At 06:52 PM 4/3/2003 +0100, George Carless following Jennifer Formicelli wrote:
> > 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.
What had been suggested, however, was that the dedication pointed to
the purpose of the composition of the _poem_, so it is not pedantic to note
that the dedication to the collection was NOT to the poem and in fact was
made long after the poem was composed.
> > 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);
Why not, Jennifer? Seems pretty clearly to be the main character of
>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?
No, it means that what is spoken should be ascribed to who it was who
spoke it, not to someone else. This is fundamental what my calmer friend
Marcia would call analysis, I think. It is important to get it right, or
one can more easily just run off into any old interpretation that suits one.
>While I don't agree with the homosexual reading either, I still don't see
>much merit in your dismissing it out of hand.
Hardly arguable. But if it is so, how sordid is the situation where the
women are chitchatting about Michaelangelo? I mean, when my sordid friends
and I are talking up some artistic rendering, it's never even remotetly
connected to the Pieta or the Sistine Chapel.
>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.
> > 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,
Not deliberate on whose part?
> 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
>It seems to me that this has, for the most part, been an interesting
I think so too. My initial thought at Steve's kickoff post in this/these
related threads was that if I ever thought there might be a homosexual
element in Prufrock, what Steve points to as evidence pretty much makes the
case that it isn't so. Note that I am not attacking Steve; just saying that
my genuine response to his argument was that it was strained beyond
credulity. But he still makes some good observations: "His poetry is
confessional and religious." The stumbling block is the "confessional."
Here are some "framing" paragraphs on Lovesong from my oft quoted Eliot
"The dissociation that Eliot establishes between Prufrock's mind and the
poet's mind makes this a triumph of youthful intelligence. The form of the
poem (which goes far beyond "Conversation Galante") transforms a cry from
hell into music. But Eliot does what he does... because of a kind of vision
that enabled F. H. Bradley to say in Appearance and Reality, "The world is
the best of all possible worlds, and every evil in it is necessary."
"To see the organization of the poem, we may divide it into five
scences: (1) Prufrock in the streets, (2) Prufrock approaching the house,
(3) Prufrock ascending the stairs to the drawing room and descending them,
(4) Prufrock leaving the house, and (5) Prufrock on the beach. Scenes 1, 3,
and 5 are the beginning, middle, and end of the action. Scene 1 has unusual
dramatic compression; we see the protagonist between the sky and earth
taking action that misses the mark, but misses it after a fashion we are
familiar with. Thus we are prepared, as in classic theatre, to watch the
protagonist proceed from wrong to wrong until he or we recognized the blind
spot in his motivation. Prufrock's struggle begins, of course, the moment
he refuses to face the question that the streets lead him to, the question
Eliot put to himself years later in Dry Salvages: 'Where is there an end of
it?' answering, 'There is no end of it.'
"But the middle of Prufrock is the climax of the poem, and here we see
most clearly what the theme of this poem is; it is what some regard as the
peculiar affliction of our age--metaphysical blindness....if we concentrate
on what is essential....there is a moment of suspended Prufrockian thought,
a moment when Prufrock _is_ his experience, a moment such as we get used
to watching for in Eliot, where the door out of the corridor suddenly
opens, and we are invaded by a sense of reality. The opening here....is the
flash of light to light as the lamplight is reflected from the brown hair
on the woman's arms.....it is sufficient not only to throw Prufrock off his
bent ("Is it perfume from a dress/That makes me so digress?") but almost to
bring him to act. His "Shall I say...?" shows him on the verge of entering
a real present. But then he falls back, and rejoins the arthropods. Why?
The answer is that he has noting to act with, just as he had nothing to
confront the streets with: here, for example, he did not _see_ the light
answering light. This scene illustrates what is meant by the theme of
So it appears that it is the character of the insight that he doesn't have
that is Prufrock's swan song.
P.S. Kung, in the one Pound translation that stays with me: "The way out is
through the door. Why does no one take it?"