Somehow the various attempts to impose a persona ala the dramatic monologues
of the 19th C. on this poem don't work for me. The engagement in perceptual
processes here is something quite new.
----- Original Message -----
From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">marcin ostrouch
To: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]
Sent: Monday, September 04, 2006 11:05 AM
Subject: Re: Identity of the speaker in 'Preludes'

Dear Dunja, thank you for inviting me to this list, and for your response to my questions. I also thank Peter Montgomery for drawing our attention to Portrait of the Lady, I shall see to it very soon.

As for the points you mention...

I do agree that the speaker's passivity is conspicuous. However, I would venture to interpret passivity (and nota bene - Prufrockian indecision), per se, rather as epiphenomenal to the overwhelming sense of dislocation, if not of meaninglessness.

Take the notion of mundane routine, oppressive automatism of the everyday, hinted at in the first four lines of part I, and throughout parts II, and III. Were the speaker engrossed in the quotidian, there would be no sense of passivity, but a sense of action (however illusory).

I am not quite sure whether the speaker in part I is "set against the world". I think that it is difficult to apply the traditional epistemological categories to the situation in Preludes. For the reason that the speaker, however indeterminate, seems to be at the same time the subject and object  of his/her perception. Yes, all these images "constitute his/her soul". His/her feet are being wrapt with auguries of non-being, pointlessness etc.. He/she implicitly is the reality he/she experiences, or if you like, his/her experience is constituted by the world, or as heideggerian nomenclature has it - the speaker's being is Being-in-the-world. [so, yes - as you write, it has to do with "being thrown into the world"]

[["Anti-Cartesian" epistemic model I infer, hopefuly not too hastily, from the very fact of there being a speaker of so diffused identity, and that the world as presented in the poem does not seem to be objective reality, but rather content of the speaker's consciousness - coloured with his/her mood and understanding. In other words, there does not seem to be the clear-cut   "I vs  not-I" opposition.
Would you agree?]]

NB would you agree on "authentic" for "eigentlich"?

I do not see why should the speaker  be "condendemned" to time only in part II. Mind you, the notion of time appears in Prelude I as well, giving the backdrop of smelly routine dominating the lives of the implicitly present (explicitly absent) inhabitants of the passageways. In Prelude II the notion of daily grind seems to be carried on with, developed. Time, as experienced by the speaker, "resumes" universal superficiality of existence ("masquerades")
Perhaps, we could discuss the way the speaker experiences time in all the stanzas? (after all some say that "being is time")

--By the way, you mention this issue in your email of August 31.
I haven't done very much research on TSE-Heidegger notion of time, yet.
But, for all I know, Heidegger discribes time (experienced authentically) as a spiral unifying Dasein's past, present and future. Accordingly, there seems to be a striking similarity in TSE's and Heidegger apporach to tradition (Heideggerian  hermeneutic approach and TSE's insistence on ever-present, re-interpreted past).

The passivity of the speaker in the 4th Prelude ("I am moved..."), appears to me at least disputable. For "being moved" implies some deep e-motional state, which even if per se "passive" (involuntary) seems to move towards an active response. Well, to me "clinging" is an action, participation par excellence.

Could you possibly elaborate on the question of "destiny" which you mention. Perhaps due to my bias with Heidegger I tend to shun any notions of ground which "destiny" inevitably implies...

As for "ontological shock" - yes. I mean by it realisation of ONE'S OWN finitude (as a response to encountering the threat of non-being, to experiencing disappearance of structure and meaning of reality); and in result - challenging "certain certainties" of ONE'S OWN world perhaps somewhat hastily "assumed".

Looking forward to your reply,


Dunja Seselja wrote:
[log in to unmask] type="cite">
The subject appearing in Eliot's Preludes seems to be
undetermined, and in so far, I guess it could be even
see as the generic one. In any case, the main
characteristic of the subject (when I say the subject,
I don't mean the subject of the speaker, but the
subject the poem speaks of, but in how far they should
be distinguished at all, I'll say something a bit
later) is his/her passivity. 

[log in to unmask] type="cite">
While in the part I the
subject is set against the world (being subjected to
its course), in the part II (s)he is set against the
time (being "condemned" to it) . (I think the second
verse of the part II shares some of the ideas
appearing in Prufrock, and I'd be glad to discuss that
issue as well). 
[log in to unmask] type="cite">
In the part III, we finally see the subject *doing*
something, but even that ("you tossed a blanket") is
the action of removing = replying to what has already
been there. But what this part seems to bring is the
(only?) action left to the subject - to have a vision
(in solitude). 
[log in to unmask] type="cite">
Now, in the part IV, the subject of the
speaker finally appears, but almost equivalent to the
subject (s)he is  talking about - it is again a
passive subject (i am moved... I cling...). 
[log in to unmask] type="cite">
The final
verse reveals a sort of "catharsic" discovery of the
subject (both the speaker and the one (s)he is
speaking of), similar to the relation of the ancient
Greeks towards the destiny: as the destiny is
uncontrollable even by gods themselves, why making so
much fuss about it? 
[log in to unmask] type="cite">
It seems to me that the status of the subject in the
poem could be compared with Heidegger's notion of
"being thrown into the world" (excuse my formulation,
I'm not sure how this expression is to be translated
in English), as well as with the "eigentlich" and
"uneigentlich" modes of "Dasein".
[log in to unmask] type="cite">
However, I don't see why the poem would stand in the
opposition to the classical subject-object relation,
and how would that be related to the "ontological
shock" you mentioned. If by "ontological shock" you
consider the realization of the finiteness of human
being, then this idea is definitely present in both
Preludes and the Love Song of A.J. Prufrock, but I
don't see how that could be connected with an
anti-Cartesian approach. Could you develop a bit more
on that?



--- marcin ostrouch <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I would like to raise the issue of identity of the
speaker in /Preludes.
Please forgive me if you find it an open secret, but
being a non-native 
speaker of English, and rather a novice at
systematic criticism, I find 
the question problematic.

At present I am attempting a reading of a couple of
poems by TSE in the 
light of Heideggerian concept of authentic
existence. Therefore, I tend 
to shun the structuralist approach which pervades
the grey volumes of my 
institute's library...

It does seem that throughout the poem the identity
of the speaker 
remains indeterminate.

Would you agree that the inflected pronoun "you" in
the first stanza, 
and the same pronoun in the third, are generic ones?
[as I am not quite 
informed in the use of those]

What is more, the generic character of the speaker
seems to be 
deliberately strengthened by  references to both

The governing consciousness, or if you like, the
voice speaking in the 
poem, (if there is ONE), seems to comply with the
notion of Hindu /tat 
vam asi /("Thou art That"), or at any rate, as D.
Moody observes 
"[speaker's] ordinary, egoistical self is

Therefore the epistemic situation of the speaker
seems to differ from 
the traditonal Cartisian (subject-object) model.

The poem read in this way would come up to one of
the modernist 
expressions of the epistemic trauma, or of what
Tillich calls 
"ontological shock".

Could you please comment on those intuitions of

Is any one of you interested in hermeneutic readings
of TSE?  Could you 
possibly recommend some articles or sources?


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