Dear Eugene,

Since we have a Dante expert in the department, I have not taught that book here. But I have awesome young students who, last semester for example, who loved to undertake "The Song of Roland" Courtly love, Shakespeare's sonnets, "Henry V" and "Emma." And that was a first year class. When I have given senior seminars in Eliot, they have been amazing: two, in fact, have appeared in my notes: one found a recent article I had not seen but was essential, and one translated the French because mine is iffy and she was completely fluent. I find they live up to what is given them.

>>> "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]> 04/15/14 12:21 PM >>>
Concur. Always difficult to muster empirical data concerning the "greatness" of a phrase, a poem or poetry, which is why these discussions though often far-reaching are both valuable and tormenting, whether you are a Christian, Jew, Buddhist or pagan.

But I can report one incident I experienced: I was in a physical bookstore, saw someone perusing poetry and the Harcourt edition of the Collected Poems in hardcover (the one with the dark maroon/brown cover) was on the shelf. I went up and opened the book to 4Q and asked if I could read aloud the last stanza of Little Gidding. She agreed and listened. No religion, no biography, no emotion, no allusions, no context; but she did say simply when I finished that that was "very good." Nought else said or done. Almost an immanent appreciation of Eliot's facility with words and their meanings. That is why I (personally; subjectively) place him in the pantheon. The same, as Nancy notes, with Dante. When one is alone with Dante, reading his words, there is a sense of awe and appreciation. I do hope Nancy in your classrooms that there arevsome young students who will and want to undertake this journey di nostra vita.

Sent from my iPhone

> On Apr 15, 2014, at 9:24 AM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Ken,
> You're right of course that the issue is the word "contain." And also of course the allusions are to a religious text. But then Hieronymo and the corpse and Philomela would mean that the poem "contains" murder. It also "contains" abortion and madness--if the presence of characters or allusions is the meaning of "contain." So one can argue that all are there in that sense. But I doubt Eliot meant to celebrate or advocate any of them.
> But in the sense that "Ash Wednesday" or "4Q" are "religious," that is, that the poet's voice expresses religious emotion or feeling (using Eliot's criteria in paraphrase), I don't see how it can be claimed for TWL.
> And as Eliot noted about Dante, one need not believe what he did in order to understand and appreciate the poetry. There has been a longstanding thread here that Eliot is somehow to be read as one whose poetry is almost a kind of scripture to be idealized and celebrated as religious thought. But I do not think all or possibly most who love Dante think of even "The Divine Comedy" that way. And, as I have noted before, it does not make sense to insist on excluding biography when it does not flatter Eliot but make a great point of his religious views or feelings as admirable. They are just as much biographical.
> Nancy
> >>> Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]> 04/15/14 8:08 AM >>>
> Frustrating, isn't it, trying to say what it is that poems do
> essentially that makes them poetry. But you are a little too excitable
> here. All I did was take the terms already in the thread and ask how
> they work together in the statement, "Despite the allusions, my reading
> of that section contains no religion." I'd still like to know. If the
> allusions are there, AS ALLUSIONS, what does it mean that the section
> "contains no religion." I accept the significance of Peter's challenge
> question, but I was in line ahead of cuts....:-)
> Ken A
> On 4/14/2014 9:48 PM, Carrol Cox wrote:
> > There are _no_ parts of TWL with "religious weight." It seems to me you have no interest in Eliot or in Poetry in general but only in finding mirrors of your own thought and feeling.
> >
> > I have profound differences with both the pre-Christian and the Christian Eliot -- but it has never interfered with my reading of either. Some of the passages in 4Q which I most treasure are also the most permeated with Christian feeling. I really cannot understand those who look to poems to reflect their own conception of the world.
> >
> > No poem, read carefully, is either Christian or non-Christian; pagan nor non-pagan; Confucian or non-Confucian. Atheist or Theist or X.
> >
> > Poems manifest, imitate, image POSSIBILITIES, not "realities."
> >
> > Carrol
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ken Armstrong
> > Sent: Monday, April 14, 2014 5:41 PM
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: Re: The opening lines of 'The Waste Land' via-a-vis Easter
> >
> > On Sun, 13 Apr 2014 11:54:40 -0400, Chanan Mittal <[log in to unmask]>
> > wrote:
> >>> The immediate specific justification of a Christian context to the
> >>> opening passage is the passage which immediately follows, saturated
> >>> with Christian allusions to Ezekiel et al.
> >> Sorry, but despite the allusions my reading of that section doesn't
> >> contain religion.
> >>
> >> Regards,
> >> Rick Parker
> > Rickard,
> >
> > Maybe you could define "contain"? Tom Jefferson read the Bible without religion by the exigency of excising the religious terminology.
> > Effective for him perhaps, but no one of any persuasion could reasonably call the end result "The Bible." I assume you're not editing out the parts of TWL that have religious weight and which its author, presumably, put in for that reason. Or is this related to that anticipated retirement project you mentioned earlier?
> >
> > For my part, I've decided to write a bar song -- or maybe it's just a retirement song -- about the TWL to the tune of The Bowery. So far, I've got the refrain down pat.
> >
> > Thanks,
> > Ken A
> >
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> >
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