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TSE  November 2010

TSE November 2010

Subject:

Re: Attitudes / Prejudice

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Fri, 26 Nov 2010 16:47:17 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (151 lines)

When the Great War began, Henry James said something like, "So this is what
it all meant all the time." "It" probably referred to the Victorian world of
high culture and rapid technological Progress. James soon retreated from the
implicit recognition of his first response and took out British Citizenship
in protest of the u.s. failure to join the holocaust at once.  Two years
later, William Jenning Bryant, long may his fame last, seeing Wilson's
determination to lead the U.S. to war, resigned as Secretary of State in
protest. (Forget the stupid Scopes trial; remember Bryan for this courageous
act.) All the socialist parties of Europe turned nationalist and encouraged
their members to rush joyfully into the slaughter. Eliot tried to join the
army. Whitehead placidly watched his son trot off to war. Bertrand Russell,
Eugene Debs, Rosa Luxemburg went to jail. The idiots* in the Royal family
changed their names from Saxe-Coburn to Windsor, Houseman and Yeats both
wrote magnificent poems celebrating vileness. (*A family whose main talents
are gin, horse-racing, bigotry, and clothing.) All sharp lines and fixed
relations disappeared in the mud and animal dung and rotting bodies of
Verdun. And some 20 years later Eliot wrote: Birth and copulation and death:
the visible place in the cosmos of his 16th-c country people who Knew Their
Place (what Socrates meant by Knowing oneself) having disappeared in the
abstract or formal equality of modern citizenship.  (Members of the First
International addressed each other as Citizen rather than Comrade.) 

All that is solid: peasantry, nobility, Church, Guilds (see the Prologue to
the Canterbury Tales) melts into the  bland equality of citizenship. Though
I understand scholarship may not back me on this, I stil to see the first
line of TWL as echoing "Whan that April....), the new poem (TWL) slightly
adjusting the unity of the existing Monuments -- i.e., in this instance
(without being technical about it) the initiating monument being Chaucer.
And in so far as TWL follows a traceable path about London (as I believe
someone on ths list pointed out), it too is a pilgrimage -- to what? That
would, perhaps, give a hook to hold mad Hieronimo (sp?) to the poem, an
obscure madman from an old tragedy being as good a blissful martyr in _this_
city as any.

Above strictly free association. But I think there may be nuggets in there
that touch the curve of Eliot's career and the tensions in his poems. The
Cocktail Party tries to situate martyrdom  in the "modern" world -- with
perhaps indifferent success.  

Carrol

Yeats, An Irish Airman Forsees His Death
Houseman, Epitaph for an Army of Mercentaries


-----Original Message-----
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
Of Carrol Cox
Sent: Friday, November 26, 2010 3:44 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Attitudes / Prejudice

When they wrote the Manifesto, Marx & Engels were not yet “Marxists.” That
is why they made the mistake of referring to history as a record of _class_
conflict. In fact, as Marx later demonstrated¸Class (an abstraction¸a
relation and a process) exists _only_ in capitalism. _Caste_ (or _Estates_)
is the proper designation for what is called class in non-capitalist
societies. Thus you don’t have to label Eliot (or anyone else) a Communist
on the basis of their view of the modern world resembling that in the
quotation I posted.

Eliost clearly abhorred the disappearance of distinctios in the “modern
world”: Consider that as a beginning for analysis of the opening paragraph
of East Coker. We start with archaic language mng a period whenthere was
still an English Peasantry (a caste or Estate rather than a class). And the
house agent’s clerk is “one of the low,” because he exists in a world in
which only the abstractions of “high” and “low” exist. _Murdfer in the
Cathedral_ pays homage to a world of visible distinctions and relations, a
world of _estates_. _The Cocktail Party_ may be seen as an effort to
reconcile himself to a world of abstract individuals. (Abstract in that they
exist separately and in abstraction from any of a large number of slots into
which they can fit themselves or be fitted. The stability, the solidity of
relationships, the clear demarcation between the sacred and the profane
which characterized pre-modern societies has disappeared.

Eliot of course would (and did) advocate quite different ways (from M&E) of
responding to the world projected in the passage I quoted, but he almost
certainly would have agreed with it AS A DESCRIPTION. That is nearly
explicit in his varius comments on “divided sensibility,” etc. TWL is also
explicitly a reaction to world in which all fixed relations disappeared, in
which all that was solid (distinct; meaningful) had dissolved.

CR in his rush into the pseudo- scholarship of Wikipedia did not pause to
read the words in front of him. Read the words, forgetting the politics of
the writers, and you may be surprised at their harmony with Eliot’s
characteristic stance.

Incidentally, it is a wel established principle of hermeneutics that a word
or passage has to be grasped first in and of itself  and only then fitted
into a context that will modify that meaning. To start with the context is
to refuse to read, since what you read should help determine _what_ context
is relevant, since every sentence has an infinity of contexts in which it
can be fitted. 

Carrol

From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
Of Nancy Gish
Sent: Friday, November 26, 2010 10:39 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Attitudes / Prejudice

If anyone is interested, there are several discussions in articles in
Chinitz's A Companion to T. S. Eliot that address Eliot's opposition to
communism.
 
I don't think Carrol was at all suggesting that Eliot liked it--maybe the
ironic parallel with Eliot's own sweeping away of aesthetic assumptions.
But Carrol would have to explain himself.
 
I think anyone on the list could easily find the quotation now that we can
google nearly anything that well known.  I wasn't implying that there was or
should be any secret.  But why not post Marx--with or without identifying
it?   Anything that well known is of course accessible to all.  
 
My interest, really, is that the list engage, as here, with ideas from
members rather than  dropped-in quotations, Carrol's included.  But he did
raise the question of a parallel.
Nancy
>>> Tom Colket 11/26/10 11:03 AM >>>
Regarding the post by CR, Nancy wrote

N> As Carrol said, it's famous.  It's easy to find.  Is there a reason for
this?

Is there a reason Carrol posted a quote from Karl Marx without identifying
its source? ("Here is a famous brief account of change in the modern
relations and thought."). 

I don't know CR's reason for identifying the quote, but I think the List
should know what it's dealing with.  I'm glad CR identified the passage for
those who did not recognize it.

Anyway, back to Eliot. . .

Given that Eliot declared himself to be a "classicist in literature,
royalist in politics, and Anglo-Catholic in religion," I don't think that he
thought too much of communism. 

However, as a classicist in literature and Anglo-Catholic in religion, Eliot
believed in certain eternal truths that spring both from a human nature that
is unchanging throughout time and eternal truths that are dictated by God. 
Given that, I think Eliot was suspicious that "things that were changing"
were often changing for the worse (e.g., his Marie Lloyd essay bemoaning the
closing of music halls). In that respect, he may agree with the section of
the Marx quote that Carrol cites regarding "All that is solid melts into
air, all which is holy is profaned".

 --Tom -- 

  

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