There are certain 'themes" that unavoidably appear in _any_ text, even if
the writer is trying hard to avoid them. Two such themes are "appearance and
reality" and "chaos and order." Over the years many critics have made fun of
criticism grounded in the discovery of such. I would occasionally tell my
lit classes that if they ever found themselves at 1 a.m. with a paper to
complete for an 8 o'clock class, they should write on the emergence of
order from chaos in any old text -- and could complete the paper by 3 a.m.
The following limerick is a powerful instance both of appearance (too many
syllables) & order -- successful rhythm emerging from the apparent chaos of
words in the last line.
There was a young man from Japan
Whose limericks never would scan
When told it was so
He said yes I know
But I always try to get as many words into the last line as ever I possibly
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
Of Nancy Gish
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 10:45 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Hieronymo's mad againe
Unfortunately, not at all. The context in which Hieronymo is "mad againe" is
complex and all about the mix and confusion of languages. And his madness is
quite specific, not in any way a divine madness. Eliot's placement of this
murderous and raging madness immediately after the series of many languages
is far more intricate than that one word--and too long to go over here.
But without studying it, you cannot attribute any specific significance to
the allusion and certainly none of the ones you impose: they simply do not
fit the context of the source even slightly.
>>> Chanan Mittal 04/16/14 11:34 AM >>>
Words and lines are defined by the context in which they're placed. And I've
given context enough, I'm sure.
On Wednesday, April 16, 2014, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
It's the Fluellen school of theory.
>>> Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]
Perhaps if you read the play, you would rethink Hieronymo: he wants
to kill people. And he does. Their voices are all in different languages so
no one in the play he's arranging will know that it is a kind of snuff play.
That this is divine madness is a bit hard on the divine.
The notion that the poem must, somehow, be fit into "a pattern of
order" has been in question for decades. So I question why making murder
into divine frenzy is an apt way to do it.
One might see the reference to Hieronymo, like the reference to the
Versailles Treaty in the last line, is an implicit recognition that Order is
a delusion. CR's ruminations remind me of a student in an 18th-c lit class
who thought The Modest Proposal was evidence of cannibalism among Irish
peasants. The "logic" is the same: take one element, even one word, ignore
context, spin a fantasy around that one isolated 'fact,' and then see that
fantasy as part of the text.
For example: an interpreter interpreting this post could note the
word "Irish" above, note that there is such a thing as Irish coffee, then
use the word coffee to arrive at the interesting conclusion that Cox has
written a comparative study of the economies of Brazil and Cuba: they both
grow coffee. THEN that same adventurous interpreter could note that this
post occurs in a thread on TWL and triumphantly announce that TWL is an Ode
It's a promising technique.