TWL is, I still think, a great and important poem. But any attempt whatever to defend the despicable racist views it embodies makes it impossible to grasp its greatness or importance. Many great poems embody despicable attitudes-- a glaring example is "An Irish Airman Foresees His death. That poem has to be seen through the lens provided by the last 10 minutes or so ob All Quiet On The Western Front." The Airma is a _Terrorist_, and the poem praises individual joy in death and destruction for the sake of death and destruction. No admirer of Yeats (and I am a strong admirer) should try to defend the a ttitudes the poem embodies.
Anyone who defends or excuses Eliot's contempotible racism is slandering his poems, not praising them.
Tom & Nancy have it right. Denial of their arguments is contemptible.
Incidentally, Celias death in The Cocktail Party is also contemptibly racist.
I am not criticizeing Eliot's poems. And I love "Irish Airman" -- but to praise the peoms we have to see them clearly, not through a broken lens of Eliot-Worship.
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Gray
Sent: Saturday, November 18, 2017 8:21 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: NY Times On Works of Unethical Artists
In saying that TSE's antisemitism and class prejudice were typical of his time, I did not mean to minimize them. Here in Canada, Pier 21 in Halifax Nova Scotia was the centre for European immigration in the first half of the 20th century. A museum dedicated to this immigration has been set up there. Associated with the museum is a memorial with inscription reading "None is too many". This was the reply of a Canadian civil servant when asked what the acceptable level of Jewish immigration to Canada was. This was supported by the prime minister of the time and was official government policy. Nice inoffensive polite typical Canadians held despicable prejudices. Typical antisemitism of that time was a very ugly thing and was something that nice respectable educated people professed.
Two rapes are presented in “The Waste Land” – that of the typist and that of Philomel. The social contexts and implications of these rapes are strikingly different and to my mind betray a pernicious class prejudice. Philomel’s rape is presented in “A Game of Chess” in a privileged and educated context. It is presented as part of a long classical tradition in a painting in a rich opulent room. Her rape is presented as a horror that brings on savage revenge and the intervention of the gods. She is transformed to the nightingale
The typist's rape in “The Fire Sermon is of quite another sort. It is a rape that is not resisted and only slightly understood
She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardly aware of her departed lover;
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
“Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.”
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
And puts a record on the gramophone.
Rapes are presented as differing with social class. The rape of the Philomel in the wealthy educated context is a horror. The rape of the typist in the working-class environment is not. The class prejudice shown with the typist and the young man carbuncular manifests itself in a portrayal of these people having little self-awareness and no sense of reality beyond the immediate. The same class prejudice can be seen in “A Game of Chess”. The wealthy characters are shown immersed within a classical tradition full of allusion. The working-class are presented as the typist and her rapist as living only in the eternal immediate. I find it interesting to read “A Waste Land” and interpreting it it based on this subliminal prejudice which influenced it. The same contrast between tradition and the eternal immediate based on class can be seen in "A game of Chess" between the wealthy educated characters and the pub scene
This class prejudice was typical of the educated elite of the day and not restricted to Eliot. Bill Bryson’s book “At Home: A Short History of Private Life”, contains quotations illustrating it. Edna Saint Vincent Millay wrote: ‘The only people I really hate are servants. They are not really human beings at all”. Virginia Woolf comes quite close to capturing Eliot’s portrayal in describing one servant as: “She is in a state of nature untrained and uneducated … so that one sees a mind wiggling undressed.” Eliot's class prejudice was typical. It is reflected in the "the Waste Land" and hinders a valid portrayal of working-class life. In that, it makes "The Waste Land", the less.
On Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 12:47 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Well, depending on what you mean by "typical," probably yes. But many artists and intellectuals did not hold anti-Semitic views or attitudes. The issue is not that some did but that it was clearly repudiated morally also.
In the US before the Civil War, it was "typical" of many ('serious") people--including many religious leaders and their churches--to support slavery. It was the abolitionists who were not "typical." So are we now to say it was really quite ok to believe a god made African people inferior and suited to slavery because that had been inculcated as a "typical" belief?
And does the suffering of those who were treated as inferior or disgusting or even illegal mean those who did not think through the wrong they perpetuated were to be given a pass.
Was it, for example, an excuse for the fact that after largely saving Britain in WWII with the Enigma machine Alan Turing was driven to his death because homophobia was "typical"? Or that Oscar Wilde was destroyed by that "typical" belief, even if he made a really great mistake in going to court.
Eliot had not the excuse of lacking knowledge, intelligence, or cultural experience. And given the constant insistence that he had Jewish friends and colleagues, he had every reason to know better regardless of common, "typical" attitudes.
As for class prejudice, was that ever excusable either? Is it now? Consider the brilliant exposés of its effect in Dickens even. And whatever Woolf may have also said or supported, it is Septimus, I think, who gets our sympathy even more than Mrs. Dalloway. And WWI literature is full of the recognition that it meant nothing in the trenches, and making ignorant, unprepared young elite men officers did not necessarily work out.
My point is that Eliot had all this context, as did others of his circle and class.
On Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 12:20 PM, Tom Gray <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
TSE's description of the typist and the young man carbuncular displays an extreme class prejudice bordering on contempt. Wouldn't this be typical of the attitudes of upper class English society in the early part of the 20th century just as his antisemitism is?
On Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 11:17 AM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
As one who agrees that Eliot's writing has anti-Semitic material (one only need read it), I think the way this is written is a problem. He says "T. S. Eliot out and out hated Jews." I have not seen evidence of such a total claim. It also makes the statement easy to reject.
That is not, by the way, what Anthony Julius ever claimed either: he claimed that Eliot's writing included anti-Semitic material (which it does) and that it treated that as normal (which can be the effect). I wondered at the time how many of those who got outraged actually read the whole book--which I did.The response is always the same to any claim of bigotry: "He had Jewish friends and he supported Jewish writers.) That is also the case but not the point. It's the "a lot of my best friends are Black" and "I love women" and "I don't care who is gay but they shouldn't talk about it" response.
I think most readers who love literature agree that horrible people wrote some of the best work. But one can separate a judgment of the work and a judgment of the artist and accept both.
I think, for example, that some of Eliot's most disturbing images are so powerful because he knew what he was writing about in his own feelings.
On Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 9:35 AM, [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]> > wrote:
I know the author. I'm not positive it is worth asking the basis for his short statement about Eliot. Print and internet media are filled with unsupported broad and often incoherent declarations. Witness Lord Donald's tweets. I think this NYT entry is just identifying an issue, in a casual style that may be more accessible to readers.
More importantly, we have a new dog: Perceval.
Sent from my iPhone
On Nov 15, 2017, at 4:51 AM, Tom Gray <[log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]> > wrote:
Opinion | He’s a Creep, but Wow, What an Artist! <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/opinion/artists-assault-fans.html?ribbon-ad-idx=13&rref=opinion&module=Ribbon&version=context®ion=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&pgtype=article>
Opinion | He’s a Creep, but Wow, What an Artist!
Can we appreciate art even if it was created by someone who behaved deplorably, like Kevin Spacey or Dustin Hoff...
An opinion article from the New York Times that discusses the issue of how the artistic or intellectual work of people who violate ethical norms should be addressed. It derives from the recent sexual harassment revelations and puts them in some sort of historical context. TSE's antisemitism is noted