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Dear Nancy,

Yes I was trying to say that a common formation is adding a  
derivational suffix to a verb to make it a noun . I guess I was not  
clear.

An individual "carried along" by time is not inert, though he is  
passive. The activity in the poem is not willed, but that's not the  
same as inactivity. People thrown from a train in a crash don't  
initiate the action, but action occurs.

Cheers,

Diana

Sent from my iPod

On Feb 22, 2010, at 11:30 AM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> To distinguish between a noun and a participle is not to be  
> "strictly literal": it is to recognize that in modern English we  
> rely on syntax rather than morphology to determine patterns. In any  
> case, the "tion" is not a participle ending.  I do not see any way  
> one can assume Eliot would use a standard noun form to mean an  
> action or movement.  My point has nothing at all to do with any  
> notion of a "pure" meaning.  "Gerontion" sounds like a noun built  
> from the stem "geron" because it is one.  But there is a fundamental  
> difference betweek "old man" and "aging" that is not about purity  
> but about function.  It seems to me that your message makes my  
> point, not any point about action.  So I agree entirely that it is a  
> noun formed from a verbal root.  That does not make its function  
> verbal.
>
> Even if one associates it with a general sense of being old, it is  
> still a state of being, not an action.
> Cheers,
> Nancy
>
> >>> Diana Manister 02/22/10 10:38 AM >>>
> Dear Nancy,
>
> I think it's counterproductive to be strictly literal about meanings  
> in poetry. A word's similarity to other words in the language can  
> evoke associations that are fully valid secondary or tertiary  
> meanings to the original or "pure" meaning. Words in poetry are  
> richly associative, the better the poet is. I'm not suggesting free- 
> associating as an interpretive method, but "Gerontion" to English- 
> speakers sounds like a noun built from the stem "geron."
>
> "Gerontology" according to the online etymology dictionary, was  
> coined in 1903 Eng. from Gk. geron (gen. gerontos) "old man," from  
> PIE base *ger(e)- "to become ripe, grow old." Such coinages are  
> common in English. When a derivational suffix is applied to the verb  
> "civilize" to form "civilization," the verb becomes a noun. This is  
> a frequent linguistic formation.
> Sticking to the pure Greek meaning doesn't account for coinages like  
> "geriatric" and other modern formations in English. Besides the  
> meaning of "geron" as an old, possibly decrepit person, Eliot surely  
> knew that "Gerontion" would also carry the meaning "the state or  
> condition of being old," so that the poem would not refer to a  
> single individual, but to an objective or subjective state of  
> agedness, applicable to readers as well as his speaker.
>
> Diana
>
> Date: Mon, 22 Feb 2010 09:49:35 -0500
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: 'Gerontion'
> To: [log in to unmask]
>
> Dear Diana,
>
> I am not a Greek scholar, but according to my reading "Gerontion"  
> does not mean "growing old."  It is a noun, not a participle, and,  
> according to Southam, it is a disrespectful--because diminuitive-- 
> form of  'gerõn," "old man."  So it means "little old man."  A parti 
> ciple can act as a noun, but this is not a participle--unless you kn 
> ow Greek and can explain?
> Nancy
>
> >>> Diana Manister 02/22/10 7:57 AM >>>
> Dear Nancy,
>
> The noun "Gerontion" I read as a  synonym for "growing old" -- the  
> title describes the theme. So being changed is the action --  
> although the speaker is passive, he does not remain the same. As you  
> say this is far from classical drama. The agon is between the  
> speaker and time that changes him and brings death, but he also  
> suffers from disgust with himself, an internal agon. I'm reminded of  
> a line in a William Carlos Williams poem: "I have pissed my life."
>
> This is not a big insight; the conflicts are not difficult to  
> identify. But it's necessary to note them.
>
> Best,
>
> Diana
>
> Sent from my iPod
>
> On Feb 21, 2010, at 6:07 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> Dear Diana,
>
> I agree with everything here, but none of it comprises "a classical  
> dramatic arc."  That is the point I have tried to make. I also do  
> not think time is an antagonist if the speaker never struggles  
> against it as, for example, Prufrock tries to in the first section.   
> Gerontion just sits, and he seems never to have done otherwise.  The  
> sheer fact of time and its impact is so constant in all Eliot that  
> it can easily be pointed to as the source of despair and loss.  But  
> that is not, in itself, a dramatic event.  Otherwise there would be  
> no way to distinguish the dramatic from any lyric-voice poem about  
> time.  Think of all those Elizabethan sonnets bemoaning time's  
> destruction.  Are they, then, all classical drama?
> Cheers,
> Nancy
>
> >>> Diana Manister 02/21/10 5:58 PM >>>
> Dear Nancy,
>
> Dear Nancy,
>
> The passage of time decays the house, brings darkness, death, and so  
> on, as you are well aware. Time's tenses are a prominent feature of  
> the poem's language: simple past, conditional future ("to be  
> eaten"), ongoing present ("she gives when" implies "she always gives  
> when").
>
> Time twists through the poem in many convolutions. Every image in  
> some way reflects time's effects.
>
> I'm not sure there that conflict doesn't drive the lines implicitly.  
> Eliot himself said an emotion can exert pressure on a poem from  
> underneath, without being made explicit.
>
> The tiger is not time; it's the escape from time, don't you think?  
> Sometimes when I read the line it seems the speaker is looking to  
> the tiger for release, that being devoured by the tiger would be  
> welcome.
>
> It's very rich in implications, as Eliot's work always is. I don't  
> see it as lacking an agon.
>
> Diana
>
> Date: Sun, 21 Feb 2010 17:36:22 -0500
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: 'Gerontion'
> To: [log in to unmask]
>
> Yes, it is full of passive voice.  And that is passivity. He does  
> nothing. I do not see time as a force here against which he  
> struggles.  My point is that drama requires a protagonist and  
> antagonist--whether inner or outer.  If one is passive and never  
> struggles, there is no drama in any traditional sense.  There is  
> futility.  How do you see a connection between the passive voice and  
> some active principle of time?  Time does not act; it is.  But even  
> if history is a series of actions, Gerontion did not struggle, by  
> his own claim--whatever "we" may or may not do.
>
> Eliot was not very old when he wrote all those poems about being old  
> and empty--like Prufrock and the old man in "Dans le Restaurant,"  
> and many of them in IMH.  Interestingly, there is intense drama in  
> Sweeney Agonistes.  And in a different way in "Portrait of a Lady."   
> Even, internally, in "Prufrock," who, like Hamlet, questions and  
> imagines alternatives and is anguished about what to do  (even if he  
> is not Hamlet in any sense of importance), in the first section.   
> After the middle lines, the tense is past, and he ceases to think in  
> terms of change.
> Nancy
> >>> Diana Manister 02/21/10 5:21 PM >>>
> Dear Nancy,
>
>
>
> The poem is rife with passive voice. The gerontological allusions  
> enlarge the passivity to the scale of a lifetime,
>
> and its end. History is a function of time, so time is the active  
> principle in the poem, against which we struggle in futility.
>
>
>
> Some of the poem's passive phrases follow:
>
>
>
> Being read to, waiting, My house is a decayed house, Swaddled with  
> darkness,
>
> To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk,
>
> The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours.
>
> And an old man driven by the Trades To a sleepy corner.
>
> History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
>
> And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
>
> Guides us by vanities
>
> She gives when our attention is distracted
>
>
>
> Eliot was not an old man when he wrote the poem, which lends a rich  
> ambiguity to his meanings.
>
>
>
> Diana
>
>
>
>
>
>
> Date: Sun, 21 Feb 2010 12:57:26 -0500
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: 'Gerontion'
> To: [log in to unmask]
>
>
>
> Dear Diana,
>
> It is clearly a lack of willed action, but what specific acting  
> upon?  Unless one means the appearance of Christ the tiger, I'm not  
> sure what he claims acted on him--history perhaps, but then he only  
> obsesses over its confusions; he shows no sign of having tried to  
> affect it.
> Cheers,
> Nancy
>
> >>> Diana Manister 02/21/10 12:44 PM >>>
> Dear Nancy,
>
> Gerontion is acted upon, wouldn't you say? The poem describes not an  
> absence of action, but rather a lack of willed action.
>
> Diana
>
> Sent from my iPod
>
> On Feb 21, 2010, at 11:11 AM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> I already said that.  There is no such arc in "Gerontion."
>
> >>> Peter Montgomery 02/21/10 5:11 AM >>>
> If there is conflict, then there is drama, whether it be internal or  
> external or both.
>
> P.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Nancy Gish
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Friday, February 19, 2010 9:27 PM
> Subject: Re: 'Gerontion' -- the dramatic arc
>
> I do not understand how this can be a "classical dramatic structure"  
> when it states the opposite.  That structure is a description of  an  
> action: it refers to plot. And the central point Gerontion describes  
> is precisely that he has not acted.  He was not at the hot gates; he  
> is old and simply waiting. He says "we have not reached  
> conclusion" [i.e., no climax or denoument]. He speaks only of  
> endless "small deliberations"--thoughts of a dry brain in a dry  
> season."  Classical drama is about acting and its consequences.   
> There is no action depicted in the lines you quote.
>
> When Eliot turned to drama--even in the early Sweeney Agonistes--he  
> showed actions.  I do not see the point of what you call an  
> observation that cannot apply in this case.
> Nancy
>
> >>> Chokh Raj 02/19/10 11:05 PM >>>
> 'Gerontion' - the dramatic arc
>
> -----
>
> Here I am, an old man in a dry month,    [line 1]
>
> I an old man, / A dull head among windy spaces    [lines 15-16]
>
> I have no ghosts / An old man in a draughty house / Under a windy  
> knob.   [lines 30-32]
>
> And an old man driven by the Trades / To a sleepy corner.    [lines  
> 72-73]
>
> -----
>
> To me the monologue moves along the lines of a classical dramatic  
> structure -- with an Exposition, a Rising Action, a Climax, and a  
> Resolution.
>
> just an observation
>
> CR
>
>
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