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TSE  November 2011

TSE November 2011

Subject:

Re: Eliot's 4 English drawing room plays

From:

Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Thu, 10 Nov 2011 09:12:56 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (264 lines)

Actually, Nancy, these are not ad hominem in the sense of a logical
fallacy. Do you think your remarks about the range of Eliot's
understanding of "human emotion" are ad hominem?

Ken A

Nancy Gish wrote:
> Since you cannot find them, here they are. Both these comments are
> generalizations about the kind of person who writes criticism and not
> about the poet or poetry. They are "to the man" [sic]: that is what it
> means to write about the other and not the issue. Just FYI. (italics mine)
> Both state an inadequacy or lack of the correct view (thougth what it
> has to do with consumerism is unclear) in the critic as a reason for
> what is assumed to be the true reading.
> Nancy
> And not assenting to this may well reflect* much more on the critic
> *than on the poet/playwright
> Accompanying this* lack of appreciation *in Eliot criticism for these
> rather large
> factors, and possibly a part of it, is* the strain of consumerism it
> exhibits*, as if creating satisfactory verse or poetry were rather like
> turning on the hot and cold taps just right to get the most comfortable
> mixture for the bath water.
>
>
> >>> Peter Montgomery 11/10/11 5:53 AM >>>
> I have re-read it VERY carefully Ken, and I can find no personal
> comments at all,
> just a position with which Nancy chooses to disagree, which is fine. I
> find
> the assertion of personal attacks puzzling.
> Cheers,
> Peter
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Ken Armstrong <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> *To:* [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> *Sent:* Wednesday, November 09, 2011 1:24 PM
> *Subject:* Re: Eliot's 4 English drawing room plays
>
> Nancy,
>
> As you said in an earlier post, any lister is free to agree or
> disagree with any other. I would only say that nothing in my
> message below is meant as ad hominem -- it is meant as observation
> for consideration. In that vein, I stick by it, because I think
> it's accurate.
>
> Ken A
>
> On 11/8/2011 7:58 PM, Nancy Gish wrote:
>>
>>
>> >>> Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]> 11/08/11 4:02 PM >>>
>> On the other hand, the significant emotion of art was what Eliot was
>> after, and some points could be raised in defense of his efforts.
>> *That is not at stake. I was talking about something else. I
>> think the best work on Eliot's emotion in art is by Charlie
>> Altieri.*
>> He was under no constriction to present emotions other than what
>> he was
>> interested in.
>> *No one said he was. The reviewer merely pointed out the limits
>> of his emotional range. For a contrast, think Shakespeare.*
>> If his plays were not fully successful, there are other
>> places to look besides to a deficiency in the poet's appreciation of
>> human emotions, the claim of which is at best highly problematic
>> anyhow.
>> *That's a fine topic, a different one.*
>>
>> One large bit of territory to investigate might be what Katherine
>> Anne
>> Porter called "the failure of love in the Western world." For the
>> poet
>> or artist who perceives that overarching failure, religious
>> ecstasy or
>> despair may very well be the proper themes of his poetry/plays.
>> *That topic has been explored since the first reviews. Discussing
>> something else is not a failure to know about it or even agree.*
>> And not assenting to this may well reflect much more on the
>> critic than on the
>> poet/playwright. Isn't this something that critics should keep in
>> mind
>> and be sensitive to, that there judgments may reveal more about them
>> than about their alleged subject?
>> *Ad hominem remarks (and ad feminem) are not arguments, just
>> name-calling.*
>> Too, Eliot was trying to revive verse
>> plays and wrote somewhere (don't remember whether it was about
>> the plays
>> or the poetry) about the advantage of having a form delivered
>> developed
>> into your poetic hands vs. the difficulties of trying to
>> (re)establish a
>> form.
>> *Also well known: no one denied it.*
>> I think this is a more promising area in which to look for Eliot's
>> difficulties than to his appreciation of human emotion.
>> *By all means, look. Let us know.*
>> Accompanying this lack of appreciation in Eliot criticism for
>> these rather large
>> factors, and possibly a part of it, is the strain of consumerism it
>> exhibits, as if creating satisfactory verse or poetry were rather
>> like
>> turning on the hot and cold taps just right to get the most
>> comfortable
>> mixture for the bath water.
>> *More ad hominem/feminem.*
>> While I suppose just about everyone would
>> agree that that is not what creating art is about, I can't help
>> wondering why then people persist in talking about it that way.
>> *Perhaps careful reading of a great deal more contemporary
>> criticism would be illuminating. I don't find myself wondering.*
>> **
>> *What I do not understand is why anyone on this list assumes
>> either that they are experts who can assert truth and others are
>> somehow utterly absurd, or that we cannot have a civil discussion
>> without any personal attacks or constant assertions of personal
>> feeling that lead nowhere.*
>> Nancy
>>
>>
>> Ken A
>>
>> Nancy Gish wrote:
>> > That is not what I meant at all, that is not it at all. I wish
>> this
>> > discussion could have remained a discussion, but that seems
>> impossible.
>> > Nancy
>> >
>> > >>> Chokh Raj 11/08/11 7:18 AM >>>
>> > The significant emotion of art.
>> > CR
>> >
>> > *From:* Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
>> > *To:* [log in to unmask]
>> > *Sent:* Monday, November 7, 2011 1:55 PM
>> > *Subject:* Re: Eliot's 4 English drawing room plays
>> >
>> > Dear John,
>> > I agree with what you say, though as an actor ( English
>> professor who
>> > acts for fun in a Shakespeare ensemble), I think one could do a
>> > fabulous and exciting performance of /Sweeney Agonistes/. I
>> also saw a
>> > brilliant performance of /Murder in the Cathedral/ in the
>> Cathedral at
>> > St. Andrews. It was performed all through and around the audience.
>> > That seems to affirm what you say about the comedies: //he
>> really had
>> > not figured out that there are living humans with a much wider
>> range
>> > of emotion than religious ecstasy or despair.// But I wonder why,
>> > then, you chose them. Do you think they could be directed and
>> acted in
>> > ways that would make them work now?
>> > Nancy
>> > P. S., of course he seemed much changed by human love when he
>> finally
>> > experienced it.
>> > >>> John Angell Grant 11/07/11 1:31 PM >>>
>> > Hi Nancy,
>> > Thanks for the thought. I am a theater person myself, and have
>> talked
>> > with other theater folk about the issue. Draw is always an
>> issue. My
>> > sense is that Eliot's plays have a smug "I know the secret to
>> life"
>> > feel to them, which is alienating and, in my view, paradoxically
>> > unchristian--a link to his Puritan heritage. Here's a 1950
>> review by
>> > of the The Cocktail Party, by William Barrett from the Partisan
>> > Review, which Jewel Brooker includes in her Contemporary
>> Reviews book,
>> > which nails some of it, in my view. Barrett is referring to the 2
>> > choices of life offered in The Cocktail Party (2 choices
>> represented
>> > by the Chamberlaynes, and Celia):
>> >
>> > “Here we must remember that Eliot, the last great product of the
>> > Puritan mind, has never shown in his poetry any real belief in the
>> > possibility of human love. The moment of love is presented
>> always as
>> > the moment of withdrawal and renunciation, the awful daring of a
>> > moment’s surrender, one of ?the things that other people have
>> > desired’; and consequently the beauty of the world is never
>> present
>> > in the fullness of joy, but always with that painful clutch at the
>> > heart as at something taken away, lost, uncapturable. No doubt,
>> > resignation is necessary to get through life at all, and Freud
>> himself
>> > stated that the aim of analytic therapy was to enable the
>> neurotic to
>> > bear the sufferings inevitable in human life; but this is only
>> half
>> > the picture, for the work of the analyst may also be to
>> liberate the
>> > patient for the positive joys that life can hold, even perhaps
>> for the
>> > possibility of love, and if the neurotic were told that he is
>> to be
>> > resigned only for resignation’s sakes, it is very unlikely
>> that he
>> > would have the strength to go on.
>> > “I was surprised to read that one critic found in the play the
>> > gaiety that Stendhal recommends for all art, for it seems to me
>> that
>> > at bottom the world of The Cocktail Party is the same empty
>> world of
>> > Prufrock, except that 37 years ago Eliot did not disguise his
>> contempt
>> > for this emptiness. So I feel at the heart of this play some
>> immense
>> > tricherie [cheating], or at least self-deception, for I can’t
>> > believe that Eliot takes the Chamberlaynes as serious as he
>> pretends
>> > to. Here again, comparison with Sweeney Agonistes becomes
>> instructive,
>> > for in this earlier fragment Eliot fully realized all his
>> hatred of
>> > human life and really enjoyed himself in the raucous company of
>> Doris,
>> > Sweeney, Klipsteins, and Krumpacker—in comparison with whose
>> vulgar
>> > vitality the characters at the cocktail party are genteel
>> skeletons.
>> > As a writer Eliot has never really given us God’s plenty: the
>> > qualities of his genius are not robustness and richness, but
>> > precision, terseness, and intensity; and the shadow which
>> haunts these
>> > qualities is a certain tendency to thinness and brittleness
>> that here
>> > in The Cocktail Party has at last caught up with him.
>> >
>> > On Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 9:57 AM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]
>> > <mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
>> >
>> > Dear John,
>> > I would think you could learn more about that from theater people
>> > than TSE enthusiasts. You might want to ask some theater faculty
>> > or directors.
>> > My guess is that they are not only rather outdated for
>> > contemporary audiences but are in verse. I imagine directors would
>> > doubt that they would draw. That's only a guess based on what is
>> > produced.
>> > Best,
>> > Nancy
>> >
>> > >>> John Angell Grant 11/07/11 12:48 PM >>>
>> >
>> > I'm writing a Master's Thesis on Eliot's 4 drawing room plays
>> > (Family Reunion, Cocktail Party, Confidential Clerk, Elder
>> > Statesman). Does anyone have thoughts about why they are rarely
>> > performed these days. I set up Google Alerts for all 4 a few
>> > months back, and only one production popped up, and that wa 6
>> > rehearsed staged readings of The Cocktail Party by the
>> > English-language theater in Abu Dhabi! Donmar did a series a few
>> > years back. And there was an NYC production a year or so back.
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>

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