Since this seems to be intended as an exchange, I'm responding to the three points.
 
I.  This may be--and is--viewed in many ways.  At least two serious ones are that, first, that does not at all entail that you are "right" and second, that there is no one right or wrong but that major poetry, and Eliot's in particular in this case, is not subject to any single closed meaning.  Read, for just one example, Michael Coyle's excellent article on TWL in the new Wiley-Blackwell Companion to T. S. Eliot.  Also James Longenbach in the same book.
 
II. I have denied mere allegory in many specific instances; I have not and do not deny that some of the poetry has allegory or allegorical elements.  So I repeat, "I never said that every time. . . he didn't write allegory."  I don't need to reread my posts: I know what I think and therefore said, and I've been writing about Eliot all my life, so I do have a pretty good knowledge of what I say.
 
III.  I don't know if there is enough biographical information even now to state that definitively, but the complete prose being edited by Ron Schuchard and Jewel Brooker may tell us.  At any rate, it is well known that Eliot said at the time of TWL he considered being a Buddhist.  That a longing for some religious certainty is there early is not in question.  That it was in any way felt to be sure or even that it was Christianity is not.  Of course if you deny that Eliot knew his own views, perhaps it can simply be pronounced.  But he did not seem to say so.  I will be glad to see the new letters and the complete prose; perhaps he did say and it will be in this material.  I suggest anyone interested in such questions do the reading when it is available.  (The letters are now.)

III.  Thompson is one critic of many, and, as you insist, that does not prove a position.  But, in any case, many people wrote about Eliot's metaphysics, so perhaps you could state specifically what you see as central and valid in Thompson.

Nancy

 



>>> Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]> 03/31/10 8:48 AM >>>
Nancy Gish wrote:
> 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.
Serious lovers of poetry who have studied Eliot for thirty years and
more disagree with one another about his poetry. They can't all be right.
>
> *I* *never said* that every time Christianity and Eliot come up that
> he didn't write allegory. Many of his poems have allegory or
> allegorical elements--not all and not all his life. I stand by the
> statement about reading back.
If you were to go back through your posts, you would see that one of
your stock replies to the notion that Christianity is essential to
Eliot's poetry is that he does not write mere allegory.That is how you
have used the term to reject the notion that Christianity is essential
to the poetry under discussion. If you are now changing your position,
glad to hear it.
>
> 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.
But this is such a fascinating idea! "That point is probably not yet
determined." When do you think it will be? Who will have the authority
to determine it? And who has said that "Eliot is just one thing"? Again,
to say that Christianity is essential to Eliot's poetry is not to say he
is "just one thing"; is it? Of course the phrase is not precise. Every
body, when they write, is some thing or things or another, so I assume
the problem is not in identifying that thing or things, but in defending
the veracity of one's claim.

The point of Eric Thompson's book, by the way, which of course I would
recommend to any serious lover of Eliot's poetry, is that Eliot brings a
discernible metaphysical vision to all of his poetry starting with the
Prufrock collection. As ET points out, it is not there in the juvenilia.
Then it appears and stays and is central throughout. It manifests
relations an understanding of which one requires to grasp very deeply
the poems. Of course you (the general "you") don't have to go to
Thompson for this insight; perhaps you have discovered it for yourself.
If not, there is no better exposition of it.

Ken