Dear Tom,

I'm sorry my exasperation with readings that attribute a single meaning to Eliot's poems reached critical mass when I read your post. 

Prufrock is multi-layered to the extent that any reading must accept its indeterminacy. That is what makes it great poetry. To assert that it is "a poem about sexuality" reduces its implications. 

The libido in Freud is the life-force, not simply lust. The life-force comprises sensuality in all its connectedness to nature and intimacy with others.  

As we know, Eliot rarely found happy love with men or women. He didn't know how to be casually close to others. (When he married Valerie, he didn't bother to tell his longtime roomate for instance, he just left their apartment and told the maid he was leaving.) 

Best,

Diana  

Sent from my iPod

On Feb 8, 2010, at 11:47 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

There is plenty of evidence for readings of Eliot's work as about homosexual desire: that is why so many critics have done it.  (On Prufrock, see, for example, pp. 152-59 in James Miller's T. S. Eliot: The Making of an American Poet, Penn State, 2005.) I don't think, Tom, that there is ever any reason for feeling a chilling effect when so many others on the list are simply overtly sneering or rude on a regular basis; it means nothing about you.  And your views have the great value of being based on reading the text. 
 
But I don't think Diana meant it as it may have sounded to you.  I don't know the magazine, and it may be crude, but the question of whether it is sexuality or some more idealized notion of love in the poem is also valid.  The use of "To His Coy Mistress" evokes overt sexuality in any case.
 
One suggestion for it, by the way, Diana, is that the original epigraph is the lines from Arnaut Daniel, who is in Purgatory for the sin of hermaphrodites.   Or see the following:
 

Burgwinkle, William E., 1951-
"The Form of Our Desire": Arnaut Daniel and the Homoerotic Subject in Dante's Commedia
GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies - Volume 10, Number 4, 2004, pp. 565-597

Duke University Press

William E. Burgwinkle - "The Form of Our Desire": Arnaut Daniel and the Homoerotic Subject in Dante's Commedia - GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10:4 GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10.4 (2004) 565-597 "The Form of Our Desire" Arnaut Daniel and the Homoerotic Subject in Dante's Commedia William Burgwinkle Fame . . . without it man wastes Burgwinkle, William E., 1951-
"The Form of Our Desire": Arnaut Daniel and the Homoerotic Subject in Dante's Commedia
GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies - Volume 10, Number 4, 2004, pp. 565-597

Duke University Press

William E. Burgwinkle - "The Form of Our Desire": Arnaut Daniel and the Homoerotic Subject in Dante's Commedia - GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10:4 GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10.4 (2004) 565-597 "The Form of Our Desire" Arnaut Daniel and the Homoerotic Subject in Dante's Commedia William Burgwinkle Fame . . . without it man wastes his life away, leaving such traces of what he was on earth as smoke in the wind and foam upon the water" (Inferno 24.49-51). With these words, echoing both Brunetto Latini's appeal to eternal fame in Inferno 15 ("You [Brunetto] taught me [Dante the pilgrim] how man makes himself eternal" [85]) and Arnaut Daniel's poetic identification with lost labor and the ineffable ("I am Arnaut, who gathers the wind, and chases the hare with an ox, and swims against the rising tide" [29, 10, ll. 43-45]), Virgil urges Dante, the weary pilgrim, into action in Inferno 24. This filiation, from the Occitan troubadour Arnaut Daniel to Dante's teacher, Brunetto Latini, and ultimately to Dante himself and his fictional pilgrim, traces a literary and emotional genealogy in Dante's Commedia that is either explicitly linked with the sin of sodomy or marked by a dense field of homoerotic imagery. As Bruce W. Holsinger argues so convincingly in a groundbreaking study of the topic, it is about time we take seriously "Dante's own entanglement in this sodomitical web," a web in which pedagogy and desire are inextricably linked....his life away, leaving such traces of what he was on earth as smoke in the wind and foam upon the water" (Inferno 24.49-51). With these words, echoing both Brunetto Latini's appeal to eternal fame in Inferno 15 ("You [Brunetto] taught me [Dante the pilgrim] how man makes himself eternal" [85]) and Arnaut Daniel's poetic identification with lost labor and the ineffable ("I am Arnaut, who gathers the wind, and chases the hare with an ox, and swims against the rising tide" [29, 10, ll. 43-45]), Virgil urges Dante, the weary pilgrim, into action in Inferno 24. This filiation, from the Occitan troubadour Arnaut Daniel to Dante's teacher, Brunetto Latini, and ultimately to Dante himself and his fictional pilgrim, traces a literary and emotional genealogy in Dante's Commedia that is either explicitly linked with the sin of sodomy or marked by a dense field of homoerotic imagery. As Bruce W. Holsinger argues so convincingly in a groundbreaking study of the topic, it is about time we take seriously "Dante's own entanglement in this sodomitical web," a web in which pedagogy and desire are inextricably linked....
 
[I have not looked up the whole article; it is just easy to find the topic.]
Cheers,
Nancy
>>> Tom Colket <[log in to unmask]>02/08/10 10:53 PM >>>

Diana wrote:
D> Tom,
D> Why do you characterize "a love song" as "a poem about sexuality?"
D> You make it sound like Screw magazine.
D>
D> And what in the text leads you to the conclusion that the speaker is
D> conscious of his homosexual impulses? I'm not saying it's not a valid interpretation,
D> I would just like to see what it's based on.
D>
D> Lonely men in shirtsleeves leaning out of windows could be widows,
D> drunks who's wives and girlfriends turned them out, or men many other
D> situations including homosexuality. Likewise, happy men surrounded by friends
D> could also be homosexuals!
 
Diana:

I need to make two totally unrelated points here.

Firstly, as I mentioned to Nancy, I'm recovering from a fairly serious illness right now. I will be happy to briefly put together my arguments about a homosexual reading of Prufrock and why I think the text supports this throughout the poem. You've already seen bits and pieces of my reading, but it might be more useful to see it all in one place. I'll try to get this done before the end of February, but I am not up to it just now.

Unrelated to that, I'd like to make another point. I find it very odd that list members use (what is to my ears) language that exposes other listers to unnecessary embarrassment for a choice of words or a particular expression of an idea. When I said that Eliot's "love song" is a poem about sexuality, is it really fair to reply that "You make it sound like Screw magazine"? Maybe it's a generational thing, as I am in my mid-50s and I think from your past posts about what you are working on that you are decades younger. I just can't imagine saying something that like to someone in the middle of a poetry discussion. I was embarrassed by the remark, and I imagine it has a chilling effect on others thinking of sharing their ideas on the list.

Anyway, as I said, I will try to write up a brief Prufrock post as soon as I'm able.

-- Tom --


 

Date: Mon, 8 Feb 2010 15:26:01 +0000
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Prufrock question (Eliot interview citation)
To: [log in to unmask]

Tom,
 
Why do you characterize "a love song" as "a poem about sexuality?" You make it sound like Screw magazine.
 
And what in the text leads you to the conclusion that the speaker is conscious of his homosexual impulses? I'm not saying it's not a valid interpretation, I would just like to see what it's based on.
 
Lonely men in shirtsleeves leaning out of windows could be widows, drunks who's wives and girlfriends turned them out, or men many other situations including homosexuality. Likewise, happy men surrounded by friends could also be homosexuals!
 
Diana
 
 
> The Listers, I hope, would have no such misgivings about "old men in shirt sleeves" if they perused my reading of the poem at
>
> http://books.google.com/books?id=GPZHywxqWoAC&pg=PA63&lpg=PA63&dq#v=onepage&q=&f=false
>
> It might dispel many another misgiving, hopefully.
>
> Regards,
> CR
>
>
>
> --- On Mon, 2/8/10, Tom Colket <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>
> > Nancy wrote:
> > N> I am now wondering about the function of the
> > epigraph. . .
> >
> > N> Does the choice of the circle of fraud reveal or
> > evoke something about Prufrock?
> >  
> >
> > I know my Prufrock readings have not gotten much traction
> > on this list, but let me give you a reply for your
> > consideration. //In a poem about sexuality (a "love
> > song"), the epigraph may hint that Prufrock considers
> > himself to be a "sexual fraud", in that he has
> > homoerotic desires even as he journeys "among the
> > women". Remember those "lonely men in shirt
> > sleeves, leaning out of windows".//
> >
> >  
> >
> > -- Tom --
>
> >
> > Date: Sun, 7 Feb 2010 23:06:57 -0500
> > From: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: Re: Prufrock question (Eliot interview citation)
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> >
> >
> > I am now wondering about the function of the
> > epigraph.  I have long assumed I had figured out a
> > reason for it in the need to somehow articulate the meaning
> > of being in Hell (note also the two Lazarus stories, making
> > three characters who died and could have revealed the
> > afterworld but could not or did not).  Eliot's
> > epigraphs do not simply chunk another story down in a poem
> > whole: they may evoke mood or topic or emotion rather
> > than story.  But I am wondering now if the issue of
> > treachery or fraud is relevant also.  I had not
> > before focussed on the fact that Guido is in that
> > circle or that he wants both to conceal and reveal his
> > own sin--and cleverness. 
> >  
> > Does the choice of the circle of fraud reveal or evoke
> > something about Prufrock?
> > N 
>
>
>
>



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