Many writers and poets have made great works out of madness, despair, melancholia, loss. I am not at all sure what it means to talk about a "mystic/spiritual" dimension being in some way always essential to that. Sometimes what the text does is genuinely evoke the experience itself. That is not a lesser or less creative thing--it may in some cases be a greater thing than attempts at transcendence or idealizing or philosophizing.
Hieronymo in "The Spanish Tragedy" is not simply mad; his many voices have a carefully planned purpose, a rather horrible one.
>>> Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> 03/18/08 11:35 AM >>>
Thank you, Nancy. There's no denying what you say.
I'd only add a word to it -- it's how the poet uses his own intimate experience of
neurasthenia and transmutes it into the stuff of poetry, that alone matters
"in poetry". For "the corpse", the flash, the dread, the hallucinations etc etc
acquire a different character in poetry -- they resound with a resonance that
reverberates with meanings which have a philosophic dimension to them,
a mystic/spiritual dimension, if you will.
There are then two things -- the literal experience of madness as a material
fact -- and the transmutation of that into the stuff of poetry.
A reader of Eliot's poetry must get that clear, I suppose.
Just a brief word about two kinds of madness in Eliot's poetry -- one
that is of the world in the midst of which and against which the poet feels nauseated
-- hears the dull tom tom in his head, as in Portrait of a Lady -- or feels the tug of
impatience represented in the horse's at the end of the street in Preludes.
The other madness is both perceiving and creative -- like the one at the end of
The Waste Land -- likened to Hieronymo's -- which can put together the fragments
of a "tradition" garnered from different lores.
Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
If there is a disagreement, it has nothing to do with your sense of the world vs. mine: it is about what Eliot said in both the poems and his critical work. It is much too long to repeat here, but Eliot was very familiar with the then-accepted notions of dissociation/hysteria/neurasthenia, and he used the terminology frequently in prose. Whether any of those conditions is "madness" is questionable, but they were seen that way. Eliot himself was diagnosed with neurasthenia by Vittoz, and he described himself as having "aboulia"--a form of dissociation in the terms of Janet, whom Eliot had read. It's a long discussion, but it is not at all an issue of where you or I stand but an issue of the texts. If you want to see how frequent his terminology was, it's all in my article as evidence. Eliot's own sense of it and his use of images that are practically textbook clinical descriptions is what matters in reading it. For example, in the line about "what a flash of madness w!
ould reveal," the narrator ends by saying, "My brain is twisted in a tangled skein/ There will be a blinding light and a little laughter/ And the sinking blackness of ether/ I do not know what, after, and I do not care either." This follows an imagined scene of himself as a corpse being autopsied and the dread of a flash of madness. This has nothing to do with a view of the world's madness from some transcendent position "against the backdrop of eternity." It is about internal terror and anguish.
It seems what is really at stake is the notion of a poem as a text or as a touchstone for one's own feelings and ideas. I think the text is what Eliot made and what we study--in many contexts.
Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your homepage.