Sorry to be responding so long after the fact, but I wanted
to be able to take some time on this one.
I don't think there can be any argument that sex as it is
presented in TWL is VERY dehumanised, whatever caste
of dehumanisation one wishes to associate with it.
The whole nature of the mythic waste land is that the
king is impotent. Eliot is trying to manifest the impotency of
modern culture, esp. city culture. It is not just the typist who is
raped, she is more a type (pun intended) than an individual,
as are all the other personages in the poem. This is the typical
post war malaise (still existing for Viet Nam vets), like the let
down after coition.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Carrol Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 1:05 PM
Subject: Re: Mr. Eugenides
> [I just realzied the time of day; this is radically unfinished but I'm
> more apt to complete it later if I send it as is. I may have time later
> > Nancy Gish wrote:
> > "But that certainly was not
> > the case in 1920." ----- regarded by whom?
> > It is an interesting fact that in a major Victorian novel (the name of
> > which is just at this moment a memory glitch) a man is depicted as
> > raping his wife. Of course at that time such an act was not a legal
> > possibility, though the characters in the novel are disgusted. It
> > still happened. The typist's lack of reaction does not mean it was
> > not the case; it only means she had no way to articulate what had no
> > public conceptualization.
> The Victorian Age was wildly miscellaneous and contradictory. I wish I
> knew more about it than I do. Some of this gets captured in James's _The
> Awkward Age_, the unnamed center of which is Zola's _Nana_. In P&P
> Elizabeth shudders at the 'picture' Charlotte's marriage presents. The
> word may not have been "picture"; I'm depending on memory here. That is,
> Elizabeth is letting her imagination roam -- and the image of Charlotte
> in bed with Mr ___ (my own memory glitch) brings out and underlines the
> 'stakes' in the polite maneuveings of the world she presents. An earlier
> one-paragraph digression helps locate Charlotte's dilemma: an exchange
> between Mrs. Bennet and Charlotte's brothr: if Charlotte remains
> unnmarried she will eventually be the slave of the kind of woman _that_
> young man will marry. This is pre-Victorian but points to the abyss
> beneath the characters in the classic 19th-c novel.
> Inso far as they typist exists 'outside' the pages of TWL I agree with
> you completely. And Eliot's lines do slander her. But I had a narrower
> focus: how she and her adventure 'operate' within TWL, and in answer to
> your question above, Eliot, Pound, & the hypothetical reader of the
> poem. (And I personally doubt that Eliot had the depth of social and
> political understanding of Austen, Dickens, or James.) And _Eliot's_
> typist fails abysmally, in contrast to Philomela, to understand that she
> has been raped. Her understanding of what has happened is as superficial
> as the young clerk's interpretation of her idifference as a welcome.
> Again, inventing narrative the poet does not provide -- e.g. seeing Mr.
> Eugenides as an 'actual' rapist, thins out rather than enriches the
> range of meaning in the poem by narrowing the possible interactions
> between the modern sexual encounters and the calssical tale from Ovid.
> On the one hand, we have an extraordinarily dramatic rape and its
> consequences in the Ovidian tale; on the other hand we have these
> ambiguous modern encounters. Deliberate narrative gaps are a powerful
> tool for the writer: a tool that is blunted if the reader insists on
> making up a substitute for what the author has deliberately left blank.
> > An analogy is the notion of emotional
> > abuse. Until very recently, only physical abuse was "abuse." That did
> > not mean there was no emotional or psychological abuse. Nor does the
> > absence of a term like date rape mean that such things never happened
> > in 1920-
> The poem echoed in the episode contains the phrase, "and learns too late
> that men betray." Part of the horror of date rape is precisely it being
> felt as a betrayal. But the typist is presented as having expected the
> episode (Now that's done...) rather than having been betrayed into it.
> It was a complex process by which the term "date rape" became coined,
> and part of that process was a shift in the consciousness of women. Now
> if by "such a thing" you mean the use of drugs, then yes it happened
> before either the conception of a "date" or of date rape appearedd:
> That's what Richardson's Clarissa revolves around. The "thing" does come
> into existence before the term is invented, but it is that new fact that
> brings about the need for a term. So we can assume that in the century
> or half-century before the coinage of "date rape" various women were
> haiving an experiencee that previously no woman had had, and these
> expereinces would enter into the explosion of the modern Women's
> Movement in the '60s. Probably some women were already searching for the
> language to describe this experience back in the '20s. But I doubt that
> Marianne Dashwood's beetrayal was experienced by her as anything like
> what we now mean by date rape. She did nearly die -- and for that later
> blames herself, not her lover. (She exchanges letters with _____; had
> they not had sexual relations that act would have been inconceivable, as
> would the intensity of her reactions.) Put another way, the appearance
> of a term lags the entity named, but it is also evidene that the entity
> named itself was of fairly recent origin, which explains the emergence
> of the term and the need for a new term.
> > --nor does it mean that for the person violated it had no
> > psychological consequences and damage.
> The treatment of children in colonial America was unbelievably brutal by
> modern standards. (See Stephanie Coontz, _The public origin of private
> life_.) Whether those children suffered the emotional abuse that a
> modern child would suffer seems at least doubtful. The effects of child
> abuse today cannot really be separated by the experiences of the
> non-abused chldren among the child's acquainatance. The question is an
> open one however, and it's at least arguable that experience depends not
> just on the physical event but on the available conceptualizations of
> that event. There is not a one-to-one correlation between a physical
> eent and the experience of that event. Clarissa was raped by her
> knight-in-shining-armor who aided her in escaping the prostitution her
> family attempted to force upon her. (Cf. Fanny vs. Cwraford in Mansfield
> Park, which was a conscious rewrting of Richardson's novel.) Whether or
> no Clarissa had stopped to folly, she felt she had to die, and Goldsmith
> probably had her in mind when he wrote the song. But I think it would
> seriously distort Clarissa's (or Marianne's) experience to label it date
> > Moreover, the typist is
> > assaulted; she does not resist, but she does not reprove. [Iassume this
is a typo for "approve"" Your
> > position assumes that it is only a rape if the woman tries to fight it
> > off or at least reject it.
> No. It is only the _experience_ of rap if the woman regards it as rape.
> If she so regards it, it is (for her life) a rape. I wish I had read the
> novel you refer to as involving a husband raping his wife. For that
> woman, then, it was rape, whether or no she resisted and whether or no
> she so informed her husband. But it wasn't rape until the person
> assaulted conceives it as such. We are talking about experience, not
> about mere physical events, and the coceptualization of an event is an
> inseparable part of the experience of that event.
> > But that it is not welcome or desired but
> > only not stopped when he is "flushed and excited" and "assaults at
> > once," means it was not rape?
> Two different people -- the typist & the young man. I stick to the
> typist for now. According to the poem, she regarded it as an unpleasnt
> inevitability which it was a rleief to have gotten over. "Indifference"
> in thepoem seems to be an active force She really is indifferent to what
> happens to her! (There are several characters like this in _Lustra_.)
> I'm not sure exactly how "blame" functions in the poem
> > I think it was you Carrol, who pointed out that homosexuality did not
> > exist as such before about the 20th century, but the human behavior
> > did: it just meant something else socially. But those who wrote the
> > history of all these things were not generally the ones who were
> > violated, whose sense of it was not the basis of the legal and social
> > language.
> > I'm not, by the way, primarily arguing that the issue is whether or
> > not it was "rape" in the typist scene; I am arguing what you
> > affirm--that we would call it that or use similar terms, and that the
> > act was not less abusive because it was assumed to be no justification
> > but only what he, of course, had no need to excuse. Also, which
> > rape? There are rape scenes in the poem--notably philomel and all the
> > recurrences of that motif, but also the Thames daughters.
> > Nancy
> > >>> Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> 05/10/10 11:32 PM >>>
> > Ken Armstrong wrote:
> > >
> > > Tom,
> > >
> > > Aside from the question of whether Eugenides is a rapist or not or
> > how
> > > "asked me" becomes an "assault," how is the typist scene a rape? It
> > > seems to be wholly in the cards, as it were, not at all unexpected
> > by
> > > either party.
> > Agreed. (Though for about 30 years now "welcome of indifference" would
> > be regarded as a rapist's self-justification. But that certainly was
> > not
> > the case in 1920.)
> > Another important point. Everything one can usefully say about the
> > poem
> > on the hypothesis of rape can also be said about it without that
> > hypothesis. Occam's razor would suggest not taking the rape hypothesis
> > seriously.
> > Carrol