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Dear Nancy,

I see your point.  He suffers from a kind of paralysis, although  
wouldn't you say he would prefer to have been at the hot gates?

In any case aboulia is a dynamic state; his libido is not absent, it  
is overly controlled. It takes a lot of energy to repress lust,  
aggression, longing for tenderness, and other powerful basic human  
drives.

The Hoover Dam exerts a force in excess of the force of the water  
trying to break through.

How often do we hear that a maniac who went berserk was a quiet and  
law-abiding citizen? Suddenly the repression failed. Jung wrote that  
repressed urges gather force in the unconscious. As the saying goes,  
it's the quiet ones you have to beware of. As I recall, Eliot did some  
bizarre things, like wearing green face powder.

Freud wrote "if the smoke doesn't come out of the chimney it comes out  
of the cellar window." Repressed urges find a way into the world.

There are forces and counter-forces at work in "quiet" persons. I  
think we differ in thinking of this situation as constituting action.

Best,

Diana

Sent from my iPod

On Feb 24, 2010, at 9:36 AM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear Diana,
>
> I don't think we are going to end up with an agreement here, but  
> that's ok.  I do not think aging is Gerontion's problem.  His whole  
> commentary at the beginning is about how he never did act.  He was  
> not, [when young, presumably] at the hot gates. He never fought.   
> His situation is who he has always been.  If there is anguish, it is  
> about what he has never been, but "conflict" does not seem to me  
> what describes it since there is no language to suggest that he  
> wants to change or ever tried or feels that he would have, could  
> have, been different.  He notes that others want a sign or engage in  
> mysterious acts or are whirled in the wind, but he is in a sleepy  
> corner, the tenant of a house, in a dry season.  The epigraph seems  
> to me to set up this state of neither youth nor age but an after  
> dinner sleep.  He is now what he is.
>
> Eliot himself, when he was writing, described his own problem (which  
> sent him to Vittoz) as "aboulia," or an inability to will.  I'm not  
> saying this is simple autobiography; I do think Eliot represented  
> that state in the poem.  Aging is not stasis, but his own inner life  
> is.
> Cheers,
> Nancy
>
> >>> DIana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 02/24/10 8:36 AM >>>
> Dear Nancy,
>
> My suggestion was that emotional conflict as a result of the passage
> of time were actions in the poem. The speaker berates himself for an
> unsatisfactory life, so that he is in conflict with time that runs
> out, and with his own timidity. Ageing is not stasis. Emotion is not
> static or inert.
>
> Ageing is the cause of his failure. If he had forever he might make
> more adventurous choices.
>
> His turmoil is a smaller action within the larger arc of his
> lifetime's movement.
>
> So that the "geron" is caught within the condition of old age,
> or"gerontion."
>
> The stem and full formation are both nouns as I see it. A small one
> within a larger one if you will. (However a word like "devotion" makes
> a noun from a verb -- but that's not what I meant.)
>
> When Joyce's word coinages and double meanings are recalled, it's
> clear that my suggestion is in accord with Modernist practices.
> "Finnegans Wake," another title, is lacking an apostrophe before the
> s, which makes the phrase both possessive -- the wake of Finnegan --
> and an imperative -- wake up you Finnegans (and O'Learys etc. -- the
> Irish people.)
>
> So I don't see my suggestion as being out of keeping with literary
> innovations of the period in which the poem was written.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Diana
>
>
> Sent from my iPod
>
> On Feb 23, 2010, at 7:39 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> > Dear Diana,
> >
> > This began because of treating "Gerontion" as a verbal.
> > "Proportion" is not a verbal either. So in both cases, you are now
> > treating them as nouns. But the difference in this case is that
> > "proportion" is an abstract noun and a concept, not a name or a
> > specific designator, as is "Gerontion." And there is no evidence I
> > can see anywhere in Eliot's poem to suggest he intends a concept as
> > a speaker. That is my point about context and syntax. All kinds of
> > play are possible, but all have to work together; any single word is
> > not an isolated unit. He calls himself "an old man." It think
> > that is precise, and I do not see any place in the poem where there
> > is reason to see an abstraction instead. Where do you see it?
> > Cheers,
> > Nancy
> >
> >
> >
> > >>> DIana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 02/23/10 3:50 PM >>>
> > Dear Nancy,
> >
> > Why can't Gerontion be the name of the speaker and a noun like
> > "proportion"? The latter meaning would suggest that the speaker is
> > voicing in his way the experience of being superannuated or failed
> > that is not unique to him. Since gerontology is built on the same  
> stem
> > it's not impossible that a poet could play with a suffix so that a
> > double meaning would accrue to the word to broaden the meaning  
> beyond
> > the personal feelings of the speaker.
> >
> > Diana
> >
> > Sent from my iPod
> >
> > On Feb 23, 2010, at 2:56 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >
> > > Putting aside all mutual rebuttal, there are two key points in
> > > Carrol's message that are central to what I have been saying.
> > > First, if Gerontion is not a person, it is difficult if not
> > > impossible to make the text work at all. If the word is a verb or
> > > verbal, it makes no sense to try to imagine it as something/one
> > that/
> > > who thinks and feels futile and remembers a life. And this leads  
> to
> > > the second point: no word can be shifted in isolation. The minute
> > > one word shifts, all the words before and after are affected. So  
> to
> > > address the title, which is a name in a poem that opens with an  
> "I"
> > > who speaks, is to make all the rest call for a totally changed way
> > > of approaching any of the language. That is why I keep blethering
> > > on about syntax.
> > >
> > > This in no way disagrees with the claim of poetic  
> transformations of
> > > words, about which Diana is clearly right. But they occur in a
> > > whole text and they follow some known codes even when seemingly
> > not--
> > > only the contrast to the usual code allows any recognition of a
> > > change or altered meaning. It is only because we know the
> > > conventionally coded meaning of "etcetera" that we can slot it  
> into
> > > the changed position and only because it has a form that can fit a
> > > noun.
> > > Cheers,
> > > Nancy
> > >
> > > >>> DIana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 2/23/2010 2:23 PM >>>
> > > Dear Carrol,
> > >
> > > Marcia asked you the question as a way of mocking
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > Sent from my iPod
> > >
> > > On Feb 23, 2010, at 1:52 PM, Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > >
> > > > That is a very profound and searching critqiue: the non- 
> literal is
> > > > different from the literal, but to ask what the literal is is
> > > "silly."
> > > > You were wandering on abut Derrida some time ago but apparently
> > you
> > > > were
> > > > just spoofing us. I is precisely the difficulties of the  
> _literal_
> > > > (which exists only in quoted texts) that was the point of
> > departure
> > > > for
> > > > that "radi al uncertainy" you bloviated on. Now the very first
> > time
> > > > that
> > > > someone seriously approaches a text in that "postmodern"  
> fashion,
> > > > recognizing the radical uncertainty of the text (as contrasted  
> to
> > > the
> > > > metaphysics of presence in oridnary speech) you retreat the most
> > > naive
> > > > and silly of all the complaints abut "postmodernism" -- it's
> > SILLY.
> > > >
> > > > A text (written rather than spontaneously spoken) is _encoded_  
> and
> > > has
> > > > to be decoded by the reader. (See any of the studies in  
> semiotics
> > > > published in the lat 60 years and you will find that matter
> > > > discussed at
> > > > some length.) Literal cannot mean anything else that what is
> > > _thee_ on
> > > > the page, and what is on the page is a cdoe which is meaningless
> > > until
> > > > painfully decoded. That this process is not automatic is shown,
> > for
> > > > example, by the phenomenon of dyslexia. Most dyslexics have a  
> good
> > > > comand of English; they can follow complex oral staatements and
> > they
> > > > can
> > > > formulate complex arguments in flexible and precise Enlish, but
> > they
> > > > cannot decode those inscrutable marks on the page. You recently
> > > > yourself
> > > > sufferered from a tmporary attack of dyslexia when you consturd
> > > _tion_
> > > > as _ing_, and have been digging a deeper and deeper hole for
> > yurself
> > > > as
> > > > you stubbornly try to defend this error in decoding the literal.
> > > >
> > > > (Incidentally, the radical uncertainty that Derrida focuses on  
> has
> > > > nothing whatever to do with quantum mechanics, which is why the
> > > phrase
> > > > is in scare quotes above. That uncertanty was one of the
> > discoveries
> > > > of
> > > > modernism, not postmodernism. And of course the really serious
> > > > uncertainty is the subect of the opening line of the oldest
> > complete
> > > > document we possess, neither modern nor postmodern, the Iliad
> > > which is
> > > > all about what are sometimes now called "unintended  
> consequences,"
> > > > i.e.
> > > > the toatl inability of humans then and now to know what _all_  
> the
> > > > consequences of any act will be, however simple that act.)
> > > >
> > > > "Gerontion" on the page has no meaning whatever -- literally  
> it is
> > > > unintelligible, and in gaily disregarding that and pursuing the
> > > > figurative meanings of a non-existen literal meaning you show
> > > yourself
> > > > utterly blind to all the tough issues of the hermeneutic circel.
> > > >
> > > > So let's rehearse. You cannot begin to speculate on the non-
> > literal
> > > > meaning of a word until you have (at least provisonally)  
> construed
> > > the
> > > > inconstruable, the word's _literal_ 'meaning,' that is, until  
> you
> > > have
> > > > somehow decoded thos strange marks on the page. For example,  
> I'm a
> > > bit
> > > > confused aboaut the lemon juice your refer to in the first  
> line of
> > > > your
> > > > post. It makes little s ense to say that the literal was not  
> lemon
> > > > juice. Perhaps another example hypothetically contrasting the
> > quoted
> > > > from the unquoted will help here. (You have to remember that
> > Derrida
> > > > analyzed _some_ spoken language as "written," that is, as text.
> > > >
> > > > Suppose you were to hear someone in an auditroum or perhaps  
> off to
> > > one
> > > > side in a park singing one of the old Civil-Rights/Union songs  
> --
> > > say
> > > > the one with the puzzling lines (when quoted in a text) "Like a
> > tree
> > > > that's standing by the river / We shall not be moved." It's
> > really a
> > > > pretty dumb song WHEN QUOTED, AS TEXT -- quoted either on the  
> page
> > > > or by
> > > > the group singing it in the park. It not only is pretty banal  
> and
> > > > unintesting but it is nearly uninntelligible. To make sense of
> > it we
> > > > are
> > > > thrown back in the hermeneutic circle of understanding the part
> > > before
> > > > we understand it so we can understand the whole so then we can
> > > > understand the part which we understood before without
> > understanding
> > > > it.
> > > > But now let's (in our imagination) move to a location/time when
> > the
> > > > words were not quoted (even though they were not new but merely
> > > > recited
> > > > an older song they were still not text, not quoted) but were
> > mouthed
> > > > in
> > > > the fac3 of the fire hoses and the police clubs and dogs by  
> those
> > > who
> > > > were, albeit stubbornly, moving, being moved, but continuing to
> > sing
> > > > "we
> > > > shal not be moved," like a tree. Now the words are NEITHER  
> litral
> > > nor
> > > > metaphorical. There is nothing to construe, no 'literal' and
> > > > 'non-literal" "meanings" to link together someohow, but an
> > idividble
> > > > unity of people, firehoses, police dogs, clubs, excited radio
> > > > reporters,
> > > > photogrpahers, water running down the gutters, bleeding
> > > foreheads. . .
> > > > No text. Nothing quoted.
> > > >
> > >
> >  
> Andthereareincidentalllynospacesbetweentheordsforspacesexistonlyintextnotinspeech.
> > > > I guess you may not have realized that spaces were a code and  
> like
> > > any
> > > > code meaningless until the code is broken as it were.
> > > >
> > > > The genre of the word "Gerontion" is a title, and titles are  
> empty
> > > > until completed by the text of
> > > > which
> > > > ther are the title. (What is the 'literal' meaning of "his" in  
> the
> > > > title, "To His Coy Mistress"?) What is the literal meaning of
> > > > "Paradise
> > > > Regained" when the story ends with the hero merely returning
> > > > unobserved
> > > > to his mother's house. I inquired some weeks ago if anyone cudl
> > link
> > > > the
> > > > varus pasages in 4Q to the instruments in a qurtet. Is it a
> > violin,
> > > > viola, or cello that sounds in theopening lines of Burnt  
> Norton or
> > > > is it
> > > > some combination of two or all three of the instruments? No one
> > > > responded: that is, none of us kows the literal meaning of the
> > title
> > > > under which the four poems were pbulished. And I've slipped into
> > > your
> > > > vocabulary here, for obviously the printed marks (nine of them
> > > > altogether including the spaces on both sides) don't refer to  
> any
> > > > instruments but to the quoted word "quartet." I believe Northrop
> > > Frye
> > > > called this level, the level in which we have departed from the
> > > > literal
> > > > and are focusing on the sign theliteral refers to, as the
> > historical
> > > > level. So none of us is very sure abut eithr the literal or the
> > > > historical meaning of this title, and probably before we start
> > > talking
> > > > about the symbolic meaning of the phrase we should be a bit more
> > > > certain
> > > > aboaut those 'lower' levels.
> > > >
> > > > I would suppose the historical meaning of "Gerontion" (looking
> > > back on
> > > > it from a prelinary 'reading' of the rest of the pome) has to  
> be a
> > > > person rather than some unkown speaker Geronting whatever that
> > might
> > > > be.
> > > > The text retains its radical undecidability but at least we  
> have a
> > > > provisonal basis for talking about it with each other. If we  
> start
> > > > with
> > > > neither the literal nor the historical meaning and plunge into
> > some
> > > > alleged symbolic meanign we are poor little sheep who have lost
> > our
> > > > way.
> > > > Nothing connects. And while it is true that we will never have
> > more
> > > > than
> > > > a provisional and uncertain understanding of the (historical and
> > > > symbolic) meanings of the whole, we really can't talk abut the
> > > > (historical) meaning of any one word, including the title)
> > except by
> > > > referring back to that (provisioal and undecidable) symbolic
> > meaning
> > > > of
> > > > the whole. And unless we wish to launch into complete  
> originality
> > > > (which
> > > > Eliot notes would be hpelessly unitelligible), we need to start
> > with
> > > > somethning fairly simple (unlie the quite unimple literal  
> meaning
> > > and
> > > > the onl slightly less complex than the historical meaning) --
> > which
> > > > wuld
> > > > seem to be an old frustrated man remembering his many failures  
> to
> > > act.
> > > > That's pretty simple, and quite unsatisfactory as an end point  
> of
> > > our
> > > > discussion, but it does enable discussion, which any attempt to
> > move
> > > > from the literal to the symbolic of the title word in isoaltion
> > > > frustrates.
> > > >
> > > > And of course this is what Nancy has been trying to hammer into
> > > closed
> > > > ears -- we need a place to start, and playing around with the
> > > > unintelligible literal meaning of the title by itself frustrates
> > > even
> > > > beginning to talk abut the poem.
> > > >
> > > > And now you should answer Marcia's quetion: "The chair's leg. A
> > > > metaphorical usage, don't you think?"
> > > >
> > > > Again, a failure to grant the complexity of the literal and
> > > historical
> > > > meanings can frustrate discuusion. If we focus on the historical
> > > > meaning
> > > > of "chair" by itself we cannot tell whether we are referring  
> to an
> > > > article of furniture or the Vice President of the United States
> > > > while he
> > > > ispresiding over the Senate. If that is the historical meaning
> > here,
> > > > then, I guess, Marcia is wrong and "leg" is quite non-
> > > metaphorical. So
> > > > before we deicde the "literal" or "non-litereral" status of  
> leg we
> > > do
> > > > need to decode "chair," which taken by itslef we could not do.
> > > (Note,
> > > > there is no problem in speech, with its metaphysics of presence:
> > we
> > > > are
> > > > all standing in a room togeher and oneof us points to the chair
> > and
> > > > notes that the chiar'sleg is scratched. No problem with the Vice
> > > > President here.) I'll stop here because I can't quite figure out
> > > even
> > > > the correct question to ask of "leg." But before say8ing it's  
> all
> > > > simple, I really think you shouldanswer Marcia's question.
> > > >
> > > > Carrolu
> > > >
> > > > P.S. I advixe against anyone trying to show familarity with
> > > Derrida or
> > > > decosntruction on the basis of my remarks, since I haven't  
> really
> > > done
> > > > the homework to cosntru "metaphysics of presence," "radical
> > > > undecidabilty," "qutation," and "text," which are all technical
> > > > terms I
> > > > haven't myself fully mastered at all.
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > DIana Manister wrote:
> > > >>
> > > >
> > > >> Carrol,
> > > >>
> > > >> Granted that "literal" was not le mot juste for what I was  
> trying
> > > to
> > > >> say, but your explication is silly. Being literal does not mean
> > > >> focussing on the letters in a word. A literal meaning is simply
> > > >> different from a metaphorical or symbolic meaning.
> > > >>
> > > >> Diana
> > > >>
> > > >> Sent from my iPod
> > > >>
> > > >> On Feb 22, 2010, at 7:15 PM, Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>  
> wrote:
> > > >>
> > > >>> Diana Manister wrote:
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> Dear Nancy,
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> I think it's counterproductive to be strictly literal about
> > > >>>> meanings
> > > >>>> in poetry.
> > > >>>
> > > >>> Probably not possible. And if one wants to try to be literal,
> > the
> > > >>> place
> > > >>> to start is with "literal," which if understood literally  
> means
> > > >>> focusingon the letters, their sounds, the progression of those
> > > >>> sounds,
> > > >>> etc etc. It would be the equivalent of geting so close to
> > Picaso's
> > > >>> Gurnica that all the lines and shapes disappeared and all one
> > was
> > > >>> examing were the brush strokes. As soon as you go by that
> > 'level,'
> > > >>> youcan no longer be literal, for words literally focused on  
> are
> > > >>> literally unitelligible. Look at "strokes" above. Does it
> > refer to
> > > >>> strokes of an oar, a medical condition, parts of love-making,
> > > parts
> > > >>> of a
> > > >>> lashing abut the fleet in the Royal Navy of the early 19th-c,
> > > >>> instances
> > > >>> (as in "strokes of luck"), a misprint for "sokes" as in "stoes
> > the
> > > >>> fireplace") or for "spokes" (as in a wheel), and so forth.
> > (These
> > > >>> are
> > > >>> the kinds of difficulties, incidentally, that those who cry
> > for a
> > > >>> "literal" interpretation of the Constituion purposely ignore,
> > > for to
> > > >>> take them into consideration is to show their hypocrisy.) To
> > > escape
> > > >>> the
> > > >>> trap of literalism means putting the letters, and thus the  
> word,
> > > in
> > > >>> some
> > > >>> context, that is to identify the genre of the sentence, or
> > larger
> > > >>> unit,
> > > >>> in which the word appears. (This is one version of what is
> > called
> > > >>> the
> > > >>> hermeneutic circle: one must understand the whole to  
> understand
> > > the
> > > >>> parts but the whole can only be understood by understandin the
> > > >>> words. It
> > > >>> can be either a vicious or benevolent circle. And at that
> > point it
> > > >>> really becomes complicated.)
> > > >>>
> > > >>> Carrol
> > > >>>
> > > >