Wow! Thanks, Nancy and Peter!
I hope I will find that book on MacDiarmid in my university library...
Eliot's Hamlet essay is driving me crazy... It's great to deal with it in a
metaliterary way, but when it's about finding what he actually meant to say,
well, I admit I'm really at odds with it.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Nancy Gish" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, February 15, 2004 4:36 PM
Subject: Re: Qua work of art....
> Dear Sara,
> It is not just a matter of syntax at all. One of the most difficult and
> troubling things about Eliot's criticism is his assumption of a
> universal voice, a kind of royal we. He does it consistently, not just
> here. I wrote about it in my essay on Eliot and MacDiarmid, "MacDiarmid
> Reading The Waste Land: The Politics of Quotation," in Hugh MacDiarmid:
> Man and Poet. The defining paragraph is as follows:
> Reviewing Smith's book in the Athenaeum, Eliot begins: "We suppose
> that there is an English literature, and Professor Gregory Smith
> supposes that there is a Scottish literature," The confidence of
> Eliot's undefined "we" establishes his stance at the outset. And yet
> its very lack of definition establishes his peculiar and suppressed
> politics. Are "we" the English, of whom Eliot is not one? The
> educated, of whom G. Gregory Smith is presumably a member? The Arnoldian
> arbiters of taste and seriousness? The royal "we"? Who is infallibly
> able to recognize a "literature"? Eliot, undaunted, draws the line:
> "When we assume that a literature exists we assume a geat deal," he
> continues, and a Scottish literature, he concludes, does not exist.
> Eliot's unquestioned place at the center could hardly be more aptly
> framed than by the broad acceptance of that "we." MacDiarmid, included
> neither in the "we" who make such determinations not in the "we" who
> assume their simple validity, both shared and affirmed Smith's claim for
> a distinctly Scottish literary tradition; more important, he found in
> Smith's concept of the "Caledonian antizygy" the justification of his
> own call for a Scottish literary renaissance.
> Your question is immensely refreshing. I referred to the "broad
> acceptance" of the "we" because it was simply not asked for about eight
> or nine decades. But it is fundamental: as you make clear, there is no
> referent and no way to establish one.
> >>> [log in to unmask] 02/15/04 6:22 AM >>>
> Dear Listers,
> I have some problems with Eliot's syntactic constructions in his Hamlet
> "Qua work of art, the work of art cannot be interpreted; there is
> nothing to
> interpret; we can only criticize it according to standards, in
> comparison to
> other works of art; and for 'interpretation' the chief task is the
> presentation of relevant historical facts which the reader is not
> to know."
> Now then -- I have understood the theorical meaning altogether. But who
> that WE who can only criticize? Is it Eliot or the critics in general?
> that reader, who is he supposed to represent? The average reader who can
> only criticise and not interpret? So, who is to interpret literary works
> only such critics as Mr Robertson? Yet, weren't critics supposed to
> 'criticise' a work of art?
> It's just a matter of syntax which I cannot solve. Can anyone help?
> Thanks so much.