It is always problematic to take any one (or sometimes more) statement of Eliot and use it to claim what Eliot thought. Like any intelligent person, he thought many different things over a lifetime, and some changed in patterns. His early claim that TWL could be understood by studying Weston and Fraser was one he most firmly altered later in saying he had sent a generation of critics on a wild goose chase. But it is very possible he meant it both times.

In fact, I think he really meant the line about a "grouse against life" in retrospect because he had a very harsh and disturbing--and disturbed--life at the time he composed TWL. His marriage was a disaster; he and Viv were always ill; it was just after the War when life was very difficult for everyone (and some was composed during the War and before); Verdenal had died in that War; and Eliot was having a "nervous breakdown," or, in then-clinical language, "neurasthenia" and by his own account "aboulia." So it could well be that at the time he found in the reframing by Pound and the notion of Weston's theory a sense of order and meaning that was compelling in the midst of his personal and the cultural chaos. But in looking back he could understand it in a different way as the personal chaos it was.

If there were any "absolute meaning" to TWL, one would think that many of the best minds of almost a century could have had at least some greater consensus about it. But it remains as enigmatic, as "immense, magnificent, terrible" as John Peale Bishop
found it in 1922. I have called it Eliot's Hamlet (by his terms, since Hamlet certainly does have emotional horrors sufficient to evoke his actions) in that it also has no "objective correlative." Or, on the other hand, like Hamlet, it does.

>>> "Rickard A. Parker" 09/17/11 12:28 PM >>> 
On Fri, 16 Sep 2011 03:59:59 -0700, Chokh Raj wrote: 

>Eliot once explained (to Philip Mairet, 31 October, 1956; the Collection of 
Violet Welton) that, even if a poem meant different things to different 
readers, it was still necessary to assert its 'absolute' meaning. (Peter 
Ackroyd, 'T.S. Eliot: A Life', p. 271) 

Taken from the book's blurb: 

A major reinterpretation, __T.S. Eliot's Personal Waste Land: Exorcism 
of the Demons__ takes Eliot at his word in his reiterated statements 
that The Waste Land was not a "criticism of the contemporary world" 
but a personal "grouse against life." 

Is that an assertion? 

Rick Parker