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.


Sent from my iPod

On Apr 9, 2010, at 5:41 AM, Terry Traynor <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Ken Armstrong wrote:
> >It's worth asking, perhaps, if two renderings of a masterpiece,
> >one the original and one a "copy" are indistinguishable, can the
> >copy really be said to be only a copy and the person who painted
> >it only an imitator? Isn't this an exercise of artists in training,  
> as it
> >were? In effect, doesn't it take a creator to recreate an artifice?
> Yes, it is an exercise of artists in training, but it's only an  
> exercise. Recreating something exactly requires technical skill, but  
> it doesn't require creative vision.
> Also, you ask what makes use of biography legitimate. That's hard to  
> answer, but in general I'd say that if some aspect of the work can't  
> be understood on its own and biographical information would clarify  
> matters, then resorting to biography is legitimate. Often, however,  
> biographical information is brought in even though it is superfluous  
> to understanding the work. For example, it's not necessary to know  
> that Keats was tubercular in order to make sense of "When I have  
> fears that I may cease to be." It's not necessary to know that the  
> Pope commissioned Michelangelo in order to recognize the power of  
> the artist's images.
> You also ask if a legitimate use of biography can "create a faux  
> response." I'm not sure what "faux response" means, but there's a  
> vast number of ways that people might respond to anything.
> Marcia Karp wrote:
> >Isn't thought, imagination, working out of solutions to the endless
> >problems of creation worth something? Manner and matter.  Content
> >and form.  Truth and beauty.
> I may be making distinctions you didn't intend, but it seems to me  
> that the first group of items you mention - thought, imagination,  
> and working out of solutions to creative problems - pertains to the  
> behind-the-scenes process by which an author brings a work into  
> being, and the second group - manner and matter, content and form,  
> truth and beauty - pertains to the product that results from the  
> process; the second group are relationships that are or aren't  
> manifest in the text itself. If a text's relation between content  
> and form is indifferent, I'm not particularly interested in the  
> process of creation it went through or whose process it was. If a  
> text's relation between content and form is arresting, it is so  
> whether or not I know about the process and whose it was.
> >   Even contests based on blind judging throw out any plagiarisms or
> >forgeries if discovered.  It is not only the name that matters, it  
> is who
> >has done the actual creation:
> Yes, plagiarists are thrown out because they put their name to  
> someone else's work, and forgers are thrown out for the opposite  
> reason: they sign someone else's name to their own work. Neither  
> type of fraud should be excused or rewarded, but if the work itself,  
> aside from ethical or financial considerations, is of high enough  
> quality to fool or almost fool the experts, why should knowing the  
> truth behind the fraud affect our assessment of that quality? But  
> you're right, it does. This may be a bad analogy, but if I taste a  
> piece of cake and think it delicious, and am then told it was made  
> by a rapist to lure a child as victim, I'm likely to spit it out in  
> disgust - even though the physical properties of the cake are  
> unchanged from when I thought it was delicious. Conversely, if  
> someone I loves bakes me a cake, I'm likely to find it delicious,  
> even though nobody else would. In both cases, it seems to me I  
> should be able to separate the cake's merits as cake from the  
> prejudicial knowledge about who made it.
> >a painting isn't just paint-strokes, not matter how brilliant; a  
> poem just
> >words, ditto.  There are, for instance, many wonderful translators
> >whose own writing is just not very good.
> I guess I wasn't clear - I mentioned a painting's brushstrokes and a  
> poem's words only as examples, just examples, of the work's  
> components. I certainly didn't mean to reduce the work to those  
> components. As to translators, I'm not seeing what they're an  
> example of.
> >   I agree with you if you are saying that top-rate work by those who
> >haven't "gotten into the game" is often neglected or not given fair
> >witness in its own time, and so, sans great luck, is doomed not to
> >survive beyond it.
> Yes, I'm saying this, and I'm saying that this neglect can be traced  
> back to the phenomenon of people thinking that who made a thing is a  
> guide to its worth.
> Peter Montgomery wrote:
> >So to what degree is pursuing Eliot's childhood biography of interest
> >in looking at his career? For instance does his early published work
> >have a Unitarian underlay to it, which even Eliot might no have  
> realised?
> Pursuing Eliot's childhood biography is no doubt of interest if one  
> wants to look at his career. Some do; I don't. It's his poems that  
> interest me, not his career. When I look at his early published  
> work, I'm not interested in their biographical origins, but in what  
> they say. Such are my limitations as a reader of poetry.
> Terry