Print

Print


Diana Manister wrote:
> 
> It's not important whether "misognyny" was a popular noun when Eliot
> wrote the poem or not. TWL as well as Prufrock are so fraught with
> explicit and implicit examples of fear and loathing of women, their
> smells, their nerves, of their supposed emasculating intentions, the
> horror of the domestic entrapment women represent, etc. etc. that
> however you phrase it his narrators do not like women. Why a poet
> would create such narrators if in fact he did not share these feelings
> is a question I cannot answer. 

In general, this is pretty self-evident, especially if you read the
unpublished poems collected in Inventions of the March Hare. But
probably some greater precision of labelling is needed. Fear, yes,
without much quibble. But finding vivid imagery to express fear of X is
going to imply loathing without the implication being necessarily valid.
Probably something more ambivalent is involved. (If you want to see
unvarnished exprssion of such feelings, look up Joan Smith's
_Misogynies_, the chapter that reprints poems written by u.s.
fighter-bomber pilots based in England in the 1980s.) Certainly, neither
the published nor unpublished poetry (nor many of the letters I have
seen quoted) suggest a personality that would bode well for the women in
his (or his narrators') life.

The fear also seems a bit ambivalent: Does Prufrock fear the woman will
say No or does he fear she will say Yes? I'm assuming that the main
question he dares or doesn't dare is a sexual invitation, and he fears
indifference (that is not what I meant) more than simple rejection.
There's quite a bit on this in the book edited by Gish & Laity.

And this complex of attitudes is still there in East Coker.

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die; there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field-mouse trots
And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.

In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls
Across the open field, leaving the deep lane
Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon,
Where you lean against a bank while a van passes,
And the deep lane insists on the direction
Into the village, in the electric heat
Hypnotised. In a warm haze the sultry light
Is absorbed, not refracted, by grey stone.
The dahlias sleep in the empty silence.
Wait for the early owl.
			In that open field
If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close,
On a Summer midnight, you can hear the music
Of the weak pipe and the little drum
And see them dancing around the bonfire
The association of man and woman
In daunsinge signifying matrimonie--
A dignified and commodious sacrament.
Two and two, necessarye coniunction,
Holding eche other by the hand or the arm
Whiche betokeneth concorde. Round and round the fire
Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles,
Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter
Lifting heavy feet in clumsy shoes,
Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth
Mirth of those long since under the earth
Nourishing the corn. Keeping time,
Keeping the rhythm of their dancing
As in their living in the living seasons
The time of the seasons and the constellations
The time of milking and the time of harvest
The time of the coupling of man and woman
And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling.
Eating and drinking. Dung and death.

Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.

----

Has anyone ever discussed at length the radical dualism (mind &  body)
implicit in such lines as 

The time of the coupling of man and woman
And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling.
Eating and drinking. Dung and death.

This passage from East Coker implicates a whole theory of history -- and
too collapse "A dignified and commodious sacrament"into "Dung and death"
pretty much denies any meaning to human action or human relations. And
after this panorama of modern history what does he mean when he says he
is here, or there, or elsewhere?

Carrol