If you cannot see that it makes a difference to understand Auden's lover is
a man, I doubt anyone could explain it. But in a mad attempt: poetry
reveals human experience. Many experiences have had no voice. To
voice what has been silenced is to bring it into imagination. Why do you
imagine so many voices have arisen in the past few decades to assert
existence? Do you think the experience of a very small part of human
beings can really stand for all?
Does it matter that Countee Cullin was Black and wrote "Incident"?
Would it make no difference if he were white?
Date sent: Sun, 9 Feb 2003 19:18:49 -0600
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Hofgarten and the hyacinth garden
To: [log in to unmask]
What's gained by assuming a personal reference to homosexual desire
and/or grief for a particular person and/or ambivalent feelings of
attraction/disavowal of homoerotic feelings? As I've followed various
discussions of personal references in The Wasteland, my response has
always been, So? I can't imagine that any of the asserted biographical
references would particularly change by reading of or response to the poem
even if they were confirmed.
According to a work I read about 15+ years ago (and have completely
forgotten), there are far more personal references in the _Cantos_ than I
had ever assumed in reading it. I went back, at the time, and reread some
of the particular passages or Cantos cited. No change in response.
I have argued in a couple other contexts that it would not substantially
change one's reading of "A Modest Proposal" if we were to find out that
Swift really identified with his Projector, and that the work was not,
therefore, ironic. It would simply involve a change in our estimation of
the man Swift but not a change in our view of the meaning of the text. (We
would _still_ see it as both revealing a monstrous condition _and_ a
monstrous point of view on that condition -- we would simply ascribe the
point of view to a dead man rather than a virtual man.) I think, in other
words, that even if/when a biographical reference is establish, the burden
of demonstrating the significance of that reference is still on those who
assert such a significance. I can't see how learning that Eliot was
homosexual would significantly affect one's understanding of the poems.
It really doesn't make much difference to the poem to know that "Lay
your sleeping head my love" refers to Auden's male lover.