As I've known Marjorie for many years, I'm sure you're right that you were in different planes--but not at all, if I understand you--cultural or intellectual. She is absolutely brilliant and has a phenomenal memory and insight, but I don't think what you are describing is what she is most focused on. Having spent half my scholarly life on Eliot and the other on Scottish lit, I think I have a sense of how that cultural and geographic "consciousness" is a fascination. I'm working on David Jones now, and I feel the need to spend time in Wales. The few early critics who discuss this, who knew him, emphasize that he was not really addressing modern Wales, but there is a history that he shares and that moves him. I love Youtube because of what it can do for images and sound, so I found various versions of Sospan Fach to get a sense of what that meant in In Parenthesis. I feel too much commentary just takes an Anglo-American theory and lays it like a template over places like Scotland and Wales and Cumbria and Yorkshire--and it doesn't work. So I would love it if you could be specific about Wessex for you.
Nancy>>> David Boyd <[log in to unmask]>08/05/13 8:42 PM >>>
I won't ever forget discussing similar with Marjorie Perloff, in the context of The Waste Land -v - Four Quartets, and trying to make the observation that Eliot, in East Coker, had masterfully distilled just about everything that Hardy had ever (at great length) written about in his novels. But it was apparent that we were on very different cultural planes, so my observations weren't too meaningful.
Hope this makes a little sense.
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I think your point, if I understand it, is important and not really controversial--or it should not be. Living in and absorbing a place and time make it different from distant observation. I don't know Wessex--except in Hardy, but I am often discouraged by commentary on Scottish literature that simply assumes a generalized "British" consciousness, not even realizing that the law and the education systems and the Church of Scotland are not the same (Scotland's is Presbyterian, not Anglican). Eliot went several times to the Highlands and visited with Tom Gunn and Edwin Muir. There are letters in the National Library of Scotland. His one poem specifically on Scotland (as differing from allusions, say, to Queen Mary or Charles I), "Rannoch, by Glencoe," also genuinely captures both Glencoe and the sense of otherness and estrangement he seems to have found in it.
On the other hand, what he said about the Scots language in 1919 was incorrect. He may have been more connected with the English-speaking Gunn and Muir.
What is the "spirit of Wessex" in your sense?
>>> David Boyd <[log in to unmask]
>08/05/13 7:19 PM >>>
My personal take for what it might be worth on East Coker: once a village, it's now virtually a suburb of nearby Yeovil - there are any amount of far more typical and more rural Wessex villages around and as such it is unremarkable. However, Eliot's treatment of the specific place can't be ignored, and, like the Adelstrop railway station (or Carnforth rail station clock) it cries out for preservation for the sake of our national heritage. The plans to subsume it all further into Yeovil are therefore crass.
Eliot embodied East Coker masterfully and concisely with the very spirit of Wessex, so at length depicted by Thos Hardy, and in a sense the place is symbolic of that greater, rural, Wessex as opposed to much else on its own, save that we wouldn't be wanting to develop Dove Cottage into holiday lets and a great big parking lot, would we??
Finally, and controversially, I'd observe that Hardy understood Wessex and so did Eliot but it's (culturally) a closed book to many American commentators, perhaps because they lack the necessary collective consciousness of a native.
-controversial stuff, maybe, but I do tend to believe in it.
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