This is Christopher Ricks's opinion--one among many. Of course the poem as published has "claims." I don't really know of anyone fascinated with the process who thinks the outcome is not important. But the outcome is also the outcome--of a very complicated process that took years (parts of the poem date to 1914 and earlier) and that involved collaboration. So this statement seems to me a false dichotomy.
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From pages 71-72 of Ricks:
"The hold that a writer's revisions may have over our attention does have
its dangers, as is evidenced by the way in which the inchoate fascinations
of the Waste Land manuscript can sometimes be felt to supplant the fully
consummated fascination of the poem proper. These days, The Waste Land as
published in 1922 may find itself characterized as Eliot's somewhat
unsuccessful attempt to write the manuscript. We might do better to give
priority to the study of revision as a means, not an end, the end usually
being a deeper understanding of the final work itself. The claims of
process have been especially heeded of late, and this has brought some gains
when it comes to understanding the genesis of works of authoritative
imagination, but the product, the end-product, ought to exercise its claims
Meg Ford and John Stewart
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From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On
Behalf Of Peter Montgomery
Sent: Sunday, 24 October, 2004 7:44 a.m.
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Decisions and Revisions in T.S. Eliot
Then there are Robert Graves and Bob Dylan who
published their revised versions. John Fowles revised
THE MAGUS completely, to suit the movie version.
It's a living language and a living culture.
I wonder if Ricks noted the revisions Eliot did
between the first mag. version of TWL and the
first book version.
From: John G. Stewart
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: 2004-Oct-23 10:54 AM
Subject: Decisions and Revisions in T.S. Eliot
The Autumn 2004 issue of The Book Collector, in
the News and Comment section on pages 435 to 437,
talks about Christopher Ricks Panizzi lectures on
Eliot, now published as "Decisions and Revisions
in T.S. Eliot" (£16). The short comment is not
available on line, but here is the website for the
Blurb is below:
Decisions and Revisions in T.S. Eliot attends to
one specific embodiment of Eliot's re-thinking:
changes that he made after publication. Such
revisions have a different standing from any made
prior to publication, and they raise questions
about reception, audience, and (pre-eminently)
self-criticism. In Eliot, the revisions are often
substantial and always acutely of interest, for
they incarnate a movement of mind even after he
had given the work to the world. Such changes in
Eliot's poems and elsewhere have not much been
pondered as evidence of his art and thought.
Moreover there has been an unthinking assumption
that revisions to discursive prose, in the nature
of the case, do not much matter - yet to look at
the cases is to see how much each may contain.
Christopher Ricks is a professor in the College of
Arts and Sciences and co-director of the Editorial
Institute at Boston University.