Dear Nancy,

I didn't derogate academics in any way, did I? I didn't mean to. I  
just meant I'm not suited to the teaching life, which requires clear  
thought and rigorous scholarship.

Peter of course meant it as an accusation. I should have been explicit  
about what I meant. My bad!



Sent from my iPod

On Apr 12, 2010, at 2:17 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear Diana,
> I like your runes.  But I don't understand the acceptance of a  
> monolithic category called "academic."  And if you were teaching in  
> a college, would that somehow make you part of this apparently  
> disreputable group?  There is no group that is all alike--or if so  
> we should no doubt mock "poets" and "people who write to the T. S.  
> Eliot list" and "people who mock academics" and come up with some  
> generalized derogatory way to make them both all alike and offensive.
> Nancy
> >>> Diana Manister 04/12/10 2:10 PM >>>
> Wow, going to church! That must have been fun for a little boy!
> I have absolutely no connections with academia and haven't since I  
> got my M.A. I never taught, never wanted to teach. I might publish  
> an article now and then in a college journal, but that's as far as  
> my connection with academia goes.
> I read everything I can get that interests me. Does that make me  
> academic? I think not. I don't discuss all of my interests on this  
> list.
> Any notion of my academic thinking should be disabused by these  
> visual poems, in the Asemic Writing gallery as of today. They were  
> inspired by crop circles, which though created by pranksters,  
> contain fascinatingly indecipherable symbols, like ancient writing  
> on clay tablets.
> Believe me, academics would enjoy a great laugh over these, unless  
> of course they were French academics.
> Diana
> Date: Mon, 12 Apr 2010 10:58:12 -0800
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Biography
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Well then I must be a moron because I know he grew up mostly under  
> the care of his irsh catholic nurse with whom he seems to have had a  
> lot of fun, and who even took him to church with her sometimes.
> That he was happy and playful is evidenced by all the cartoonish  
> type drawings he did.
> His father was deaf, and his mother was all consumed by her social  
> responsibility obligations.
> As to the minutiae of family treatment such as politeness &c. I have  
> no idea.
> I think you have spent too much time in the decrepit corridors of  
> academe, listening to folks spout off who should know better.
> P.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: DIana Manister
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Monday, April 12, 2010 3:17 AM
> Subject: Re: Biography
> Dear Peter,
> I know you know that Eliot pursued "his" interests under the  
> watchful eyes of his mother, nurse, sisters and father, and that  
> their approbations constrained him, because I know you're not a moron.
> Diana
> Sent from my iPod
> On Apr 12, 2010, at 4:31 AM, Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>  
> wrote:
> This is amusing. I'm curious how it is that you know what I know,
> or is that just a stylistic flourish using standard academic cant?
> P.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: DIana Manister
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Sunday, April 11, 2010 3:40 AM
> Subject: Re: Biography
> Peter,
> He could only pursue approved interests and you know it. He was  
> molded into a representative of his class. If he went in low rent  
> directions he would have been herded back into the cultured fold. He  
> didn't play ball with the local boys and whistle at girls on the  
> corner. Constraints are subtly imposed.
> As for bringing this to bear on an interpretation of Prufrock, it  
> adds some confirmation to seeing P as overly constrained and class- 
> bound. All poetry must stand on its own or fail, but anathematizing  
> biographical information as an interpretive resource is New Critical  
> impoverishment.
> Diana
> Sent from my iPod
> On Apr 11, 2010, at 2:45 AM, Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>  
> wrote:
> I agree, Terry. As well I'm somewhat dubious about the
> assertion that Eliot as a child was "constrained by strong
> parental pressure." As I recall he was givien virtually all the
> time he wanted to pursue his reading and writing interests
> wherever they might take him. He was basically left to himself.
> I'm not at all sure that personal freedom is reflected in J.A.P.
> P.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Terry Traynor
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Saturday, April 10, 2010 5:04 PM
> Subject: Re: Biography
> Diana Manister wrote:
> >Knowing that Eliot was constrained by strong parental
> >pressure informs a reader's understanding of his texts.
> >Prufrock for example second-guesses his impulses, so
> >he fails to act on them; i.e.,"Do I dare to eat a peach?"
> >
> >He continues to feel observed and judged even when his
> >parents are absent, an indication that he has introjected their
> >watchfulness and now polices himself to a crippling degree.
> >
> >This understanding mitigates an exclusively spiritual focus
> >on his plays and poems, privileging ordinary human conflict
> >as a theme.
> If I knew nothing about Eliot's life, I would still interpret  
> Prufrock as someone who second-guesses himself, is self-observant  
> and self-policing, etc. The reason I would is that the poem on its  
> own shows what sort of person Prufrock is. Knowing about Eliot's  
> relationship with his parents may be psychoanalytically interesting,  
> but it is unnecessary for reading the poem, for understanding the  
> character of Prufrock, or for recognizing the poem's concerns with  
> ordinary human conflict.
> Carrol Cox wrote:
> >Can you _not_ use biographical knowledge you have? How can the
> >knower cease knowing? Can you even know whether or not you are
> >using biographical knowledge you have as you read a poem?
> >Biography is being discussed in this thread as though readers made an
> >abstract choice to use or not to use biography in formal arguments.
> >Can you, while reading TWL, suppress your knowledge that the author
> >was a man, not a teenage lesbian?
> Readers indeed have no choice but to bring their biographical  
> knowledge to their reading, but they do have a choice about what  
> they do with that knowledge when interpreting the text. Here, for  
> example, is what someone could do with knowledge that Pound was a  
> virulent anti-Semite:
> ------------
> Pound's "Causa" (from _Lustra_) is a four-line poem that many people  
> mistakenly read as an expression of admiration or even love for four  
> unnamed people:
> I join these words for four people,
> Some others may overhear them,
> O world, I am sorry for you,
> You do not know these four people.
> The unidentified "words" that the speaker "joins" are probably not  
> words of praise, but words of condemnation, because the four people  
> are most likely Jewish. (If they weren't, the speaker would name  
> them.) The speaker realizes that other people who overhear the words  
> might condemn him as an anti-Semite, but he believes that if they  
> knew the four people, they would agree with him. He is sorry for the  
> world because it is ignorant of what the speaker believes to be the  
> truth about Jews.
> ------------
> The above exercise in literary interpretation is perverse because  
> the writer takes biographical knowledge about the poet and applies  
> it to a text that offers no support for applying it. What the writer  
> could have and should have done is set aside the biographical  
> knowledge as irrelevant to this particular poem, just as the fact  
> that Woody Guthrie praised Stalin is irrelevant to the truth and  
> beauty of the chorus to "Pastures of Plenty." This is not a question  
> of "suppressing" or "forgetting" what one knows; it's a question of  
> exercising judgment about appropriate and inappropriate applications  
> of what one knows. I'm not sure I'd call that judgment "an abstract  
> choice," but maybe it is.
> Ken Armstrong wrote:
> >what of someone who must follow the poem -- imitate the action
> >of the poem -- to create the art experience for himself that the
> >poem recreates? Isn't this a common way of looking at reading
> >-- the reader as co-creator?
> "Create" is a word with multiple connotations, whether used alone or  
> with prefixes. You could say "the new policy created confusion" or  
> "the chemists re-created the conditions of the original experiment,"  
> and in both cases you'd clearly not be referring to artistic  
> creation. In the context of poetry, the phrase "co-creators" does  
> imply artistic creation; it suggests the collaboration of artists.  
> One could argue about whether Pound was a co-creator of TWL or just  
> its inspired editor, but to say that TWL's readers are "co-creators"  
> is to give them credit that belongs to the artist. In _Seven Types  
> of Ambiguity_ Empson says that "the process of getting to understand  
> a poet is precisely that of constructing his poems in one's own  
> mind," but Empson never cedes any authorship or "creatorship" of the  
> poems to that mind: not only does he identify the poems readers  
> construct as "his" (referring back, with an unfortunately gendered  
> pronoun, to "a poet"), but he immediately goes on to say: "Of  
> course, it is wrong to construct the wrong poem" - meaning a poem  
> other than what the poet wrote. The problem is, as soon as I say  
> "what the poet wrote," I beg the question, because "what the poet  
> wrote" is nothing but black marks on a page unless the reader does  
> something with them, and what that "something" is is the very issue  
> at hand. Since Empson's time, there's been a lot of research and a  
> lot of theorizing about just what's entailed in the reading process,  
> but I haven't kept up with it since reader-response theory, which  
> seemed to me to exalt the subjectivities of readers at the expense  
> of texts.
> I disagree about using the term "co-creator," but I completely agree  
> that whatever clarification biographical information might bring to  
> some puzzling aspect of a poem "must work within the action  
> (artificial) proper to the poem." I take it that the parenthetical  
> "artificial" is a reminder that art is artifice, not life. This  
> artificiality or fictiveness of art differentiating it from life is  
> a difficult concept to articulate because it sounds like it's  
> claiming, ridiculously, that art lacks the capacity to be realistic  
> or true-to-life, but the artificiality of art is central to  
> questions about how valid a particular biographical reading of the  
> art may be. We are all stuck with the facts of our own lives, but an  
> artist releases those facts from life by selecting, manipulating,  
> and shaping them until they belong not to their origins, but to the  
> work of art whose components they have become. To my mind, this  
> process of transformation from life into art is somewhat analogous  
> to what Eliot says in "Philip Massinger" about the relocation of  
> poetic material: "The good poet welds his theft into a whole of  
> feeling which is unique, utterly diferent than that from which it is  
> torn." Reading his poems, we can identify an allusion's source in a  
> text or in his life, but the source doesn't explain what the poet  
> has done with material; only the work itself can do that.
> Terry
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