From: Peter Montgomery
PM>Emotional repression is simply what a lot of readers have projected onto
the poems given the climate of emotional repression.
DM>A good reading of his poetry is anything but unemotional.
PM>The experience of death may well be in some of the poems, but the feelings of death are in the reader.
DM>His poems are expressive of that emotional state, of all the disgust, rationalization and emptiness it comprises.
PM>I'm not sure his poems express anything, although they are certainly treated
in that cliché way. He presents perceptual experiences, out of which readers express their feelings.
DM>Only a speaker in great distress would cry out for peace three times:
"Shantih, shantih, shantih."
PM>Perhaps only if you are the reader.
DM>The word is loaded with all that has preceded it in the poem, and so
qualifies as poignantly affective language, as I see it.
PM>The word is only loaded with that with which you have loaded it.
Perhaps I’ve missed your point, but your responses to Diana’s inquiry about the affective quality of Eliot’s poems, particularly that his poems do not “express anything,” seem to deny that the poems have any part in the process of creating, or transferring, meaning, as if they are nothing more than blank pages upon which readers ignorantly transfer themselves, in all their unenlightenment.
While it is certainly true that some readers make the mistake of overlaying themselves onto a text, even to the point that the text itself is obscured, your view seems to reduce Eliot’s poems to mere journalistic presentations of “perceptual experiences,” as if the words, either alone or collectively, are devoid of any affective qualities whatsoever. Granted, Eliot leaves much of the work to the reader, but doesn't the sender purposefully choose how the message is sent, and therefore is he not mindful of the effect (and affect) that it creates on the other side?
Instead of your assertion that “the word is only loaded with that with which you have loaded it,” wouldn’t it be more accurate to assert that “the word is loaded with that with which we have loaded it”? Or does each of us re-create the meaning of each word that we receive each time that we receive it? And is the poet, or any speaker or writer for that matter, not aware of how he perceives the words that he chooses, nor how another is likely to perceive them? Surely the little symbols that the poet carefully pieces together have some influence on the both the intellectual and affective meanings that are derived from the reading of a poem, otherwise Eliot's poems could be eradicated and replaced by the dictum: “Mistakenly insert your own feelings here, none of which are valid to anyone but you.” Surely language, even in Eliot's highly Modern form, is not so insular, nor so barren.