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TSE  April 2010

TSE April 2010

Subject:

Re: Eliot on Charles Williams' mysticism

From:

Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Thu, 1 Apr 2010 08:40:49 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (87 lines)

Nancy Gish wrote:
> Since this seems to be intended as an exchange, I'm responding to the 
> three points.
>  
> I.  This may be--and is--viewed in many ways.  At least two serious 
> ones are that, first, that does not at all entail that *you *are 
> "right" and second, that there is no one right or wrong but that 
> major poetry, and Eliot's in particular in this case, is not subject 
> to any single closed meaning.  Read, for just one example, Michael 
> Coyle's excellent article on TWL in the new /Wiley-Blackwell Companion 
> to T. S. Eliot.  /Also James Longenbach in the same book.
    Still, they can't all be right. If they disagree, there is 
presumably something worth disagreeing over, and in colloquial parlance, 
winners and losers.
>  
> II. I have denied mere allegory in many specific instances; I have not 
> and do not deny that some of the poetry has allegory or allegorical 
> elements.  So I repeat, "I never said that *every time*. . . he didn't 
> write allegory."  I don't need to reread my posts: I know what I think 
> and therefore said, and I've been writing about Eliot all my life, so 
> I do have a pretty good knowledge of what I say.
    You are not responding to what I said, but ok, let that go.
>  
> III.  I don't know if there is enough biographical information even 
> now to state that definitively,
         Yes, there's the rub. The premium is on "biographical information."
> but the complete prose being edited by Ron Schuchard and Jewel Brooker 
> may tell us.  At any rate, it is well known that Eliot said at the 
> time of TWL he considered being a Buddhist.  That a longing for some 
> religious certainty is there early is not in question.  That it was in 
> any way felt to be sure or even that it was Christianity is not.
    This is, as you are fond of saying, one opinion among many. In the 
broadest terms, it is not definitive. I would say it is under-informed, 
excluding in any meaningful way the poetry.
>   Of course if you deny that Eliot knew his own views, perhaps it can 
> simply be pronounced. But he did not seem to say so. 
      Excuse me, but aren't you denying the French newspaper interview? 
Can you have it both ways?

I will be glad to see the new letters and the complete prose; perhaps he 
did say and it will be in this material.  I suggest anyone interested in 
such questions do the reading when it is available.  (The letters are now.)

   I suggest that anyone interested pay more attention to the poetry
.
>
> III.  Thompson is one critic of many,
>
      Yes. Aren't they all.

> and, as you insist, that does not prove a position.
>
    I do so insist. "Proving a position" categorically is not what all 
this is about. That is your approach, and therein lies no possibility of 
any meaningful conclusion, thus the continual "he/it is one among many" 
declarations. Nothing obtains, if you don't like it, because there are 
others, always others. But again, I'll insist, they are  not equal, and 
raising them to view as if they are is a zero sum game and denies the 
open avenue that is legitimate.

> But, in any case, many people wrote about Eliot's metaphysics, so 
> perhaps you could state specifically what you see as central and valid 
> in Thompson.
>
    Unless I miss my guess, there's nothing in Thompson that isn't 
central and valid. In a way, that is the topic of the book, that there 
are points of view (defined) and that there is THE point of view 
(defined to the extent that that is possible), and that Eliot was 
faithfully attuned to the latter. And that that is, as I said, 
discernible in his poetry, i.e. seeing it is not a private privilege nor 
does it require a club membership. It does require an education and 
takes some thought. Quite a bit.... but, since we're qualifying,  for a 
__serious student__  of Eliot's poetry, it can only improve that 
student's understanding of TSE and I would hazard, for the receptive 
student, excite in him or her the desire to dig deeper.

  Ken A
>
> The point of Eric Thompson's book, by the way, which of course I would
> recommend to any serious lover of Eliot's poetry, is that Eliot brings a
> discernible metaphysical vision to all of his poetry starting with the
> Prufrock collection. As ET points out, it is not there in the juvenilia.
> Then it appears and stays and is central throughout. It manifests
> relations an understanding of which one requires to grasp very deeply
> the poems. Of course you (the general "you") don't have to go to
> Thompson for this insight; perhaps you have discovered it for yourself.
> If not, there is no better exposition of it.

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