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" exclusive 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 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
"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.
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