I have just reread Grover Smith's really prescient 1956 book, and I am
surprised to find what I had not remembered:  he was not at all
uncritical of Eliot, and he specifically held out as a problem that
Eliot's poetic vision "falters. . . because of its peculiar privacy,
which admits no wide sympathies."  He rather liked Sweeney and remarked,
"the Prufrockian temperament. .  . does not come off well when put
alongside the champions of fleshly joy." 

There often seems to be an assumption on this list that at some early
golden age Eliot was universally idealized and that contemporary
treatment has destroyed that shared cultural appreciation, but in fact
early reviews were extremely critical as often as not.  It would be hard
to find anyone more influential over a long period than Grover Smith, so
his 1956 book, with its balanced evaluation is especially interesting on
the topic that has been running here.

(One need not, of course, share a liking for Sweeney, who is now seen
from a feminist perspective as pretty bad, but the recognition that he
had vitality and sensuality and that that can be far more attractive
than the Eliot called an anchorite by one reviewer is apt.)

Carrol my RC experience confirms everything you say. Catholic theology
exists in a different dimension from catholic praxis. As children in
parochial school we girls had for role models veiled nuns who shaved
their heads and dressed in medieval habits. (We often peeked under our
nun's veil as she strolled the aisles of our classroom to see her shaved
head. There is a trick with a pencil I'm sure all catholic school kids
know that will lift the veil as she passes by.)

Here's another gem: when a girl was seen wearing patent-leather shoes a
nun would tell her to watch out for boys who could see up her skirt by
looking at reflections in her shiny shoes. And another: we were warned
not to jump over puddles because boys could see under our skirts. I
could go on and on! We all fasted during Lent and before communion
(apparently food in the stomach would contaminate the holy wafer), and
self-denial of every sort was encouraged and praised. Enjoyment was a
no-no. Reading fashion magazines or going to the movies was seen as a
first step to perdition. If I heard the word modesty once I heard it a
million times. I know Eliot would have approved of encouraging shame
among young ladies simply for being females.

Judging by some of James Joyce's writings on the subject it's the same
in Ireland (many of our nuns were Irish). The church's grip on Irish
mores as I'm sure you know was a motivating force for his emigrating.


From:  Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:  "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To:  [log in to unmask]
Subject:  Re: Fearing death by water
Date:  Mon, 13 Aug 2007 13:46:29 -0500
Peter Montgomery wrote:
> Nor will you find any such negative teaching in the Catholic Church.

You will find all sorts of things in the Catholic Church, and it is
absurd to say otherwise. You have millions of Catholics who are only
nominal. They got to Mass twice a year, count themselves as believers,
and don't let it interfere with either their religion or their morals.
You have millions who exactly fit the pattern Diana describes. Both of
these groups include large numbers of clergy as well as laypersons. You
have many whose theological understanding is extremely sophisticated,
and a majority but NOT all of these fit your formula, but a minority
even of these sophisticates are heavily  invested in negative teaching.
You have RC members whose thinking can't be distinguished from that of
the most benighted fundy bible-thumper and you have members who are more
atheistic than Diderot. You have those committed in both thought and
practice to libertarian theology and those berserkers who adhere to opus
dei. There used to be a wonderful priest (Father Joe Kelley, may his
tribe increase) at the Newman Center on the ISU campus. The fucking
bishop in Peoria (an opus-dei member) exiled him to a hole-in-the-wall
in western illinois (and even there he increased the size of the
congregation before dying of lung cance). He has been followed by two
priests who probably do belong in a mental hospital.  And then you have
RC members whose thought cannot rise beyond the level of one-line
insulting zingers without content on e-mail lists.



>>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 08/13/07 3:09 PM >>>