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Since I was said not to have given my own meaning, I am quoting myself
in brief excerpts from a paper given in Florence. The following are two
excerpts from a paper given but not yet published. so it is not to be
quoted without permission. This is a brief summary, but I was able to
trace Eliot's use of this term in many texts where it clearly is
connected with the then-common psychological term. It is not simply an
obvious use of the general meaning of "dissociate," nor is it something
Eliot was not very familiar with. For example, The Varieties of
Metaphysical Poetry is clearly an allusion to William James's The
Varieties of Religious Experience, which Eliot read and annotated.


In the late 19th and 20th century, a dominant medical concept was Pierre
Janet's description of hysteria as always a form of dissociation or "a
form of mental depression characterized by the retraction of the field
of personal consciousness and a tendency to the dissociation of ideas
and functions that constitute personality" (Gish 111).[i] It may take
many forms, including amnesia; numbness; anaesthesia of all senses;
aboulia or loss of will (which Eliot claimed as his own emotional
problem); depersonalization, in which the subject experiences the self
as unreal or detached from experience or even dead; derealization, in
which the external world seems "unreal"; or the extreme form of the
double (or dédoublement) in which "a person may actually perceive and
even interact with an external double of him-or herself," including dual
personality (Gish109). 

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In his analysis of The Waste Land as an hysterical text, Wayne
Koestenbaum opened up our reading to the ruptures, sexual anxieties and
language dysfunction in what had increasingly been read as a unified
mythic vision of the modern world. But Eliot's own language, personal
experience, and representations of dissociation suggest that the text's
hysteria is more fully understood through Janet than Freud. It is
useful, I think, to note that Eliot went to Roger Vittoz after
consulting several friends, that Vittoz's analysis of neurasthenia uses
a model comparable to Janet's, and that Eliot specifically claimed in a
letter to Sydney Waterlow that Vittoz was not a psychoanalyst "but more
useful for my purpose." (L1 495) At this point, December 1921, he was in
Lauzanne, "feeling much better," and "trying to finish a poem.


[i] I have discussed in detail Eliot's knowledge of Janet and use of
Janet's concepts in relation to the "dissociation of sensibility." See
"Discarnate Desire: T. S. Eliot and the Poetics of Dissociation" in
Works Cited for extended definition and commentary on these terms."