Janet's term covers a very broad range of personality experiences, not
just duality. Moreover, Eliot's early poetry is full of depictions of
the whole range. One is "aboulia," which he claimed as his own problem.
So it is not a simple and single "disorder." He does see all of it as
disturbing, but that is precisely what calls for unifying. He did not
seem to be able to imagine it as creative and full of possibility,
possibly because his own experience of it--for which he went to
Vittoz--was emotionally troubled.

Also, "projection of oneself" is not what it going on, nor are the
images simply aesthetic devices. It was a shift in ideas of
consciousness apparent in a great deal of Modernist literature.

>>> Chokh Raj 05/07/10 2:43 AM >>>
Here are two entirely different uses of the term "dissociation of

1. In his essay on The Metaphysical Poets, Eliot speaks admiringly of a
sensibilty, a unified sensibility where thoughts and feelings are
unified and do mutually reinforce each other (as in Donne and the
Jacobean dramatists) -- and he speaks of a subsequent "dissociation of
sensibilty" from which, he complains, we have not recovered.

Tennyson and Browning are poets, and they think; 
but they do not feel their thought as immediately as 
the odour of a rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; 
it modified his sensibility. When a poet's mind is perfectly 
equipped for its work, it is constantly amalgamating 
disparate experience; 
The sentimental age began early in the eighteenth century,
and continued. The poets revolted against the ratiocinative, 
the descriptive; they thought and felt by fits, unbalanced; 
they reflected. In one or two passages of Shelley's Triumph 
of Life, in the second Hyperion there are traces of a struggle 
toward unification of sensibility.

"Jules Laforgue, and Tristan Corbiere in many of his poems, 
are nearer to the 'school of Donne' than any modern English poet. 
But poets more classical than they have the same essential quality 
of transmuting ideas into sensations, of transforming an observation 
into a state of mind."

Here, poets who do not display a unified sensibility in their work are
not suffering from any medical condition of which Janet speaks.

2. Janet's term "dissociation of sensibility", on the other hand, has to
do with a personality disorder -- a medical condition of a split in
personality where one person experiences being more than one person.

Eliot, and many other modernist writers, who were familiar with this
condition utilized it as a literary device to project dissociated selves
of a literary
personae -- such as the projection of a part of oneself as another
person, as visualized by the poet in Prufrock's Pervigilium.


--- On Thu, 5/6/10, Nancy Gish wrote:

From: Nancy Gish 
Subject: Re: TS Eliot: The Metaphysical Poets
To: [log in to unmask]
Date: Thursday, May 6, 2010, 11:57 PM

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; 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). 

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."