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TSE  October 2002

TSE October 2002

Subject:

Re: TWL epigraph (the thread about TWL, not capitalism)

From:

Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Sat, 26 Oct 2002 18:14:47 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (114 lines)

As I read and taught "Heart of Darkness" just last spring (having read it for
decades also), I have to say that the devastated landscape of the Congo is
graphically depicted. Conrad had been there and did not need news
accounts.  Marlow traces the trip Conrad had taken in 1890.
Nancy


Date sent:              Sat, 26 Oct 2002 09:59:26 -0500
Send reply to:          "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From:                   Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:                Re: TWL epigraph (the thread about TWL, not capitalism)
To:                     [log in to unmask]

Nancy Gish wrote:
>
> The carnage of the Congo was not inward.  But Kurtz's words either were
> or were understood to be by Marlow.  I am doubtful that they are written
> as Kurz's realization of the devastation of a continent rather than his
> recognition of his own soul--though that devastation is depicted by
> Marlow on his journey. Nancy
>

There are a number of readers embodied in any text. (The text I am
thinking about, to begin with, is the text produced by Kurtz.) Kurtz is
dead (in Marlow's narrative), so we only have Marlow's construal of
whether the horror was inner or "outer" -- new coinage :-) -- for Kurtz.
(It's been many decades since I read either the novella or any critiques
of it, so I can't be too confident in my readings here.) But anyhow,
besides Kurtz we have Marlow, we have his auditors, we have "Conrad,"
and
we have whatever ideal reader the text seems to imply. (That's probably
not exhaustive.) And of course in the present context we have Eliot,
Tiresias, and Pound at the very least. (And we have to make assumptions,
in the case of each of these readers, how much was known to them about
the
actual horrors in the Congo. It is only in the last few years that
anything like comprehensive histories has been published, most
importantly
Adam Hochschild, _King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and
Heroism in Colonial Africa_ (1998). In 1920 there would still have been
only sanitized accounts available and the true objective "horrror" would
not have been part of either Conrad's or Eliot's awareness, and certainly
not part of the awareness of the general reader of poetry in 1922. (I
forgot that reader in my list above.)

Eliot as a reader is important because he presumably saw a certain
congruence between the Conrad passage and the substituted passage.
Rick
Parker writes:

***
The horror of Kurtz was what he was doing to others.  The horror of
Deiphobe was what she had done to herself.  Either might be the lesson of
TWL.  I guess I lean toward the narrator of TWL being more Deiphobe than
Kurtz.***

That was the horror OF Kurtz (ameliorated, as I say, by the limited
knowledge available in england in 1920), but presumably (as you I
believe argue) it was not the horror FOR Kurtz, or at least we can't
take it for granted that it was (or that Eliot / Conrad / the 1922
reader saw it that way).

I worked out in my head (but never in detail or on paper) some years ago a
theory of "the double plot" in the classical bourgeois novel, mostly in
respect to the novels of Austen, Tolstoy, and James, and most particularly
in respect to _Mansfield Park_ and _The Sacred Fount_, and I think it
applies to Conrad and, perhaps, to The Wasteland. It is simplest to see in
Austen's five-finger exercise of anovel, _Pride & Prejudice_. The first
plot, the "inner" one, is what happens to (and between and within) the
characters. The second plot is what happens between narrator and reader --
and _the two plots are homologous_.

It operates fairly mechanically in _P&P_. The key is to note that the main
clause of the first sentence has as a subject _not_  the needs/purposes of
wealthy bachelors but _everyone_ who has ever lived or ever will live --
it is about the _reader_ -- and informs that reader of what he/she is
thinking: "It is a truth universally acknowledged...." If it is
universally acknowledged, then you the reader must acknowledge it. Now if,
as is _almost- but not quite universally acknowledged, that first sentence
is "ironic," then it accuses the reader of not acknowledging what turns
out, at the end, to be true. Darcy discovers that he is not Darcy until he
makes the proper choice of wife. More broadly, he discovers that he has
never known himself before this realization: that is, he can be himself
only by gaining Elizabeth as a wife.

The inner plot of the novel is, then, E's & D's discoveries of what it
means to be Elizabeth or to be Darcy, and central to that, of course, is
that both discover (though they of course are not privy to the
proposition) that the dependent noun clause of the opening sentence is a
true universal proposition: Namely, that to be oneself one must choose to
be oneself. (This of course is also the plot of _Paradise Lost_, and one
can say of PL something like what Whitehead said of Plato. The history of
western philosophy he said was a series of footnotes to Plato. The history
of bourgeois literature is a series of footnotes to Paradise Lost and
Paradise Regained.)

So what _is_ the "outer plot" of _Heart of Darkness_, the story of the
relationship between narrator and reader? And how had Eliot participated
in that outer plot? And of course _HoD_ is a pet-milk can novel, with
Marlow and his auditors homologous to (?) Kurtz and his beloved (?) and
Conrad & his ideal reader homologous to the Marlow plot which has to be
homologous to the Kurtz plot......

And is this at all relevant to TWL, since after all Eliot did accept P's
rejection of the Conrad epigraph?

I think there has been previous discussion of how much part of a poem an
epigraph is. Does it point inward to the text or does it link the text to
some external context????

I leave town in a couple hours so I won't know for a week how this post
flies.

Carrol

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