Dear Jennifer,

I find your judgement on the latest thread rather too harsh. And some of the
remedies you advocate do sound a bit chilling:

> Eliot wrote that one important thing
> about any interpretation was that it ought to be his own interpretation
> ('Frontiers of Criticism', 1956)

I'm not sure I get this right. Does it mean that we should stick to Eliot's
comments on his own work? Even when those comments were made decades after
he wrote the text?

I can't quite agree with you when you write:

>Why cannot
> the lonely men in shirtsleeves just be lonely men in shirtsleeves? I
> think the lines are extremely poignant as they stand, and I am not, I
> believe, alone.

You are not alone, but surely the lines aren't just poignant: they're also
intriguing. What are those men doing there? Who are they? Have these
questions never crossed your mind? Surely the fact that you describe the
lines as 'poignant' already points to an interpretation of sorts?

Another point (related, I hope, to your call for an 'exchange of scholarly
information and critical ideas and principles') : since you argue that we
should try to live up to Eliot's idea of a poetry reader, I don't see how
you can find his poetry 'poignant' and leave it at that. Isn't it the kind
of comment Eliot would have expected from the Victorian/sentimental audience
he was at pains to disturb?

There is a strong sexual undertone in Prufrock, and the fact that it's not
focused or easily definable makes it all the more disturbing. And yes, that
very quality means that some controversial interpretations will be produced
from time to time. And if one finds them outrageous, one should say so of
course. But I don't think that the thread on 'Prufrock and Smoke' contained
so much material that was simply beyond the pale. As for its descending into
a 'brawl', surely we've seen far worse?

If anybody wants to read more on Eliot and sex, Richard Poirier has just
written a review essay of Seymour-Jones's biography of Vivien in LRB:

(the 'review' bit is quite perfunctory)


RaphaŽl Ingelbien
[log in to unmask]