Dear Nancy,
 
Your observation is an important one. Dissociation is the result of trauma. It is an attempt to function while avoiding the full brunt of the trauma's emotional impact. I'm assuming the speaker is generally traumatized by the Great War, a safe enough assumption but one that requires some anchoring in the text.
 
Unmistakable effects of trauma are detectable in the poem.  A sense of displacement or dislocation, as if London were elsewhere or nowhere, and temporal disturbances, as if the past were present. People are displaced from their homes, their identities, their very bodies. The corpse that may be dug up again would be displaced, and Marie is an actual refugee whose language is the home she carries with her. Dissociation estranges the subject from him/herself. In trying to evade the affect of the trauma, the subject enters a region of blurred boundaries between self, world, other, between life and death. The subject is dis-placed.
 

I could not

 

Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither

Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,

Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Od' und leer das Meer.

 

London in TWL is in a kind of non-time where events of the past seem to occur in the present. The lack of a proper grave is a leitmotif connected to time as belatedness, represented by the Cumian sybil who should be dead and buried, and Stetson, who should not be walking among the living.
 
Kant described the "shudder" the sublime produces when the subject experiences the failure of imagination and reason to comprehend the immensity of the universe, or infinity, or vastness that exceeds the limits of understanding. I don't know if Eliot knew Kant's notion of the sublime, but TWL often describes this affect of horror and vertigo. Kant's sublime is commonly described as overwhelming beauty, but it can also be annihilatingly negative.
 

He who was living is now dead

We who were living are now dying

 
While the trauma itself can be guessed at, its affect is everywhere in the disorientation and displacement of time and place in TWL, of which dissociation of the self is one important indication. Whatever the trauma that caused this confusion it was colossal and not understandable or even imaginable.
 
My sense is that the trauma the poem signifies is not a collection of personal shocks or miseries the author experienced but something concerning his culture at large. 
 
Diana
 


I was directly answering the following question about Stetson being a dopplgänger:
 
> > Since there's been a switch to Baudelaire in the City may I suggest
> > the the last line addressed to Stetson, "Hypocrite lecteur, --
> > mon semblable, -- mon frère!" be considered as reason to think of
> > an apparitonal Stetson as a doppelgänger.
My point is that Eliot was meticulous about punctuation when he chose to use it, and the line from Baudelaire is within the quotation marks that are the narrator's speech to Stetson; they are directly addressed to Stetson as "my double."  The narrator says all three--hypocrite reader, double, brother--but he speaks to Stetson. 
 
But Grover Smith suggested the importance of doubling in Eliot in the 50s, and there have been many discussions of it.  What I did in a developed article was to trace Eliot's own language drawn from Janet and ideas of dissociation through his prose to demonstrate how constant it was and where he got the terms and definitions.  The "dissociation of sensibility" is not just his idea; "dissociation" was a common psychological term.  The full study with the sources is in "T. S. Eliot and the Poetics of Dissociation" in Cassandra's and my book, T. S. Eliot and Gender, Desire, and Sexuality (Cambridge, 2004). Doppelgängers are all over Eliot's work. The quotation I sent is on "Gerontion," but draws on the arguments in that essay.
Sorry for the ad; I am just answering the question in context.
N

>>> Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]> 03/17/10 10:14 PM >>>
Nancy Gish wrote:
> In my paper on "Gerontion" at the TSE Society and in Florence, I
> argued that he is
Sorry, who is what? There's much to choose from below.

Thanks,
Ken A

> and the the last line is directly addressed to him. It remains in the
> quotation marks that frame the address to Stetson. The following is
> from the paper. Since it is not in published form, please do not
> quote (I'm not assuming anyone wants to, just being formal).
>
>
> "The last line of the first section has nearly always been read as
> addressing the reader, as it is in Baudelaire’s “au lecteur.” But it
> remains in the quotation marks that identify speech directed to
> Stetson, who thus also becomes the double–one like Tiresias who is
> both modern and ancient, having been at Mylae but having planted a
> corpse last year. While the source in Baudelaire may well evoke us as
> readers also, in the poem the line is said to Stetson and thus to an
> immediately present dissociated self."
>
> Nancy
>
> >>> Diana Manister 03/17/10 4:33 PM >>>
> Dear Rick:
>
> Can't wait to check out your links. Meanwhile, recall Eliot's interest
> in Jacobean drama, which is famous for its grotesque corpses and body
> parts. In Webster's Duchess of Malfi, for instance, Ferdinand shakes
> hands with the Duchess in a dark room, using a severed hand of her
> lover! The line from The White Devil that Eliot paraphrased about the
> dog that digs up a corpse is in that uncanny vein. Things exposed
> that should be covered, the dead entering the realm of the living.
>
> Diana
>
> > > One does not expect a spectre, usually. I guess the uncanniness would
> > > depend on whether the walking, talking figure is someone recognized as
> > > having been alive. Stetson is such an uncanny figure. The eerie qualia
> > > is produced by the neither-nor state of the phenomenon, the
> > > spectator's inability to classify or qualify it as living or dead,
> > > since it's both. This is disorienting and produces a disturbance of
> > > the subject-object distinction.
> >
> > Since there's been a switch to Baudelaire in the City may I suggest
> > the the last line addressed to Stetson, "Hypocrite lecteur, --
> > mon semblable, -- mon frère!" be considered as reason to think of
> > an apparitonal Stetson as a doppelgänger.
> >
> > Doppelgänger
> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppelg%C3%A4nger
> >
> > The text of "The Lesson of Baudelaire" by T.S. Eliot
> >
> http://world.std.com/~raparker/exploring/tseliot/works/essays/lesson-of-baudelaire.html
> >
> > Regards,
> > Rick Parker
>
>
>
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