I never see to much use in posts that deride other posts as "deranged
fantasies". We're all trying our best, and some of us are better informed
(or have less rusty critical faculties) than others. Perhaps it makes
you feel superior to point out the deficiencies in some of our analysis
without doing much to correct us, but from where I'm sitting it merely
seems rather arrogant and pompous.
> First, 'The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock' does not carry a
> dedication. The 1917 book, 'Prufrock and Other Observations' carries a
A rather pedantic point, I think, although I would agree that I was
mistaken to suggest that the dedication to the book should be considered
an element, per se, of the poem.
> dedication. Second, the epigraph is spoken neither by J Alfred Prufrock
> (presumably if it were it would not be an epigraph) nor by TS Eliot:
> instead it is spoken by Guido da Montefeltro, a rather different
> character (that is if one can call Prufrock a character at all, which I
> for one would not); and part of its richness comes from its disparity
> from the poem to which it is attached. A sense of this is captured in
> the above (not careful) use of the word 'explanation' .
I hardly see that "who it's spoken by" has too much bearing on the matter
-- verbatim quotation is rife throughout Eliot's work, as too is allusion
-- does this mean that we should disregard any such material as irrelevant
to the meaning of the poem?
> > men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows", that is, to pursue his
> desires for homosexual encounters.
> This is just fiction (and not good fiction either). Has everyone lost
While I don't agree with the homosexual reading either, I still don't see
much merit in your dismissing it out of hand. Criticism requires more
than just stating your feelings - it requires justifying them by way of
the work itself. The poem *is* clearly related to sex, and particularly
to a sordid kind of sex. If the "lonely men in shirtsleeves" are *merely*
"lonely men in shirtsleeves", as you suggest, and serve no purpose other
than an aesthetic one -- i.e. have no further place in the context of the
poem -- then I'd consider them rather supurfluous and, well, lacking in
poignancy. I think there's a fine line to be walked between looking for
*too much* in a poem, and looking for too little: either side of that path
is a precipice.
> My other point is that it is quite clear that, unlike Guido in
> Inferno--not, you will note, in the epigraph at all (and very unlike
> the usual dramatic monologue form)--, the speaker of 'The Love Song of
> J Alfred Prufrock' makes no confession at all. Perhaps that is why some
> critics are so tempted to wrest his confession from him (tantalisingly
> promised, never delivered), or rather, to make it up. Compare Hamlet:
Well enough - but then, that speaker is one paralysed by the idea of *any*
kind of decision, of any activity whatsoever. I don't think that this is
a deliberate thing, nor that Prufrock is a strong character: the
repetitions of "there will be time" suggest somebody who is
procrastinating. And if there is no explicit confession, then I would say
that there certainly is an implicit sense of failure -- in the final few
stanzas it's fairly clear that a decision -- towards inaction -- has
> The chief merit of such a list as this (and the one it largely
> possessed when I joined it in 1996) lies in the exchange of scholarly
> information and critical ideas and principles. When discussions
> descend into a brawl over such nonsensical posts as 'Prufrock's Smoke',
> we all have something (and not something small) to regret. For we all,
> I think, have something (not something small) to lose.
It seems to me that this has, for the most part, been an interesting
discussion - but one in which only those who would prefer *not* to even
consider alternatives, to even discuss the topic at hand, have led to
disharmony: those people who have loudly declaimed any possible view but
there own, without even the good grace to explain their own view or point
out the flaws in the views of others. I'm all for trying to reach the
'correct' view of the poetry, and am no more fond of arbitrary
'interpretations' than many of you; but it seems to me that derision and
elitism are contrary both to the intentions of this list and to the
process of enjoing and understanding the work at hand.