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T S Eliot Video Response

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years ago

It is clear that the dramatic readings of The Waste Land in this video were a direct interpretation of the text.  Eliot's own oral recitation of the text was infrequent, while these dramatic readings dominated the video.  The editing of the film coupled these readings with portions of interviews of scholars to validate the opinions expressed, advancing one interpretation of the text.  With my limited study of the poem, I assumed this as a "correct" interpretation, and weighed my own attempts at interpretation against it.  My question, after thinking about this, has to do with Tradition and the Individual Talent and how Eliot might respond to these dramatic interpretations.  I think the first mistake of these dramatic readings is that they emphasize the drama of the poem, and forget Eliot's value of "the conception of poetry as a living whole of all the poetry that has ever been written" (1426).   While it does make the poem easier to understand in some sense, it is probably fair to assume that Eliot did not wish to emphasize drama over the poem's place in poetry as an organism, nor did he wish the poem to be easy to understand, even on a dramatic level.


Listening to Eliot read, however occasionally, I heard a voice conveying no clear emotion, although not altogether without emotion.  Eliot stresses the complexity of emotion as "significant emotion" is properly expressed in poetry.  I think that the assignment of roles in an oral reading of The Waste Land is a step toward oversimplification of complex and significant emotion, particularly when gender is assigned with these roles as it was in the video.  One might say that the fact that Eliot's own voice was seldom heard makes use of his theory that "Honest criticism and sensitive appreciation are directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry" (1426).  As I read it, however, the purpose of that theory seems to be a separation of the author's personal emotions from the poem, and if dramatic readings assign the same types of "simple, crude, or flat" personal emotions to the poem, they are not truly in the spirit of "honest criticism and sensative appreciation."  In short, I felt troubled by the apparent simplification of meaning and emotion in The Waste Land by the oral readings in the video, because it struck me as inconsistent Eliot's poetic values. 



(Louie Marven)

I think this is such an interesting response. I had been thinking about Eliot's own poetic philosophy and "Tradition and the Individual Talent" as well, but not in the sense of how he would have responded to this kind of reading of his poem. It's an interesting idea that Eliot's reading of the poem is emotionless intentionally, compared to comments from others that he was just a boring reader. It makes sense that he might have felt like he had to read in that way to be consistent in his ideas of the role of the poet, poem, and reader. Was it Eliot who coined the terms "intentional fallacy" and "affective fallacy" in other sections of "Tradition and the Individual Talent"? I think if it wasn't him, it was another High Modernist, and according to these ideas we also shouldn't be thinking about what the author's intention was in the poem (even though Eliot may have used those footnotes to help the reader determine his intention) nor should we think about how we are affected by it (I think that's right).


Also, let's not forget that Eliot had a fake English accent, which is lame.


-While I was over in England, we actually read "Tradition and the Individual Talent" for my Essays in Theory class and spend considerbale time discussing Eliot's views of emotion in poetry.  First, we have to remember that Modernism was a rebellion from the old way, namely Romanticism, which is dominated by emotions.  I think Eliot's dry reading of his poem is evidence of Eliot's conviction to remain seperate.  In "Tradition and the Individual Talent", I believe Eliot uses the analogy of a shred of platinum that serves as a catalyst for a chemical reaction.  The platinum is not changed in any way, but still the reaction cannot take place without it.  The poet, Eliot argues, must be like the platinum.  Their purpose is to collect from the world around them (I can imagine Eliot wandering London, seeing two women argue in a bar, etc.) and then transfering it to paper.  Whether it should be read in such a dramatic way is another story.


Louie, I think it was Wimsatt and Beardsley who coined "intentional fallacy" and "affective fallacy" around the 1940s, but Eliot had discussed "objective criticism" previously. 


--Daniel Wheatley

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