Well Nancy I believe there is a gap between writing without deliberation and deciding that the writing is worthy of having one's name attached to it. The facsmile of TWL illustrates that revisions were ongoing even in final drafts, not only Eliot's own but Vivien's and Pound's. How much Eliot revised, i.e., deliberated about, his earliest drafts is unknown.  

I give Eliot credit for foregrounding language as a subject of TWL. By crediting him with this, I don't believe I am indulging in the intentional fallacy except to the extent that I acknowledge his desire to show that human discourse does not provide absolute meaning. (The failure of human relations in general to provide such stable meaning is more popularly discussed as a subject of the poem.) In light of hints in this poem and his later work, notably 4Qs, we can assume that his search for that meaning led him to the Christian faith.

With regard to Marie's monologue, there are several ways to take Eliot's use of "you" instead of the German "Mann:" Either he did not deliberate about the word choice at all and shared Marie's elitist assumption that the general "you" felt carefree sledding with aristocratic relatives in the mountains. Recall that part of her experience involved staying at the home of the archduke -- "in the mountains" for Marie implies that particular milieu.

Another possibility is that Eliot understood that Marie's "you" hid assumptions about who was being addressed and was calling attention to the fact that speech communicates class distinctions. This also explains why he included Lil's friend's monologue and the conversation of the middle-class couple of the "closed car." 

By foregrounding speech from several socio-economic classes, one example of which is that of a displaced person, he illustrates that meaning cannot be fixed. Words spoken by Marie in her previous environment mean differently from those words spoken by a refugee in a new country, England after the war, when society is in upheaval and the old social strata no longer obtain. The general "you" changes meaning depending on who is speaking it and the speaker's assumed audience. Marie is still speaking to her old audience of privileged people -- does she assume her listener of one of them?  Subtext: Words cannot be depended on for stable meaning.

I tend to believe that he was conscious of the contextual implications of his characters' spoken' words and set out with deliberation to illustrate the inability of speech to convey what could be found in the Word.



From:  Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:  "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To:  [log in to unmask]
Subject:  Re: Word Choice Re: a Jeremiah sighting?
Date:  Tue, 10 Jul 2007 14:19:54 -0400
Dear Diana,

You're right:  they do--notably the "strict constructionists" on the
Supreme Court.  But by the theory you have been discussing, they are
beside the point; it is language, not the author alone, that cannot be
fixed.  And as you pointed out, Eliot says that in many ways.  In that
sense, it is not in his gaps that Eliot is a brilliant writer but in the
effects he does produce by what he writes, however he came to the words.
  He need not have individually decided on every word at all; whole lines
and phrases could have come to him without deliberation.  He would
choose whether to keep them or not, no doubt, but even he might not be
conscious of every possible nuance or evocation.  In fact, no one could,
give the nature of language as slipping.

One really cannot have it both ways--language as fixed and language as
unfixed.  You've been arguing the former.

Nancy, members of this listsrv do not always look kindly on gaps between
intended and received meaning(s), and anyone who reads the Letters to
the Editor in the Sunday Book Review will come across arguments about
reviewers' word choices. Writers are generally held responsible for
every word to which they attach their names, semantic slippage
notwithstanding. One aspect of Eliot's genius it seems to me is his
sensitivity to hs words' nuances, connotations and history. To the
extent that a writer is not, his wordsmith abilities are less than
Eliot's. Diana


From:  Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:  "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To:  [log in to unmask]
Subject:  Re: Word Choice Re: a Jeremiah sighting?
Date:  Tue, 10 Jul 2007 13:02:15 -0400
One can distinguish between analyzing what is there--and its effect--and
assuming that everything was put there intentionally and with a
specific, recoverable purpose.  These are distinct acts of reading and
writing.  Given your own point about the gap between signifier and
signified, it would not even be possible to simply encode a particular
exact meaning or to recover it:  the language is always "slipping" to
use Eliot's word.

So on that assumption, we cannot know what words are random and what
words are carefully considered, and even if we could, we still cannot
know exactly what the poet intended.  New Critics made a great fuss
against the "intentional fallacy" and assumed we have, in fact, only the
text to examine, a "verbal icon."  Close reading was a way of examining
that verbal construct for its form and impact, not for whatever
conscious intent the author may of may not have had.

If words are random--perhaps simply heard as a rhythm first and used (as
Eliot claimed) or evoked by illness or "rhythmical grumbling (as Eliot
also claimed), they are still there.  It is reading that must encounter
and deal with them in any case.


>>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 07/10/07 1:28 PM >>>

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