In a message dated Tue, 4 Sep 2001 9:12:57 AM Eastern Daylight Time, Marcia Karp <[log in to unmask]> writes:
> I think you read E's "is almost a miracle" to mean "is approaching greatness." (You've changed it to "miraculous.")>>
Yes, I do. We know, at least, that Eliot identifies it as the thing that makes his work "a contribution to English literature", which to Eliot was no small thing.
<<Julius begins by reading as you do, but not as praise for the accomplishment -- as qualified and patronizing surprise that a sub-human could create such works.
"'That a Jew can do this!' registers the surprise of the
anti-Semite." [Rick P's citation of the passage follows my comments.]>>
Yes, but how can "That a Jew can do this" be read thus, when "this" is to write "as a Jew"? Surely, Julius does not contend that Eliot believed Jews were inferior to Gentiles because Gentiles could write like Jews and Jews could not?
In writing this and reflecting on your comments, I may have come to a better understanding. Perhaps Julius point is, Eliot is implying that Gentiles in their "proper" cultural context can write at a higher level than most Jews (except for Rosenberg and perhaps a few others), because they are culturally connected in a way that Jews (assertedly) are not. This is certainly what Wagner wrote. This explains the line: "The difference between Eliot's anti-Semitism and Wagner's is defined, on this point, by the possibility of this miracle [by which Rosenberg was able to write 'as a Jew'.]"
But, as you say below (as I read you), this assumes Eliot is saying, as Wagner did, that those Jews in western societies who do not achieve the "miracle" of writing as Jews CANNOT produce worthwhle art. I don't see where Eliot says this, which is an enormous distinction.
<< Notice that he quotes the exclamation. While he doesn't claim these are E's words, the effect of the punctuation and the train of thought in the paragraph
is to elide the hypothetical bigot with Eliot in a way that, regardless of the content, would be criticized in an undergraduate paper by all the professors I know.>>
<<By the end of the passage, Julius places E's miracle phrase into a setting that changes its meaning. Now it means "who would a thunk it possible?".
> The poetry of Isaac Rosenberg ... does not only owe its distinction to its being Hebraic: but because it is in Hebraic it is a contribution to English literature. For a Jewish poet to be able to write like a Jew, in western Europe and in a western European language, is almost a miracle. [TSE]
> He was able, by 'almost a miracle', to write in English 'like a Jew'. [Rick's citation of Julius]
> Can you see now how J reconciles Wagner and E>>
I think I understand it much better now; thank you. Whatever the merits of Julius' ultimate premise (I think he has taken a kernal of truth and bloated it beyond recognition, but that's not my point just now) -- his use of this quote strikes me as dishonest advocacy. But I know understand (or at least think I do) how he went about the argument.
> As required in such discussions, my disclaimer: I mean only to understand the question Tom posed about Julius and his two sources, not to comment on the
larger, more important, question.
Indeed. If we are to discuss allegations of Eliot's anti-semitism -- which I think are fair game for the list, as part of a broad mix of topics -- then we must repeat and consider some ideas we do not endorse. I would hope everyone would understand that.