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TSE  February 2004

TSE February 2004

Subject:

Re: steak

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Tue, 10 Feb 2004 07:46:47 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (56 lines)

Richard Seddon wrote:
>
> Peter
>
> Snap!!!!
>
> And you are intolerably arrogant and patronizing.
>
> You keep asserting inconsistency.  Again:  WHERE IS THE INCONSISTENCY!!!!!!
> Where is the inconsistency in Dickens' having his poor ignite brandy?  Where
> is the inconsistency in Eliot having his poor eat steak?  WHERE IS THE
> INCONSISTENCY?  It resides only in a perception by you and your student that
> Eliot's (and Dickens') poor are not meeting your requirements for the poor.

The three of you (you, Peter, Peter's student) seem to be making a hell
of a fuss about a minor though possibly interesting point. Has anyone
considered that there might be a metrical reason? The line among other
things establishes the time of day by referring to cooking an evening
meal (though there are truck stops today that have "steak & eggs" on
their breakfast menus -- I'm not sure about the quality of the steak in
such). "With smells of spuds in passageways"? Hardly. "With smells of
frying salt pork in passage ways"? Not quite. "With greasy smells in
passageways"? I don't really think so. And the line does hiss a bit
(With SmellS of SteakS in paSSagewayS). Is that perhaps more relevant
than the question of whether steak fits the dwelling place of poor
people? There is at least the possibility that Eliot didn't give a
second's thought to the quality of the meals along the passageways but
chose "steak" for quite other reasons. And we are, incidentally, not in
a slum so far as I can tell: ". . .of all the hands / That are raising
dingy shades / In a thousand furnished rooms." This may be something
like the typist home at teatime but it is not a slum. Dingy shades do
not connote wealth, but neither do they (necessarily or even probably)
connote extreme poverty.

Your last sentence quoted above ("...perception. . .requirements for the
poor") is sort of silly, and Peter is certainly right in seeing the
student's question as an honest one that deserves a respectful response.
Any good teacher will tell you that. And your ALL CAPS are offensive. If
the poem _did_ focus on either household or political economy -- that
is, if the poem did in any way underline economic relations -- then one
should certainly  consider the coherence of the imagery.

And while Dickens is one of my favorite writers, let us face it, he was
an asshole in presenting the life of the _really_ poor. Compare his
brickmakers with the testimony of a brickmaker to a Parliamentary
Committee on the subject of child labor. I don't have time to look it
up, but it went something like, "There's no hope for us brickies, Sir,
but I hope you can help save our children." The only part of that I'm
sure of is "There's no hope for us brickies, but..." Nothing in any of
Dickens's novels remotely allows for _that_ sort of response from the
impoverished and exploited. (Just as the reader of Pound has to factor
in Pound's fascism and anti-semitism, so the reader of Dickens has to
factor in his utterly lunatic individualism.)


Carrol

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