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A friend said that a perceptible dramatic or play-like character
existed in the poem. Eliot liked that observation very much.

McLuhan has commented on how Pound used the 5  act structure
of Elizabethan drama to ring the pieces together.

P.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carrol Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2010 10:06 PM
Subject: Re: The Design of The Waste Land -- a study by Burton Blistein


> If there is a "design" (overall structure or form) in TWL it was either
> put there by Ezra Pound, not composed by Eliot or imposed _after_ the
> fact by Eliot as he wrote the notes. If you want to assign a "design" to
> Eliot himself, you have to find it in the original typescrpt as we see
> it in the fasimile edition. Probably Eliot himself was not free of the
> 19th-c superstition that a poem must have an "organic" form, and this
> shows up both in his desire to preface Gerontion to the poem and in the
> notes he wrote, particularly the note on the poem being what Tiresias
> saw! That Eliot did in fact share this critical error is shown by his
> silly remark that Hamlet was an artistic failure!
> 
> There is much to be said for the argument in an essay in Critical
> Inquirry some decades ago entitled, "Coherent Readers; Incoherennt
> Texts."  And this seems to apply quite felicitously to TWL. The
> coherence which many critics find in the poem is there all right --
> because they put it ther!
> 
> This is NOT the same as saying a poem can mean anything a reader wants
> it to mean. There still remains a need for responsible reading (if the
> critic wants anyone to pay attention to him/her anyhow).  If some reader
> were to 'find' in TWL a deliberate point-by-point refutation of Hobbes's
> _Leviathan_ or of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason we (or at leas I)
> wouldn't argue with the reading, I would merely ignore it and anything
> else which that particular critic wrote. (As I do simply ignore the
> readings of several posters on this list.)  But though not anyy old
> reading some reader wants will do, the range of possible conflicting but
> legitimate readings is, I think, fairly wide, and rather wider in the
> case of The Waste Land. And I would argue that withiin that range is one
> that Eliot himself specifically rejected with a sneer: that it expressed
> the disillusion of a generation! When WW 1 began, Henry James commented
> something like, So this is what it all meant, by which I presume he
> referred to the whole self-satisfaction of the end of the 19th-c that
> "civilization" had been achieved, that Progress was a metaphysical
> reality, and that (as expressed in Kipling's "White Man's Burden") that
> achieved civilization had only to be imposed on the rest of the world
> that still lay in outer darkness.
> 
> I think we are in Rat's Alley: The war to end war has instead been a war
> that itself never ended, and "we" the postwar generation  are still, as
> we walk through the streets of London,  in the trenches ourselves. (That
> third who walks always beside 'you' might welll be the unburied dead of
> the endless war.)  One is reminded of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. (That
> closed car at four: where is it going anyhow?)  And had Eliot persuaded
> Pound to allow him to preface Gerontion to TWL, the corridors of
> Versailles (the cunning passages) could be the twisted streets of London
> and both could be the intricate maze of the trenches of that war that
> will not end, the dead flowing over London Bridge in an endless stream
> (I had not known death had undone so many: it is difficult to believe
> the death toll of WW1). And so forth, the poem is an echo chamber. One
> would not want many poems with that sort of polysemy. I am glad we have
> one like this though.
> 
> Carrol