Nancy, if some of us find it helpful to veer off into speculations about what elements in Eliot's work might mean, I think it is our right to employ that method. Eliot freed his imagination, and if some of our associations are arbitrary and wrong-headed, well that is the price paid for thinking outside the box. I offer my "take" on his words in order to get more information. I often change my interpretation after being corrected by other listers, which is one of the benefits of such a list. Why carry around some misguided idea about what Eliot meant, when I can expose my belief to the list and be either reinforced or disabused of it? I don't offer my interpretations as correct; I'm asking what others think.
No one owns this list, as far as I know. By "we" I meant those of us employing the speculative method to which Carrol objected. His remarks addressed an approach to Eliot's work that he found undocumentable; my remarks addressed his approach to our approach. Neither of our criticisms were ad hominum. 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: The ivory men
Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2007 15:27:26 -0400
I think this very unkind and inappropriate. First, Carrol has been on
the list for many, many years and is very interesting as well as
knowledgeable. I don't think those who enjoy what "We" do own it. The
very use of "we" suggests there is an inner circle who have some kind of
ownership, and there is not.
Second, Carrol addresses the method of reading; he does not make nasty
remarks about persons. It would be almost impossible to find any
critic--especially those who study Eliot--who does not critique and even
dismiss other methods, and for reasons that, as here, are laid out.
George Williamson, for example, in 1953, said that in Eliot critics, "we
find judgment disconcerted," and he sets out to set everyone right.
Hugh Kenner, in 1959, announced in his introduction that opinion [of
Eliot] "has not freed itself from a cloud of unknowing," and he sets out
to set everyone right. Northrup Frye, in 1963, began his book, he
claimed, by beginning with the "cliches of hostility to Eliot" in order
to define "as quickly as possible, what must be considered but can also
be clearly separated from Eliot's permanent achievement, leaving that
achievement intact" and he sets out to set everyone right. And Coleen
Lamos opens her book in 1998 by "confront[ing]. . . the lingering
authority of T. S. Eliot's poetry and prose and wonder[ing] where he
went wrong. . . ." She sets out to address wholly distinct ways of
thinking about Eliot in relation to sexuality.
Carrol, by contrast, directly addresses what he sees as a critical
problem raised by cutting out a few lines from a whole work, and given
the tendency of many on this list to make claims for unified or holistic
meanings to poems, this is, in fact, a very odd way of reading.
What you and a few others "like" is not the list and has no priority or
special status. I happen to agree with Carrol, and I would imagine many
I would be delighted to see more challenge to isolated and disconnected
close readings of lines that--frankly--often veer off into wild
speculation (it could be this; it could be that; it could be the other).
But I don't own the list and don't expect what I might like most.
I do hope you will rethink this "love us ("we") or leave the list" post.
Carrol, I thought the idea was to interpret Eliot's choice of "the ivory
men" in its wholistic context. TWL has exhausted many minds and I think
we who are struggling to incorporate more elements into our
understanding of the poem are commendable. If you don't like what we're
doing, don't get involved. We like it. Diana
Probably only in a formal essay can one wholly honor the hermeneutic
circle, and an e-list with its sort of random landing on this or that
line or passage is particularly unsuited for that. Nevertheless it seems
to me that discussions on this list are really extravagant in a
disabling way for their failure even to give a distant nod to that
circle. This discussion of the ivory line vividly dramatizes this
failure. It can become really absurd to obsess over one or a few lines
in utter abstraction from any sense of the whole.
>>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 06/30/07 2:35 PM >>>