Arguing about what label fits Eliot's poetry is as silly as trying to label Shakespeare as either mystical or wordly or psychological or political, etc. A great artist covers all of it. Eliot's work addresses sociology as much as religion, and interpersonal relations or the lack thereof as much as spirituality. He was not a disembodied spirit. He was very much embodied, emotional, political and wordly as much as religious and perhaps mystical. And so is his work.
Personally, I would cherish an end to presumptions of knowledge that can simply deny, without any demonstration, the ability of anyone to read Eliot except those with some apparent secret. This has nothing to do with understanding poetry, Eliot, criticism, or even a "metaphysical perspective."
It is only an assertion of private certainty that insults everyone on the list who disagrees. Why then even discuss?
>>> Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> 03/31/10 7:34 AM >>> Thanks, Ken, for making a classic statement on the metaphysical perspective of Eliot's poetry. It stands up to any scrutiny. This is the post that, at last, justifies the list. I'll cherish it -- now & evermore.
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.
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 is unchanging.
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.
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