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In response to some more preaching from well-established quarters, let me state--albeit under OT (OVERT TROLLDOM) rubric-- that one of the most stilted statements I've read in the last 65 years is the following:
 
"In 1938, or perhaps early in 1939, the rumour reached us in England that economies were being effected which might be adverse to his [Theodore Spencer's] promotion or security of tenure in this [Harvard] university; and I was a party to the manoeuvre of some of his friends in Cambridge, England, toward obtaining for him a lecturership there." (Poetry and Drama  {The Theodore Spencer Memorial Lecture, 21 November 1950}, Harvard University Press, 1951.
 
 Makes you puke, doesn't it?
 
Jacek Niecko
1920 S Street, N.W., Apt. 403
Washington DC 20009
----- Original Message -----
From: "Nancy Gish" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 1:36 PM
Subject: Re: Up in smoke: a long post

> I think this post is very important and thoughtful.  I also think that the list
> has fallen into a disturbing false dichotomy:  either one is scholarly and
> bases one's views exclusively in sources and textual analysis or one is
> simply intuitive and recognizes that a poem is whatever one finds in it.
>
> Jennifer's post is absolutely right in noting sources and text-based facts.
> It does matter who says the epigraph, for example.
>
> But Steve's post is absolutely right that a significant turn takes place in
> the central section bounded by asterisks and that there is much sexual
> unease in the poem.
>
> I would be quite willing to back up my claim of "absolutely right" in another
> post.  But my point here is that the most important value I see in a list like
> this is the exchange of insights.  It is not in posturing and calling names.
>
> So the fact that I do not agree with Steve's reading and I do not agree with
> Jennifer either does not mean I cannot find interesting things in them.  One
> of the most valuable perceptions I have had from Steve in the past, for
> example, is that there is no necessity to see the "hyacinth girl" as female.
> I still read it that way, but the text does not require it, and much of the
> Eliot correspondence would justify reading it differently.
>
> There is no one "correct" reading of any poem.  But it is true that a poem
> is not just anything at all one muses about while reading it.  "Prufrock"
> may or may not be about homosexual doubt, for example, but it clearly is
> not about, say, a longing to return to America and raise cows.  The words
> matter.
>
> I agree, for example, that a poem is not (usually) a coded message,
> although some have been used for that (consider the code of "Follow the
> Drinking Gourd"), but it is also not ANY experience at all.
>
> And I think Jennifer is right that those experiences are mediated by, say,
> the Dante source or the voice speaking.  Those are part of the poem---as
> is the loneliness and the smoke/fog.
>
> I do object vehemently, by the way, to the notion of a dog-fog.  Eliot loved
> cats and it is clearly a cat.  Dogs don't act that way.
> Cheers,
> Nancy
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> Date sent:              Thu, 3 Apr 2003 18:52:45 +0100
> Send reply to:          "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <
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> From:                   George Carless <
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> Subject:                Re: Up in smoke: a long post
> To:                    
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>
> I never see to much use in posts that deride other posts as "deranged
> fantasies".  We're all trying our best, and some of us are better informed
> (or have less rusty critical faculties) than others.   Perhaps it makes
> you feel superior to point out the deficiencies in some of our analysis
> without doing much to correct us, but from where I'm sitting it merely
> seems rather arrogant and pompous.
>
> > First, 'The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock' does not carry a
> > dedication. The 1917 book, 'Prufrock and Other Observations' carries a
>
> A rather pedantic point, I think, although I would agree that I was
> mistaken to suggest that the dedication to the book should be considered
> an element, per se, of the poem.
>
> > dedication. Second, the epigraph is spoken neither by J Alfred Prufrock
> > (presumably if it were it would not be an epigraph) nor by TS Eliot:
> > instead it is spoken by Guido da Montefeltro, a rather different
> > character (that is if one can call Prufrock a character at all, which I
> > for one would not); and part of its richness comes from its disparity
> > from the poem to which it is attached. A sense of this is captured in
> > the above (not careful) use of the word  'explanation' .
>
> I hardly see that "who it's spoken by" has too much bearing on the matter
> -- verbatim quotation is rife throughout Eliot's work, as too is allusion
> -- does this mean that we should disregard any such material as irrelevant
> to the meaning of the poem?
>
> > > men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows", that is, to pursue his
> > desires for homosexual encounters.
> >
> >
> > This is just fiction (and not good fiction either). Has everyone lost
>
> While I don't agree with the homosexual reading either, I still don't see
> much merit in your dismissing it out of hand.  Criticism requires more
> than just stating your feelings - it requires justifying them by way of
> the work itself.  The poem *is* clearly related to sex, and particularly
> to a sordid kind of sex.  If the "lonely men in shirtsleeves" are *merely*
> "lonely men in shirtsleeves", as you suggest, and serve no purpose other
> than an aesthetic one -- i.e. have no further place in the context of the
> poem -- then I'd consider them rather supurfluous and, well, lacking in
> poignancy.  I think there's a fine line to be walked between looking for
> *too much* in a poem, and looking for too little: either side of that path
> is a precipice.
>
> > My other point is that it is quite clear that, unlike Guido in
> > Inferno--not, you will note, in the epigraph at all (and very unlike the
> > usual dramatic monologue form)--, the speaker of 'The Love Song of J
> > Alfred Prufrock' makes no confession at all. Perhaps that is why some
> > critics are so tempted to wrest his confession from him (tantalisingly
> > promised, never delivered), or rather, to make it up. Compare Hamlet:
>
> Well enough - but then, that speaker is one paralysed by the idea of *any*
> kind of decision, of any activity whatsoever.  I don't think that this is
> a deliberate thing, nor that Prufrock is a strong character: the
> repetitions of "there will be time" suggest somebody who is
> procrastinating.  And if there is no explicit confession, then I would say
> that there certainly is an implicit sense of failure -- in the final few
> stanzas it's fairly clear that a decision -- towards inaction -- has been
> made.
>
> > The chief merit of such a list as this (and the one it largely
> > possessed when I joined it in 1996) lies in the exchange of scholarly
> > information and critical ideas and principles. When  discussions descend
> > into a brawl over such nonsensical posts as 'Prufrock's Smoke', we all
> > have something (and not something small) to regret. For we all, I think,
> > have something (not something small) to lose.
>
> It seems to me that this has, for the most part, been an interesting
> discussion - but one in which only those who would prefer *not* to even
> consider alternatives, to even discuss the topic at hand, have led to
> disharmony: those people who have loudly declaimed any possible view but
> there own, without even the good grace to explain their own view or point
> out the flaws in the views of others.  I'm all for trying to reach the
> 'correct' view of the poetry, and am no more fond of arbitrary
> 'interpretations' than many of you; but it seems to me that derision and
> elitism are contrary both to the intentions of this list and to the
> process of enjoing and understanding the work at hand.
>
> --George