Peter Montgomery wrote:
> Eliot was a big fan of THE HEART OF DARKNESS.
> Is Kurtz de-civilised?
No! To be civilized is to be aware of oneself as related to The City.
Kurtz's life would be unintelligible within a paleolithic or even
neolithic culture. And while K's attitude towards the "natives" invokes
the Eurocentric use of "savage," his attitude towareds hmself, let alone
the attitude of (a) the fictional narrator and (b) the story as a whole
is biguous. Tos label Kurtz as "uncivilzied" is to justify Europe: It is
not Europe that is committing genocide n the Congo but those savages who
have infected Kurtz with their savagery which then has rebounded on
Now it may be that Eliot (the man) or Eliot (the poet of TWL) himself
thought in these terms, of Kurtz or the woman in the narrow canoe as
"decivilzied." Assuming that would add quite an interesting edge to the
poem but it would make Eliot the man worthy of the greatest contempt.
(Ditto re Conrad.)
"The horror. The Horror" Kurtz muttrs -- and perhaps that horror is
analyzed in the history of such words as "pagan," "civilization,"
"savage," "urbane," and other terms in which is embodied the
valorization of The City (- Europe in the 196h c.) and "The Country" (=
the rest of the world in the 19th-c). (My expositon here is jumbled
since I'm explorginga what for me is new angle from which to look at the
consciousness arising from the savage (!) rampage of Europe across the
world in the last 3 centuriesd. It is too bad Empson did not include a
chapter on "savage" in his _Structure of *Complex Words_, for quite a
bit of (terrifying) history is packed into the 'equations' as Empson
called them which structure this term.
Carrying this (even in its rough state here) back to TWL, we may see a
sort of (unintended) savage (!) irony in that phrase which ends the
I'll stop here for now.
> Mr. Civilisation, he dead!
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Carrol Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Sunday, May 23, 2010 7:19 AM
> Subject: Re: Mr. Eugenides
> > Diana Manister wrote:
> > >
> > > Peter,
> > >
> > > Yes dehumanized. De-civilized too, if you will,
> > "decivilized" (which is also not Eliot's word) is an even more
> > inappropriate metaphor than dehumanized. The behavior of the clerk is
> > only possible within civilization! For one thing, even in a
> > pre-capitalist class societies she would not have been living alone or
> > preparing her own meal. Those tins involved international commerce.
> > Moreover, the entire episode presupposes the atomized social relations
> > which appeared embryonically in the 175th-c (and Milton with amazing
> > prescience grasped) and only fully (and only in England & the U.S.) in
> > the 19th-c. They were only beginning to develop in France & Germany (and
> > this enters into the causes of WW1).
> > So whatever the young man and woman are or are not, they are highly
> > civilized -- and surely Eliot had enough of an historical sense and was
> > precise enough in his language (even the silent language of thought and
> > intention) that he would never have seen these characters as
> > de-ciivilized. These vague, sloppy categories introduced by readers
> > rather than the poem trivialize the whole poem.
> > Carrolk