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I suggest you read my article and also a century or more of studies of "hysteria"--as I have--and its parallels with "neurasthenia," Eliot's diagnosis--as well as Vittozi's book and the meaning of the term in the 19th and early 20th century before you make announcements of what you assume as fact. You clearly do not know the relevant definitions and facts.
 
Nancy

>>> Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]>04/05/11 9:48 AM >>>

 


 

Dear Listers,
 
Nowhere do Eliot's biographies or other sources give even a hint of any mental abnormality in the poet which may be equated with "hysteria" -- except the fact that at the peak of a dark phase of personal depression he did suffer from a temporary nervous breakdown for which he got his treatment at Laussane. The depression might have been termed as "a form of hysteria", as has so often been iterated at this list, but it is nowhere evident in the poet's life before or after this brief incident.
 
Yes, Eliot must have been aware of the psychological aspects of "hysteria" and, like other writers, he does make a creative use of its symptoms, making them visible in his characters like Prufrock in the fragment "Prufrock's Pervigilium":
 
And when the evening woke and stared into its blindness
I heard the children whimpering in corners
Where women took the air, standing in entries
Women, spilling out of corsets, stood in entries
Where the draughty gas-jet flickered
And the oil cloth curled up stairs.

And when the evening fought itself awake
And the world was peeling oranges and reading evening papers
And boys were smoking cigarettes, drifted helplessly together
In the fan of light spread out by the drugstore on the corner
Then I have gone at night through narrow streets,
Where evil houses leaning all together
Pointed a ribald finger at me in the darkness
Whispering all together, chuckled at me in the darkness.
And when the midnight turned and writhed in fever
I tossed the blankets back, to watch the darkness.

Crawling among the papers on the table
It leapt to the floor and made a sudden hiss
And darted stealthily across the wall
Flattened itself upon the ceiling overhead
Stretched out its tentacles, prepared to leap.

And when the dawn at length had realized itself
And turned with a sense of nausea, to see what it had stirred:
The eyes and feet of men -
I fumbled to the window to experience the world
And to hear my Madness singing, sitting on the kerbstone
[A blind old drunken man who sings and mutters,
With broken boot heels stained in many gutters]
And as he sang the world began to fall apart . . .
 
 
However, any attempt to ascribe these symptoms in the poet's characters to the poet is invalid, if not downright malicious.
 
CR


--- On Fri, 4/1/11, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
PTSD is our word for what was--just before and in the early part of WWI--called (clinically) "hysteria."  Eliot had read the major theorists of hysteria and used much of the terminology of Janet.  Inventions of the March Hare is full of overt images of experience that fit the diagnostic criteria.  Whether Eliot himself ever suffered specifically from that (his diagnosis was "neurasthenia" in 1921, a condition of mental exhaustion and symptoms not very distinguishable from hysteria) is open to interpretation, but his breakdown is just a fact, and Vittoz's language is in the line of Janet.  So yes, my article in the book with Cassandra, "T.S.Eliot and the Aesthetics of Dissociation," is about his representation of what we would call PTSD.  I do not, in the article, speculate on him but on his images and language. However, he unquestionably knew the language: he had read Janet; he studied in the department where William James taught, and James had brought Janet to Harvard, and he used their terminology in many of his writings.
Nancy
 
>>> Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> 04/01/11 3:52 PM >>>
Nancy: The date of this really does matter. He did not say things like this
when he was young. He seems to have been--in some contexts--rather humorous
and lighthearted and hopeful about human love. War and a mistaken marriage
(for both) seemed to change him very deeply. Nancy

======

Has anyone ever suggested that Eliot suffered from PTSD. In _Achilles in
Vietnam_ (discussed on this list some years ago) the author identifies a
particular combination of events that can lead to the breakdown of
personality.

The first is betrayal by one's leaders (which can be glossed as "those whom
one respects highly). The second is the death in combat of a close friend.
"Conversion" to Christianity is certainly not uncommon, but it does not
always or even usually lead to the sort of twisted, narrow (constipated one
might say) kind of Christianity that seems to have afflicted Eliot. Consider
his silly remark that Pound's hell was for other people. So what! Pound was
writing a political poem, dealing with an immense range of possibilities,
not a confessional. With his superb literary education Eliot certainly was a
ware that a good deal of poetry is anything but confessional. (And, of
course, the so-called "Hell Cantos" were only a very small part of Pound's
quite capacious hell! And his theme of doing the right thing for the wrong
reason is a powerful theme -- but not if one attempts to stuff all of human
life into it!

His most interesting self-observation is presented as a attribute of another
character: "spirit unappeased & peregrine." Explicitly that refers to the
"familiar compound ghost" (quoted from memory), but surely it is also his
own self-image.

Carrol