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TSE  October 2011

TSE October 2011

Subject:

Re: Hughes' Eliot

From:

Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Wed, 26 Oct 2011 13:58:07 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (84 lines)

Personally, ie for me, Eliot criticism is irrelevant in the face of Eliot's 
poetry.
In Eliot's own context, ie his time, criticism was not a product of the 
academy
but the development of many voices speaking to each other as part of a world
of literature which was vibrantly alive outside the academy, in many of the 
literary
organs and publications of the time.

From a Christian point of view, esp. as Catholic or Anglo-Catholic, Eliot 
ranks
with Dante in terms of verse quality, if not in terms of over-all vision. I 
can't help
wondering what his verse might have become if he had access to the new
Anglican Ordinariate of the Catholic Church. He was a self-confessed
Anglo-Papalist, which put him on the outs with many Anglicans, but which
indicated a desire for renewal within the Catholic context. Perhaps he might 
have
created a whole world view for modern Catholicism equivalent to what Dante
did for his own time. He was certainly one of the great modern mystics, if 
Barry
Spurr is anywhere close to the mark.

How he rates in the general world of contemporary literature/criticism is of 
little
interest to me.

P.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ken Armstrong" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 7:42 AM
Subject: Hughes' Eliot


> Dear Listers,
>
> Having recently read again Ted Hughes _Dancer To God_, I want to urge 
> anyone who hasn't read it or who read it long ago to do so. It is a 
> masterful summation and analysis of Eliot the poet and in relation to that 
> Eliot the person in his time. Reading current criticism, much of which is 
> of a "deconstructive," leveling nature, one can rather quickly lose sight 
> of the true scale and impact of Eliot's achievement. Hughes book is an 
> effective tonic, and for the person who reads it carefully and appreciates 
> the level of achievement it testifies to, it drops an interesting question 
> on your plate: how to reconcile the grand acheivement of this poetry and 
> poet with the preponderance of prose that is presumed to be brought to 
> bear on either. The all but terminal inadequacy of that critical prose 
> equally to meet the poetry has long intrigued me. There is a lot I could 
> say about it, but I'd like to point to just one early, preliminary passage 
> in _Dancer To God_ to comment on the predicament all Eliot admirers and 
> critics alike find themselves in.
>
> Hughes writes on the first page of the first essay, "We know that great 
> poets are exceedingly rare. And yet, during my lifetime I have never heard 
> Thomas Stearns Eliot referred to except as a species on his own, a great 
> poet in an altogether more valuable and separate class of greatness than 
> all those of his contemporaries in our language who are also frequently 
> dubbed 'great'....Somehow the consensus materialized, as if through 
> instinct, among all his colleagues in the poetry of English, that he is 
> not merely a great poet, but, finally, one of that exceedingly rare kind, 
> one of the truly great. And not only one of the truly great, but simply 
> _the_  poet of our times."
>
> I mentioned off list 12 or so years ago to Guy Story Brown that people 
> know on instinct that Eliot's poetry is great or at the least a poetry to 
> be reckoned with, but that no one has been able to present, to in effect 
> surface that greatness in their critical prose; we know he's great, but no 
> one ultimately has been able to demonstrate that greatness critically. 
> This, the primacy of instinct in responding to Eliot's poetry (as memory 
> serves), Guy assented to with some enthusiasm. And this really is not to 
> denigrate scholarship, insofar as it is scholarship and not prejudice 
> carried in on the shoulders of scholarship or would-be scholarship, which 
> has grown and continues to grow around Eliot; but it is to say that 
> criticism proper has not met the challenge and scholarship can never be 
> sufficient to the cause of exposing the nature of the poetry in critical 
> prose.
>
> I realize how hard it is to make a point on this list, and this with the 
> help of Hughes and Brown is what I'm trying to do. But I invite you to 
> look at _Dancer to God_ and to reflect for yourself what the relative 
> accomplishment of Eliot criticism is in the face of Eliot's poetry.
>
> Ken A 

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