month,' we immediately move away
from the text in an attempt to figure out what it means. In this process
of interpretation we automatically push the text aside. But we discover
multiple and inconclusive results which are insufficient or aesthetically
less desirable than the initial textual fact. This leads us to abandon our
interpretations and refocus on 'April is the cruelest month.' We have
moved outside, found and weighed various meanings, considered them, and
returned to the text. But it is a return with a difference, a difference
made by the process of trying to interpret. We call this journey which
begins and ends with the text a "hermeneutical loop," a journey which
finally takes us beyond hermeneutics leaving us in a posthermeneutical
state". (page 12, "Reading the Waste Land"; Jewel Spears Brooker and
I think it is when the reader remains outside of the text that trouble may
set in. The trip outside for meaning is alright as long as the reader
returns to the poem and does not remain outside with their interpretation.
If I go to a dictionary and look up "Waste" and find that it can mean
several things and then return to reading the poem with those several
things now in mind and adding to my reading am I violating some contract
with the poet. When I find out from personal observation that the living
room ceiling of the Eliot vacation home in Gloucester, Ma. has a coffered
ceiling and if I visualize that room and its fireplace when reading "A
Game of Chess" have I committed some horrid anti-literary act? When I
wonder how a bedroom door can have wind under it am I doing something
McIntosh, NM, USA
From: Marcia Karp <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Monday, July 16, 2001 11:03 AM
Subject: Re: Carbuncular
>On Mon, 16 Jul 2001, Jennifer Formichelli wrote:
>I think it's deceitful and unhelpful to create stories about the lives of
>those who flit through these poems, about whom we know almost nothing and
>yet something. For part of Eliot's point is to teach you the borderline
>between suspicions and the deception that what you suspect is true, is a
>piece of knowledge.
>This is thought-provoking. I won't comment on Eliot in particular, but
>believe, as Jennifer does (though not in her words), that it violates a
>contract with the poem to go outside its bounds -- whether or not a poem
>has lessons to teach about suspicion and deception. Perhaps we all agree
>and are just struggling at the most dangerous places, that is at the
>boundaries, in an attempt to see them clearly.
>Glad you haven't left the list, Jennifer.