In a message dated 8/10/01 8:11:37 AM EST, [log in to unmask] writes:
> Doesn't this imply that TSE would have thought that a society based on the
> common mans' politics and ethics would have been a superior society. I
> don't think this was TSE's position.
Perl doesn't address this exact point in the tapes, but let me give you my
thoughts, for what it's worth.
Before WW2, Eliot and Pound and their peers expressed the view that
society was comprised of artists and non-artists, and that society would be
better off being led by its artists (There's a quote from Pound somewhere
where he talks about artists leading the "homo-cainus" (i.e., dog-men, i.e.,
the 'common man' obviously depicted in an extremely pejorative way. I can dig
out the exact quote later today if you wish). After WW2, I think Eliot was
truly horrified at the devastation, perhaps especially the Holocaust and the
implications that it carried for the pre-WW2 anti-Semitic views Eliot at
least tolerated in Ezra Pound (if not partly shared with Pound). So I think
that after WW2, Eliot was less willing to be so 'aristocratic'. He was more
sympathetic to, as you put it, "the common mans' politics and ethics."
However, his sympathies for "Western ethics" (democracy) did not change his
view that art had its eternal standards. As Perl said so well, not all birds
can sing like the nightingale; some of them are chickens. So Eliot was not
willing to go so far as to say that those things that were not art were, in
fact, art. Instead he spoke of tradeoffs that may have to be made, in which
a more 'democratic' society (which he welcomed) would produce a culture that
was, to Eliot, a decline.
As a thought experiment, I wonder how Eliot would view the curriculum
today at his beloved Harvard. When Eliot went there, a Harvard education
meant a firm grounding in the Classics, a study of authors in their original
language (including ancient Greek), etc. Today, as my son looks through the
Harvard course offerings to get a flavor of it (he's a high school senior),
he sees courses on Multiculturalism, women's studies, and many topics that
were not offered in 1914. At the same time, Harvard allows its undergraduates
to essentially choose their own curriculum, so it's possible to graduate with
a Harvard undergraduate literature degree without taking, for example, a
Shakespeare course. I have a strong suspicion that this is an example of
what Eliot would call an improvement in ethics causing a cultural decline.
P.S. I am not giving you my views on what Steve Pollack regards as a cultural
decline -- just what I think Eliot would regard as a cultural decline.
-- Steve --