Nancy your message suggests that water always stands for something else, as a symbol. Can we be sure that Eliot was consistently symbolic in the poem? Diana
Nancy wrote:I share this confusion since, as I noted before, all the other elements
also represent opposites. That is not arbitrary; it is the way those
images have long been used. If religious writers see lust as fire,
lovers see fire as passion and joy. Both are common tropes. Same for
earth as life, mother, generation and deaty, dust, decay. Air may be a
bit less common as opposites--I'm not sure. But in TWL it serves
I don't see what makes water at all different. And if it is, I don't
see what makes that arbitrary as opposed to, say, ironic or complex, or
>>> Marcia Karp <[log in to unmask]> 08/05/07 9:42 AM >>>
I have been reading your posts, but still am puzzled.
1) What is "a sum of meaning"? What in the poem indicates that this
is a legitimate standard/result/techinique to judge the poem by?
2) Granting your analysis below, but still don't understand your
arithemtic or the reason for applying it. Water does give life and take
it. Drought, too, can kill. How is water, then, "cancelled out"?
Perhaps sum of meaning and elements that cancel themselves out and
Sosostis .. is stable in herself are part of a discourse I've not yet
encountered, but I wonder if your measurement is useful here. I can't
tell, since I don't understand what you mean.
Can't the acute representation of the ambiguity, the multi-valence
of the things of the world, stand without adding up to something outside
the poem -- a stable or a non-zero figure?
Diana Manister wrote:
> Eliot's use of water is not ambiguous, but arbitrary. Water is first a
> death-bringer for the drowned Phoenician sailor, then its lack is
> death-bringing, dessicating the living. Both water and its absence
> accomplish the same end, so water at times is its own opposite. But
> water is presented in a duality with rock, which acts as its opposite:
> "Here is rock but no water." Then water dripping is life-bringing, and
> then thunder and the storm, which bring shantih, peace.
> Perhaps some intricate and convoluted rationale could
> attribute intratextual consistency to Eliot's use of water, but I'm
> guessing it would be a stretch. All of the other scenes and images and
> characters are consistent as to what they offer the narrator, however
> impossible it is to precisely define what that is. Even Sosostris,
> about whom I maintain the narrator has mixed feelings, is stable in
> herself; representing the commercialization and vulgarization of the
> supernatural. Both vulgarity and the prophetic gift are present in
> her as human qualities; Sosostris does not cancel herself out as the
> use of water does.
> Dear Diana,
> My message to you (August 1) seems to have gotten lost.
> Diana Manister wrote:
> Marcia, the poem's ambiguities contribute to its appeal, but
> even the best poems have weak spots, and Eliot's use of water
> in TWL seems weak, being so contradictory and confused that
> the sum of its meaning is zero. Diana
> What in the poem points you towards summing up water's meaning? I
> think rather in terms of effects and of changes in those.
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