I am no longer at all convinced that the "central consciousness" of my
Student's Guide UNIFIES anything--though it is surely present. The
voice of a specific character keeps turning up, but others speak in ways
that disrupt that voice. How much they do disrupt is a question I still
cannot really answer.
On biography as such, Jewel Brooker, in her introduction to T. S. ELIOT:
THE CONTEMPORARY REVIEWS, points out that the opposition between
reading Eliot as biographical, subjective, personal, psychological and
as impersonal, objective, realistic, avant garde, was set in the first
reviews by Conrad Aiken and Ezra Pound. ( see p. xvi) This dichotomy
persists to the present day.
Interestingly, Aiken was the one who knew Eliot well at that time and
remained his friend for life; Pound had just met him. Also, it was not
only Aiken who saw the poems as biographical and psychological: Woolf
and Mary Hutchinson also did. His nearest friends quickly saw his life
in his work.
Clearly, that was not seen as the whole or final story, and Jewel makes
a point about the use of interior states in words like Modernist
painting in color that mirrors the full exploration of that connection
by Charlie Altieri in Cassandra's and my book.
>>> Rickard A Parker <[log in to unmask]> 09/03/06 12:31 PM >>>
Marcia Karp wrote:
> Creation of which is not at all the same as jibing experience with
> that of others. Must a writer know how every other experiences the
> world? Is this possible?
Last week I scanned in a paragraph of an essay "Eliot as Philosopher"
that seems pertinent here. The author was discussing Eliot's doctoral
disseration (abbreviated as KE). Here it is, followed by one of Eliot's
notes to TWL:
The thesis contains an entire chapter on the problem of solipsism,
problem raised by the fact that in any human experience of the world,
the world is always experienced from an individual perspective or (in
Bradley's term) "finite centre." An individual's mental life consists
in a changing series of such finite centres, and there is no
that his centres will harmonize with others or even with
themselves. There is thus no guarantee that one's experience or self
will be understood by others (or even by one's subsequent
self). Communication of the inner life is always a courageous act of
faith across a gulf of privacy and difference; and "the life of a
does not consist in the contemplation of one consistent world but in
the painful task of unifying (to a greater or less extent) jarring
incompatible ones, and passing, when possible, from two or more
discordant viewpoints to a higher which shall somehow include and
transmute them" (KE, pp. 147-48). We see here the terrifying problem
of personal communication already poetically expressed in early works
like "Prufrock" and "Portrait of a Lady," and "the painful task of
unifying. . , jarring and incompatible perspectives" clearly points
forward to the fragmentation and synthesizing efforts of The Waste
Part of Eliot's note:
Also F. H. Bradley, "Appearance and Reality", p. 346.
My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my
thoughts or my feelings. In either case my experience falls within
own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its
alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround
it. . . . In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a
the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul.
Richard Shusterman, "Eliot as Philosopher." In David Moody, ed., The
Cambridge Companion to T.S. Eliot. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1994: p. 35
Eliot's dissertation was finally published under the title "Knowledge
and Experience in the Philosophy of F.H. Bradley" (London: Faber,