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Dear Tom,

I agree with Jarrell, mainly. I was fortunate to study Eliot first with
X. J. Kennedy, who read us TWL in jazz rhythms and made us memorize
poems. So for me it was never an intellectual's crossword puzzle. I have
my seniors take voices, and we all read it together: they love it and
discover it is alive. Only then do we move on to ways of reading. But
the other thing about Jarrell is that the poem really is so far
"undersea" and full of anguish. I have often thought of it as Eliot's
Hamlet--by his own criteria, something without his notion of the
"objective correlative" but powerful and "daemonic." That is why it
still matters. and its "meaning" cannot be fixed or absolute, even--or
especially--by him.

Unfortunately, I have a sad idea that the Yale lecture is more typical.

On the other hand, all that scholarship becomes a series of new and
fascinating layers once one loves the poems. Eliot himself said
something like that--that one must read a difficult poem first and just
hear and love it; only then does one go back and study. It's in an
introduction to David Jones's In Parenthesis, but I am not sure if that
is quoted there or the place he says that precise thing. I have done
that with IP: It took three readings for me to see it well: once just
right through, once taking painstaking notes on 187 pages, and a third
time to link those. It is very demanding and so well worth it. It's
brilliant.
Cheers,
Nancy

>>> Tom Colket 07/22/13 1:41 PM >>>

Nancy, I know that there are many ways to teach Eliot in the classroom,
and beginners have to start somewhere. Nonetheless, when I heard the
rather obvious and passionless points made in the Yale lectures I was
reminded of a passage about Eliot that I've always loved, from Randall
Jarrell’s 1962 lecture, "Fifty Years of American Poetry":

================================
Won't the future say to us in helpless astonishment: "But did you
actually believe that all those things about objective correlatives,
classicism, the tradition, applied to his poetry? Surely you must have
seen that he was one of the most subjective and daemonic poets who ever
lived, the victim and helpless beneficiary of his own inexorable
compulsions, obsessions? From a psychoanalytical point of view he was
far and away the most interesting poet of your century. But for you, of
course, after the first few years, his poetry existed undersea,
thousands of feet below the deluge of exegesis, explication, source
listing, scholarship and criticism that overwhelmed it. And yet how
bravely and personally it survived, its eyes neither coral nor
mother-of-pearl but plainly human, full of human anguish!"
================================

-- Tom -- 


Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2013 11:24:40 -0400
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Yale "open course" lectures on Eliot
To: [log in to unmask]

Dear Tom,

I think there are two likely reasons for what you note: first, it seems
to be an introductory class, so it probably assumes students with little
knowledge of the basics; second, Hammer is not a specialist on
Eliot--his books are on Hart Crane and other American poets. So he is
not an Eliot expert with a graduate seminar. It is no doubt a useful
film if one does not know Eliot.
Nancy


>>> Tom Colket 07/22/13 10:55 AM >>>

While doing some on-line searching, I came across some lectures on Eliot
as part of the Yale University "Open Courses," where major colleges and
universities make video recordings of actual class lectures available
free of charge on the web. I was initially excited to find that there
were three 50-minute Eliot lectures, consisting of an introduction, a
lecture on Prufrock, and the final one on The Waste Land. Unfortunately,
after hearing the lectures, I cannot recommend them to the List. Anyone
with even a small amount of Eliot knowledge will, in my opinion, find
nothing new or insightful in what this Yale professor has to say for
almost three hours.

I'm curious as to how this situation could have come about. How is it
possible that a professor at a major university could have so little to
offer his students about Eliot? 

http://oyc.yale.edu/english/engl-310/lecture-10
http://oyc.yale.edu/english/engl-310/lecture-11
http://oyc.yale.edu/english/engl-310/lecture-12

-- Tom --