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TSE  August 2001

TSE August 2001

Subject:

Re: Eliot's Relativism

From:

[log in to unmask][log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 12 Aug 2001 07:07:00 EDT

Content-Type:

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In a message dated 8/11/01 7:57:39 PM EST, [log in to unmask] writes:

> i keep wondering how (woops, there i go
> not being cautious again) these 
>  biographical crossed ts and dotted is bring 
> anything relevant to the table. 
>  digging through eliot's thesis for clues to
> his intellectual predisposition 
>  at a point in time is a good way to spend
> rainy afternoons, but doesn't help  
>  with clarifying the entire scope of his work,
> much less differences between 
>  two (supposed) currents of thought,
> respectively dubbed paleo and  neomodernism.

As you know, I'm transcribing excepts of a taped lecture series (quite 
tedious work I must say), so I've been posting sections as I get them done. 
The unfortunate result of that is to not allow you to read the whole section 
that I'm transcribing all at once. 

Since I can summarize faster than I can transcribe, let me give you an 
"outline" of what I think Perl is getting at in the section of the lectures 
that I'm posting (which, by the way, is only a small part of the much more 
general lecture series on Modernism, including Yeats, Joyce, Pound, and 
others). Let me note that my outline's denotation of "part 1,2 and 3" are MY 
denotations of the "parts" of this section of the lectures, not Perl's 
denotations.

And don't take my word for what Perl is saying: You'll soon be able to read 
the transcribed text for yourself.

===================================
Part 1: Introduces the idea of the multiple branches of Modernism and names 
them  (Paleo and Neo Modernism).  Discusses several major disagreements 
between the two branches:

--  Paleo: 
a) establishing a link between "today's" literature and the literature from 
Antiquity, from the 'classical' times (particularly the Greek literature).
b) an embrace of classical or 'perfectionist' aesthetics
c) an embrace of internationalism
d) a notion that the meaning of words is constantly changing and a 
corresponding notion that literature should take into account a word's usage 
throughout time. 

-- Neo
a) An insistence that the ancient times have nothing unique to offer; 
literature from any time period is equally valid and literature today does 
not need to 'build' on literature from earlier times.
b) en embrace of 'democratic' or egalitarian ethics and aesthetics. "Better 
than to deprive birds of their song, to call them all nightingales'
c) an embrace of regionalism and a corresponding fear of internationalism 
d) a notion that objects have innate characteristics, independent of any 
observer, and that it was part of the job of the artist to reveal those 
innate characteristics.    
e) A dislike of their paleo Modernist colleagues

Part 2: Eliot's PhD thesis

a) Eliot did his thesis on a critique of philosophy of the time (~`1915), 
focusing on F.H. Bradley. 
b) When Eliot finished his critique, he concluded that the language of 
philosophy had become far too theoretical, and that philosophers were solving 
'artificial problems' that they themselves invented --  He turned decisively 
towards the language of poetry.

Part 3: The misreading and under-reading of Paleo Moderns by Neo Moderns

a) Paleo Modern poetry, including all its complexity and allusiveness,  arose 
in opposition to the 'failed' language of theoretical philosophy (see, for 
example, Eliot's Ph.D. thesis). Such 'failed theoretical philosophy' is 
reflected in philosophers like Bertrand Russell. 
b) Eliot never really left philosophy -- he just determined that it was best 
done as literary criticism and continued to do it in that form. 
c) As Eliot's thesis shows, he believed that man's humanity is reflected in 
its use of the nuances of language, and in the evolution of those nuances 
throughout time.
d) Whereas the Neo's wanted to 'smash the connotation of words in order to 
get them back clean', Eliot believed that such an approach deprived language 
of its humanity, deprived it of the collective wisdom of the ages.
e) The basic Paleo premise is that meaning is a matter of context, and must 
take into account all uses of words and all uses throughout time. Any 
approach that strives to deprive words of their historical and literary 
connotation would be "suicide". 

-- Steve --

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