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I appreciate the serious response. I cannot address it now because I have class. But it is now clear how we fundamentally disagree about the very nature of literature. I did not--at the time--find any of Brown's claims convincing, for example, but as I did not keep them, I cannot argue that. But there are many appropriate ways to approach any literature, not one. That is our basic disagreement. Moreover, the extensive study, research, careful reading and extensive knowledge of many critics who do not take that approach suggests a very questionable view of the significance and value of the education you affirm. Moreover, if there were only one way to approach Eliot, I feel quite sure it is not the one you affirm. But since I have read Eliot criticism for decades, I appreciate that you are not alone in taking it and that it can be argued thoughtfully. I don't think it is "right."
Nancy

>>> Ken Armstrong 04/01/10 12:48 PM >>> 
Nancy Gish wrote: 
> First, the assumption that there is one "right" and all else is wrong 
> limits and reduces to caricature any serious literature. 
I don't think so. I'm rather inclined to think, you won't be 
surprised, that relativzing literature deguts it and makes it not worth 
having. There may be degrees of "right" and there may be components of 
right some of which some people get and some of which some people don't, 
in various mixtures and measures; and an ultimate reading such as Guy 
Brown provided of Bleistein; Burbank may have to be reestablished again 
and again. An ultimate reading does not reduce the work but invigorates 
it and offers it up for further development. 
> 
> The claim that there is "THE" point of view is one I find totally 
> unhelpful, but even if there were, how do you know it? 
For me, the first way you know it is by believing your question. 
What in the first place makes your question possible? The examples 
Thompson uses in his book to answer your question are of Socrates and 
Eliot and Tennyson. The upshot is that we believe our questions have 
right answers. What is it that enables that belief? 

> How does Thompson acquire the capacity for infallibility? 
He doesn't (nor was that my claim). He offers instead an 
appropriate way to attend to Eliot or ultimately to any literature. (He 
would not make that claim. Like TSE, he was a private and modest person. 
But he knew what he was about.) 

Ken A