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Dear Tom,
 
I think your analysis is right on target.  And, as I just wrote in another post, it is also consistent with many, many prior posts.  I am especially interested in your point about "codes."  In my article in Gender, Desire, and Sexuality inT. S. Eliot, I also argued that the poetry he published is coded.  But much of what was coded is quite explicit in Inventions of the March Hare.  I was discussing a more basic psychological pattern, but it is parallel.  You might find it interesting.  You also might find Colleen Lamos's Deviant Modernism helpful.
Cheers,
Nancy
>>> Tom Colket <[log in to unmask]>01/08/09 4:36 PM >>>

Thank you, Peter, for clarifying your earlier posts. Now I have a good idea of what you were getting at.

I like to expand upon the other thing you wrote about:

=================
P> The fact that no one seems interested in considering the very valid,
P> very on topic points you raise, suggests to me that the commentators
P> on Eliot on this list have lost interest, having squeezed the last bit
P> of vital juice out of E's body of works.
=================

I don't think this is the case. The failure is mine, in posting too many Eliot quotes from his essays without pointing to more specific ideas that can be concretely discussed.

One of the main things I wanted to discuss came out of this Eliot quote from "Dante" (1929):
------------------------------
"We do not understand Shakespeare from a single reading, and certainly not from a single play. There is a relation between the various plays of Shakespeare, taken in order; and it is a work of years to venture even one individual interpretation of the pattern in Shakespeare's carpet."
------------------------------

One thing I've noticed is that, it seems to me, Eliot often is writing about _himself_ when he is writing about others in his literary essays. So when he says that "We do not understand Shakespeare from a single reading, and certainly not from a single play", and further states that "There is a relation between the various plays of Shakespeare, taken in order" and hypothesizes some overarching themes that, effectively, unify the author's work ("the pattern in Shakespeare's carpet"), I can't help but think that he is talking about himself. That is, he is tacitly admitting that there are major continuing themes laced throughout his own work that reveal more, considered as a lifetime of work, than can be gleaned from studying any one individual work.

Now, even if list members agree with that (and probably many will not), it is highly likely they will not agree with the patterns that _I_ think I see in Eliot's carpet. In the interest of starting some discussion, I will outline what I see:

I think the two major things that power Eliot's poetry are his deep religious convictions and his troubled sexuality. More specifically, I think he had homosexual desires which he writes about, in code, throughout his poetry, from Prufrock, to The Waste Land, to Ash Wednesday, to Four Quartets (and others). By "writing in code" I mean writing about "
acute personal reminiscence (never to be explicated, of course, but to give power from well below the surface)", as he wrote to John Hayward when discussing Little Gidding.

The major pattern I discern is that, as a religious man, he felt his homosexuality would damn him in the eyes of God; but as a human, the desires were undeniable (e.g., "(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things [Ash Wednesday]").

This specific tension, between undeniable homosexual desires and the intense belief that these desires would place him in Purgatory (at best) or Hell (at worst), is the key element that energies much of Eliot's poetry. (Note: there are many exceptions, of course, so this is not meant to be a 'magic bullet' in understanding Eliot). I think that when Eliot finally resolved this internal conflict as he grew older, when he married his secretary Valerie when he was an old man, the drive behind his poetry evaporated and that's why (the religious/homosexual conflict now resolved), he had nothing to write about and ceased to write major poetry after Four Quartets.

-- Tom --


> Date: Wed, 7 Jan 2009 23:38:46 -0800
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: The patterns in TSE's carpet
> To: [log in to unmask]
>
> The question of the compulsive demon in your last quote, raises the
> image of the ancient mariner compelled to tell his tale. It is a tale
> told by a Coleridge, full of mystery and intrigue.
>
> At the end of UPUC Eliot says "The sad ghost of Coleridge
> beckons to me from the shadows."
>
> What Eliot meant by that quote is for discussion by the list.
> In effect, it is follow up to your last quote.
>
> The fact that no one seems interested in considering the very valid,
> very on topic points you raise, suggests to me that the commentators
> on Eliot on this list have lost interest, having squeezed the last bit
> of vital juice out of E's body of works.
>
> As to cheese skippers my favourite metaphor for those who live off the
> creativity of others, you will have to consult forensic pathology.
>
> Cheers,
> Peter



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