I've been thinking of the questions you rose at the
List and here are some ideas (and further questions)
I've come up to.
The subject appearing in Eliot's Preludes seems to be
undetermined, and in so far, I guess it could be even
see as the generic one. In any case, the main
characteristic of the subject (when I say the subject,
I don't mean the subject of the speaker, but the
subject the poem speaks of, but in how far they should
be distinguished at all, I'll say something a bit
later) is his/her passivity. While in the part I the
subject is set against the world (being subjected to
its course), in the part II (s)he is set against the
time (being "condemned" to it) . (I think the second
verse of the part II shares some of the ideas
appearing in Prufrock, and I'd be glad to discuss that
issue as well).
In the part III, we finally see the subject *doing*
something, but even that ("you tossed a blanket") is
the action of removing = replying to what has already
been there. But what this part seems to bring is the
(only?) action left to the subject - to have a vision
(in solitude). Now, in the part IV, the subject of the
speaker finally appears, but almost equivalent to the
subject (s)he is talking about - it is again a
passive subject (i am moved... I cling...). The final
verse reveals a sort of "catharsic" discovery of the
subject (both the speaker and the one (s)he is
speaking of), similar to the relation of the ancient
Greeks towards the destiny: as the destiny is
uncontrollable even by gods themselves, why making so
much fuss about it?
It seems to me that the status of the subject in the
poem could be compared with Heidegger's notion of
"being thrown into the world" (excuse my formulation,
I'm not sure how this expression is to be translated
in English), as well as with the "eigentlich" and
"uneigentlich" modes of "Dasein".
However, I don't see why the poem would stand in the
opposition to the classical subject-object relation,
and how would that be related to the "ontological
shock" you mentioned. If by "ontological shock" you
consider the realization of the finiteness of human
being, then this idea is definitely present in both
Preludes and the Love Song of A.J. Prufrock, but I
don't see how that could be connected with an
anti-Cartesian approach. Could you develop a bit more
--- marcin ostrouch <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I would like to raise the issue of identity of the
> speaker in /Preludes.
> Please forgive me if you find it an open secret, but
> being a non-native
> speaker of English, and rather a novice at
> systematic criticism, I find
> the question problematic.
> At present I am attempting a reading of a couple of
> poems by TSE in the
> light of Heideggerian concept of authentic
> existence. Therefore, I tend
> to shun the structuralist approach which pervades
> the grey volumes of my
> institute's library...
> It does seem that throughout the poem the identity
> of the speaker
> remains indeterminate.
> Would you agree that the inflected pronoun "you" in
> the first stanza,
> and the same pronoun in the third, are generic ones?
> [as I am not quite
> informed in the use of those]
> What is more, the generic character of the speaker
> seems to be
> deliberately strengthened by references to both
> The governing consciousness, or if you like, the
> voice speaking in the
> poem, (if there is ONE), seems to comply with the
> notion of Hindu /tat
> vam asi /("Thou art That"), or at any rate, as D.
> Moody observes
> "[speaker's] ordinary, egoistical self is
> Therefore the epistemic situation of the speaker
> seems to differ from
> the traditonal Cartisian (subject-object) model.
> The poem read in this way would come up to one of
> the modernist
> expressions of the epistemic trauma, or of what
> Tillich calls
> "ontological shock".
> Could you please comment on those intuitions of
> Is any one of you interested in hermeneutic readings
> of TSE? Could you
> possibly recommend some articles or sources?
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