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TSE  May 2007

TSE May 2007

Subject:

Re: autobiography & 4Q

From:

Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Tue, 15 May 2007 03:34:26 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (105 lines)

Perhaps this will suggest what is at stake.

Your statement:

"It is simply not possible to prove that what you like has any basis in
 either any "true" reading or any critical history:  it is one way of
 reading, and it can be satisfying to many readers.  It is not more."

suggests that somehow a "true" reading or  any critical history are
somehow superior readings of texts and that exploratory readings
are somehow to be tolerated as with  parental pats on the head. No
wonder a lot of academics are so unwilling to risk tentative views
of texts, and dullness and disinterest grow.

P.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Nancy Gish" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2007 12:26 PM
Subject: Re: autobiography & 4Q


Dear Diana,

I'm sorry, but I genuinely do not see what your point is.  Are academic
studies of Eliot simply annoying interventions in impressionist responses?
Are all genuine responses exclusively personal feelings?  Is Elizabeth
Drew's study of Eliot's development as a search for faith--an academic
study--simply "impossible"?  (She did write it.)  Is the perception of what
you call "dynamic and dramatic" excllusive to personal responses by artists,
and, if so, why do academics also discuss it?  Whatever do you mean by
"academic" and the apparently--sorry if I misread--reductive reaction to
people who spend lifetimes reading and thinking--especially about a poet who
himself got a Ph.D and wrote critical theory and gave interviews to
academics like Kristian Smidt and published critics?

I really do not see what is at stake.
Nancy

Nancy I was not proposing a subject for a scholarly paper to be delivered at
an Eliot symposium, but rather expressing my discovery in Eliot's work of
ways of presenting conflicts over matters of religious faith in poetry.
Asserting that this theme was his only or chief one would be reductive of
course.

I forget that in a list most of whose members are academics, any insight
into Eliot's work must be presented in bulletproof form, with every
punctuation mark in place and every other element in his work acknowledged
and given its relative weight, or the artillary comes rolling out.

Eliot's modalities of explicating and exemplifying the theme of
faithlessness evolving to faith, without an abundance of didacticism, offer
a working poet a wealth of possibilities for which I for one am grateful.
The idea qua idea is simple: a character in search of faith.

A respectable academic treatment of that theme in Eliot is not impossible,
but scholars do their work after the fact. Artists are present at the
creation of their work, before it exists, and finding help at that uncertain
stage through another artist's example is a cause for celebration.  Bringing
images, situations, allusions, characters, settings, dialogue to the simple
idea of a narrator's desperation is a challenge Eliot met with poetic
genius. I acknowledge that  his work is stylistically and intellectually
complex and contains many intertwined themes, but realizing that his theme
of spirituality or religion or what have you was not a static but dynamic
and dramatic, not an expression of having faith but the struggle and
conflict integral to finding faith, is an important realization for me.

I was approaching the quest motif as an artist engaged in bringing it into
existence in a new form, not as a scholar making a comprehensive evaluation
of the Eliot corpus, activities as different as autopsy and conception.
Diana

Nancy wrote:

"your claim about the ouvre as an exciting and unified quest is simply one
of many
claims.  As early as 1949 Elizabeth Drew argued that it was, using
Jungian archetypes as her template.  On the other hand, F. O.
Matthiessen, in his groundbreaking book, took no such single-thread
approach.  And all that we now know about Eliot's life--that neither
Drew nor Matthiessen knew--cannot be used to demonstrate such a singular
reading.  Nor do curreent critical theories agree on this.

It is simply not possible to prove that what you like has any basis in
either any "true" reading or any critical history:  it is one way of
reading, and it can be satisfying to many readers.  It is not more.
Cheers,
Nancy
"




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