"Rickard A. Parker" wrote:
> > Now none of these readers will approach an Eliot poem as stripped of
> > context as Rcik proposed to treat Gerontion, but the context they bring
> > to it will be fairly shallow.
> A first step to understanding what was attempted to be communicated.
O.K. I'm to some extent sympathetic to 'shallow' contexts for a number
of reasons. One is that implicit in my post: the social/cultural
'impact' of poems is determined mostly by readers who encounter them in
such a shallow context. Moreover, it has always seemed to me that
literary scholars _ought_ to spend some time with writers 'outside'
their fields, hence writers for whom the scholar approaches in a
relatively 'shallow' context. And there is a technical reason as well.
It is a fairly basic hermeneutic princple that a given word or passage
should be _first_ construed in as limited a context as possible: i.e., a
word within a phrase rather than a full sentence; a sentence with
respect to immediately adjoining sentences rather than a full paragraph,
and only then with respect to the wider contexts: the poem, the author's
works, the historical period, etc. This is one protection against the
scholar imposign his/her fantasies on the text.
So in that spirit, what are we to do with the following brief passage
which has always so caught my attentiohn:
Gull against the wind, in the windy straits
Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,
White feathers in the snow . . .
(I deliberately stop short of the old man.)
I asked this question before. Are those feathers those on the gull, or
are they blown off a dead gull? What is the visual image here? And what
does "against the wind" mean? Should I have cut the passage there and
not included "or running on the Horn"? It is perhaps the most _active_
image in the poem, but we need tonail down its _immediate_ sense before
considering how it fits into the economyof the whole poem.
> > The old man with withered female dugs takes
> > us to Ovid, but I'm not sure how relevant the Tiresias who sides with
> > Antnigone in that play is to TWL.
> Burial of the dead.
> Rick Parker