I'm not sure that Eliot's WE can be so easily dismissed as a presumptuous
royal WE. After all, his concepts about tradition do have a certain coinage,
if debatable. It is possible to think of the WE as those of a literary
tradition, whatever their tribal lineage or so-called nationality might be.
A language will sink anything including a constitution composed in that
langauge, before the language itself will disappear. It is really a very
Another thought to keep in mind, which few seem to do when they disparage
Eliot's critical voice, is that he had a conflict of interest. He was an
artist. A woman at a party or something once asked what he meant in "Journey
of the Magi" by the line about the old white horse galloping
off in a field, and he said something to the effect that he meant an old
white horse galloped off in the field. Eliot was not partcularly one to
allow of interpretation of his own work. It was there. It spoke for itself.
That's what depersonalisation was/is all about. If the poet can have no
say once the child is gestated, how can anyone else? What is the
interpretation of you, or Nancy or me? It is a silly question. The work is.
Any interpretation is simply a form of self analysis. The work is a
touchstone or proofrock. One rubs one's self against it to find if one is
genuine or not. That is art's job. To hold the mirror up to nature.
Perhaps the critic may be a specialist, even an artist at performing the
rub. Aye, there's the rub.
I've often thought that the only genuine response to a work of art is
another work of art. All this prose we generate in response to art is
merely a form of self-indulgence. I got ROYALLY shouted down on this
list once for proposing that. Too many egos at steak, er stake. Too much
of a threat. It's the Percy Wyndham Lewis effect. I still believe it.
Why am I yet again expecting a ROYAL WE on this list to stuff itself
paternalistically into my ear like a Claudian poison? I wish it joy
of the worm.
From: Sara Trevisan
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: 2/15/04 8:45 AM
Subject: Re: Qua work of art....
Indeed, I was able to understand Eliot's statements only through the
of a later book by Wilson Knight, where 'criticism' and 'interpretation'
explained and clearly distinguished.
Criticism provides a judgement on merits, whereas interpretation
explain the work of art in the light of its own nature, employing
reference, avoiding any discussions on merits.
As you can see, if Eliot's critic can only express remarks and give the
historical setting, he/she can both criticise and interpret. I seem to
understand Eliot simply wanted to keep some distance between his own
for 'interpretation' and the Romantic sense, which Goethe and Coleridge
exploited by turning Hamlet into themselves (and vice versa). Also, I
some helpful comments in Warren's book 'TS Eliot on Shakespeare', where
author states Eliot
simply meant to deal with something else, though the subject of the
Yet, that WE really destroyed all my theories, for I instantly wondered
Eliot was supposed to be within the whole scheme of criticism. Nancy's
was really clear.
I'm going to read Carta Da Vista... Although, in Italian, A Visiting
would be translated as Biglietto Da Visita. 'Biglietto' is the same as
English 'card, ticket', whereas 'visita' is the same as the English
(as in Prufrock). 'Vista' means 'sight'. Pound's rendering sounds rather
Spanish to my Italian ear... Did Pound speak Spanish?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard Seddon" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, February 15, 2004 5:22 PM
Subject: Re: Qua work of art....
> I think "we and "reader" are both aspects of *everyman* and that the
> assuming that the reader does not know certain historical facts is the
> I also have trouble with the significance of what he is writing.
> Eliot would appear to be denying the critic any role beyond stating
> evaluative remarks and perhaps providing a historical setting. He is
> denying that it is a critic's role to establish an authoritative
> interpretation. He is not denying the reader such an interpretation.
> reader when he/she reads a work interprets that work within the
> context. The critic is free to provide his/her own reading but it
> understood that this is but one reader's interpretation.
> A literary theorist is free to construct general theories of how
> should be read but should not, in the role of "critic", provide
> interpretation of a specific work. A reader can utilize a theorist's
> general statements about literature to better understand a specific
> can recite that understanding to others but is not performing a
> role when he/she does so. That reader is only providing *that*
> The idea approaches Pound's concept of "Imagism". Because the
> an Imagist/Vorticist's work is the result of the triggering of a
> reader's "complex" by an artist's supplied Image, every realization of
> is specific, within cultural limits, to a reader. There is nothing
> generally "interpret" within a work of art. All that can be done is
> in a reader's blanks of specific understanding and issue a value of
> work's worth. Any reader is still free to write about the results of
> work of art as it was processed by that reader's "complex" and provide
> his/her understanding but it is not a critic's role to do so.
> In "Carta Da Vista" (A Visiting Card), on page 318 of "Selected Prose:
> 1909-1965", Pound has a little to say about critics, writers and
> which may be of interest to you. Since you can enjoy the original it
> of more value than John Drummond's translation of the Italian which is
> "Selected Prose" :>)
> Rick Seddon
> McIntosh, NM