This does not show up on my "send." Sorry if it comes twice. N
I don't mean themes. I mean the idea that the poem has any formal aesthetic structure like a narrative--a la Cleanth Brooks ("scaffolding"), or George Williamson (a formal pattern of syntax), or Elizabeth Drew (overarching myth). These critics went beyond even specific poems to see the life's work as somehow an overall design. So did most of the writing at the time, although earlier reviews had been far more mixed in their definitions.
"Is still taught" is no doubt true, but partial. The notion that these figures or motifs explain the poem is very much a question. As interesting examples, read Michael Coyle's article or the part on TWL in James Longenbach's article, both in David Chinitz's A Companion to T. S. Eliot (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).
I think Langenbach is right that The Waste Land has no such coherence. He points out how much the idea of such coherence was due to Eliot's own critical claims. And I noted in that book that since about the 1980s Eliot is no longer read through his own criticism. Obviously, some critics do, but it is not the dominant line of new work as it was before then.
>>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]>04/25/10 7:34 AM >>>
By 'design' you mean themes? Eliot is still taught in terms of the Fisher King myth, the Grail quest, and other leitmotifs. Formal and stylistic considerations can of course be considered separately from thematic content, the way sentences can be diagrammed, or paintings considered in terms of composition. 'Design' in the sense of the design of a building.
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I have not read it, but attempts to define a design were the major way of reading it in the 1940s and 50s. Does this say anything new?
>>> DIana Manister <[log in to unmask]
>04/24/10 9:15 AM >>>
"Design" in this title seems to mean "intention" rather than structure. The jacket blurb suggests that the book focusses on thematic content, such as the quest element, etc. rather than the poem's architecture. Not that they can be completely separated, of course, but "Themes of The Wasteland" would seem to be a more accurate title.
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The Design of The Waste Land
By Burton Blistein
University Press of America, 2008.
"The Design of "The Waste Land" offers a detailed, comprehensive explanation of
T. S. Eliot's enigmatic poem. It relates The Waste Land to earlier and later poems
by Eliot, demonstrating that the major poems describe a continuous spiritual odyssey
or quest undertaken by the same individual, initiated by the moment of ecstasy in
the Hyacinth garden." "Blistein's analysis of Eliot's sources reveals that the
protagonist's glimpse of "the heart of light" is equivalent to drinking from the Grail, or communing with God. The incarnate deity momentarily transforms the Hyacinth garden into the likeness of the Edenic paradise. With the inevitable passing of the moment of communion, the protagonist in effect is expelled from the paradisiacal garden as mankind was from Eden. By contrast, the familiar world appears to him a wasteland. The protagonist seeks to drink again from the divine Source and return again to the garden as it was when transfigured by the divine presence. His is a quest for grail and homeland."--BOOK JACKET.
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