We can certainly agree that it is what it is. (I presume that it is not what it is not.) But that you know what it is, and serious lovers of poetry who devote lifetimes to thinking about it simply don't, is too absurd to consider. What "it is" is not a given or a reified object.
To say Eliot is not just one thing is no more general than to claim he "was" a Christian. Of course he was at some point. That point is probably not yet determined.
>>> Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]
> 3/30/2010 2:56 PM >>>
Nancy Gish wrote:
> That depends on which poetry and on how you define the terms. Even in
> /IMH/ there are images and allusions from Christianity, but reading
> his post-conversion religious attitudes back into the poetry up to the
> mid-20s is extremely dubious.
No more dubious than to say, every time Christianity and Eliot come
up, that he didn't write allegory. Where is it written that to contain
the element of Christianity in one's poetry one must write allegory?
Dubious for sure.
> No one--and certainly not Eliot--is simply one thing or has one
> attitude, unchanging.
I would agree with that, except it is so general it says nothing.
Eliot did say in an interview with a French newspaper that between his
pre- and post-conversion poetry there was no essential change in point
of view. Eric Thompson, to whom I've often referred on the list, wrote
one book on Eliot, and that on Eliot's metaphysical perspective; the
point being that he had a metaphysical perspective from the time his
first mature poetry (Prufrock and so forth) appeared to the end. Is this
boring? I have no idea why it would be. It does not preclude
experimentation, exploration, peripeteia, or any dynamic thing you can
think of. Why would anyone think it would?
> For example, in a letter in about 1919 he called himself a liberal.
> There is not any simply "seminal aspect" to _all_ of his work--at any
> rate, there is no general reading of it that assumes one. And to do
> so, I think, is to make it boringly limited and hardly worth reading.
> Like all poets of genuine invention, he kept writing new kinds of
> work; he did not simply produce a continuing allegory. A great deal
> or energy was expended, mainly in the 1940s, to define a "pattern in
> the carpet" that would frame all his work as a kind of single, great
> opus. But most scholars no longer see it that wa
Can we agree that it really doesn't matter "how most scholars see
it"? It's not up for a vote.There's no security in numbers. What matters
is what it is. Either that's the prize or there is no prize. Scholarly
views change like ripples in a pond. The place the rock hits the water
> and it would be hard to justify now that we know so much more about
> him and so much prose not available then.
And later we will know even more. And then more. And scholarly views
will change and change again. The poetry is in the poem. For those who
didn't see it 1923 or 1937 or 1963 or 1998, there's no reason to suppose
it'll be visible in 2014. The mass of knowledge that has accreted around
Eliot does not make the poetry.