STUDENT’S STUDY GUIDE (Blook book with photo)
Not waste from war but waste from our civilization
Use of other myths and legends
-Fisher King; reference to From Ritual to Romance by Jessie Weston
Symbolism of the myths is sexual
Mythms used to provie a frame and unify
Myth as a parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity
Waste Land as organization of sibylline fragments
Remember that Eliot’s notes may be a spoof; mock-pedantry
Refers to his own poem “The Death of Saint Narcissus” in lines 25 – 29, burial
99: refers to Metamorphoses by Ovid – Philomela raped by King Tereus
209 – 214: events actually happened to Eliot; homosexual implications of the lines; also parody the Grail legend – Fisher King invites the quester to the Grail castle
urban civilization as “sterile love” Hayward
Most important aid in interpreting the poem
Tiresias’ vision with that of the poet himself
Ovid’s Metamorphoses tells the legend
Eliot: Tiresias is a spectator and not a character
Two sexes meet in Tiresias
Tiresias sees the substance of the poem – visionary or prophetic experience
Where does Eliot get the idea of Tiresias:
Frazer in his edition The Library by Apolodorus (1921)
Ezra Pound Cantos I and III in “Three Cantos (1917)” and The Dial (1921)
Oedipus Tyrannus by Sophocles – Thebes has been turned into a waste land, people and land infertile
John Dryden (1921) by Mark van Doren
Homer’s Odyssey ii: Tiresias consulted by Odysseus
Levenson: Geneology of Modernism
Waste Land most celebrated work of English modernism
Cannot ignore Eliot with this poem
Anticipation, caused him great pains, now prepared to release to that “decent middle-class mob”
A strain exists between the presumed identity of the poem’s speaker and the instability of the speaker’s world
Though we find it difficult to posit one speaker, it is scarcely easier to posit many, since we can say with no certainty where one concludes and another begins
174: The unifying notion here is the theme of the retrospect, which pervades the poem and which receives its consummate expression in Tiresias, who is obliged to return to old scenes and to witness old failures – in short, to endure the agony of retrospection helpless to change what it vividly sees.
F.R. Leavis provided an early and influential defence, reading the poem as the record of an “inclusive consciousness” – specifically, the consciousness of Tiresias.
184: The self, writes Eliot “passes from one point of view to another…”; no single point of view is sufficient for knowledge; only in multiple perspectives does the world become real
185: avoiding dependence on the individual and individual consciousness since a point of view was more fundamental than an individual
186: The vision was not one of individuals versus authority, but of an authority composed of individuals
190: In The Waste Land, no consistent identity persists
The poem is not…built upon the juxtaposition of fragments: it is built out of their interpenetration.
191: We find ourselves in a position to confront a problem, which, though distant, is not forgotten: the problem of the poem's unity, or what comes to the same thing, the problem of Tiresias. We may begin to see how Tiresias can serve the function of "uniting all the rest," without that obliging us to conclude that all speech and all consciousness are the speech and consciousness of Tiresias. For, if we rush too quickly to Tiresias as a presiding consciousness, along the lines established by Conrad or James, then we lose what the text clearly asks us to retain: the plurality of voices that sound in no easy harmony. What Eliot says of the Absolute can be said of Tiresias, who, also, "dissolves at a touch into ... constituents." But this does not leave us with a heap of broken fragments; we have seen how the fragments are constructed into new wholes. If Tiresias dissolves into constituents, let us remember the moments when those constituents resolve into Tiresias. Tiresias is, in this sense, an intermittent phenomenon in the poem, a subsequent phenomenon, emerging out of other characters, other aspects. The two sexes may, as Eliot suggests, meet in Tiresias, but they do not begin there.
Tiresias functions not as a consistent harmonizing consciousness but
192: as the struggled-for emergence of a more encompassing point of view.
Tiresias provides not permanent wisdom but instants of lucidity during which the poem's angle of vision is temporarily raised, the expanse of knowledge temporarily widened.
"These fragments I have shored against my ruins." In the space of that line the poem becomes conscious of itself. What had been a series of fragments of consciousness has become a consciousness of fragmentation: that may not be salvation, but it is a difference, for as Eliot writes, "To realize that a point of view is a point of view is already to have transcended it." And to recognize fragments as fragments, to name them as fragments, is already to have transcended them not to an harmonious or final unity but to a somewhat higher, somewhat more inclusive, somewhat more conscious point of view. Considered in this way, the poem does not achieve a resolved coherence, but neither does it remain in a chaos of fragmentation. Rather it displays a series of more or less stable patterns, regions of coherence, temporary principles of order the poem not as a stable unity but engaged in what Eliot calls the "painful task of unifying."
Within this perspective any unity will be provisional; we may always expect new poetic elements, demanding new assimilation. Thus the voice of Tiresias, having provided a moment of authoritative consciousness at the centre of the poem, falls silent, letting events speak for themselves. And the voice in the last several lines, having become conscious of fragmentation, suddenly gives way to more fragments. The polyphony of The Waste Land allows for intermittent harmonies, but these harmonies are not sustained; the consistencies are not permanent. Eliot's method must be carefully distinguished from the methods of his modernist predecessors. If we attempt to make The Waste Land conform to Imagism or Impressionism, we miss its strategy and miss its accomplishment. Eliot wrenched his poetry from the self-sufficiency of the single image and the single narrating consciousness. The principle of order in The Waste Land depends on a plurality of consciousnesses, an ever-increasing series of points of view, which struggle towards an emergent unity and then continue to struggle past that unity.
Dean in Laity and Gish, Gender, Desire, and Sexuality
According to Eliot, “impersonalist poet becomes a medium for others’ voices; in this way impersonality provides a means of access to to others instead of a means of hiding onewself.” Impersonality “allows us to grasp how Eliot’s conception of the poet as a passive medium for alien utterances tacitly feminizes the poet’s role. His feminizing poetic practice in this way suggests historically specific comparisons between the impersonalist poet and the figure of the medium as fortune-teller or clairvoyant. “Madame Sosostris represents “ideal poetic type,” not “demaning portrayl of women.”
While Madame Sosostris stands as the poem’s best known medium, she is not the only figure associated with clairvoyance. Both the Sibyl, whose words compose the poem’s epigraph, and Tiresias, who supposedly unites the poem, are second-sighted. Given that Eliot derived Madame Sosostris’s name from a fortune-teller called Sesostris in Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow (a novel published only in November 1921), biographer Lyndall Gordon is justified in claiming that the Sosostris scene must have been a significant late addition to the poem; her pack of cards "is a unifying device," Gordon suggests, "a late attempt to draw the fragments together with a parade of the poem’s characters." Madame Sosostris is thus in one respect a modern incarnation of Tiresias, himself "the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest," according to Eliot’s note. It is not only as mediums but also as ostensibly unifying consciousnesses that Tiresias and Sosostris represent surrogates for the impersonalist poet.
A rather different way of reading Eliot’s gestures of renunciation stems from recognizing in the modernist use of masks a technique of self-dispossession that entails a structural rather than a psychological form of masochism. By this I mean that impersonal masking—the speaking in a voice other than one’s own—involves the poet in a suspension or diminuition of self that tends to accompany the poetic medium itself, irrespective of his or her own preferences. While modernist impersonality is readily grasped as entailing the use of personae, we need not understand masking as solely or even primarily a technique of concealment. Persona originally referred to the mask worn by actors in Greek drama, but the word etymologically derives from the Latin phrase per sonare, meaning "to sound through." Rather than designating the visual form hiding the actor’s face, persona initially denoted the mask’s mouthpiece or a reed device inserted into it for amplifying the actor’s voice. Thus in the first place a persona was less a means of visual concealment than of vocal channeling; it entailed a form of speaking through rather than of speaking falsely. More than a mode of camouflage, impersonation may represent a way to inhabit other existences—a way to transform oneself by becoming possessed by others. This distinction furnishes us with a rationale for approaching modernist impersonality as a strategy not of dissimulation but of access to regions of voice beyond the self’s.
“In place of the modern rationalist understanding of individual personality, Elito subsitutes a premodern – or postmodern – notion of the self as disunified and unboundend, a self that functions as a conduit not only for voices of the dead but perhaps for others’ experiences too.”
Eliot’s ideas about occult transmission are dramatized in The Waste Land. While Madame Sosostris stands as the poem’s best known medium, she is not the only figure associated with clairvoyance. Both the Sibyl, whose words compose the poem’s epigraph, and Tiresias, who supposedly unites the poem, are second-sighted. Given that Eliot derived Madame Sosostris’s name from a fortune-teller called Sesostris in Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow (a novel published only in November 1921), biographer Lyndall Gordon is justified in claiming that the Sosostris scene must have been a significant late addition to the poem; her pack of cards "is a unifying device," Gordon suggests, "a late attempt to draw the fragments together with a parade of the poem’s characters." Madame Sosostris is thus in one respect a modern incarnation of Tiresias, himself "the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest," according to Eliot’s note. It is not only as mediums but also as ostensibly unifying consciousnesses that Tiresias and Sosostris represent surrogates for the impersonalist poet.
“The associatioin of physical blindness with spiritual vision connects the Sosostris passage to a more authentic clairvoyant, Tiresias.
“Barsani locates the origin of human sexuality in masochism, which makes the intensity of erotic pleasure a consequence of abandoning the self rather than of consolidating ith through donmination of others.”
“With Bersani’s account in mind, we could say that the "appeal of powerlessness" concerns aesthetic pleasure as much as it does erotic Jouissance, because the medium requires a self-shattering or impersonalization that is synonymous with poetic practice itself.”
“Eliot’s poetry makes clear that aesthetic impersonality threatens masculinity as we know it. Impersonality undermines masculinity because it enjoins the renunciation of self-possession and self-control.
Tiresias represents a particularly disturbing outcome of the self—transformation that poetic utterance demands.
“Tiresias’ importance does not
(60) lie in his role as the poem’s unifying device (per New Critical criteria), nor in his representing a type for other characters (such as Madame Sosostris). Instead, as a figure for gender –switching and self-transformation, Tiresias embodies the medium’s entailments.”
Reading the Waste Land: Modernism and the limits of interpretation
Possible to achieve a transcendent perspective from which things could be imagined more holistically, a sort of platform from which the artist could gain a unique perspective on his material
A seer confined within the closed system of a jar or bottle
Tiresias differs from other human beings in not being restricted to a single perspective at a single moment
The knower is limited toa single perspective, and although the perspective changes from moent to monetn, it is single in any given moment
Because all the perspectives in an endless series of perspective are within a system, the series is bound to generate a feeling of disorder
Tiresias is mythic creature with “experience in several realms of knowing and being.”
Tiresias enjoys “both a mythic and relational mode of knowing and being and, moreover, enjoy both at once.”
They can see from the inside and outside
By simultaneously or in alternation occupying both an ideal mytic platform and a real position within the house of history, the poet permits binary vision
Tiresias defines a binary perspective that serves as the p.o.v of the poem. He is a figure from the ideal order of myth; yet he is spying on the sordidly historical typist and clerk. By saying that Tiresias is spying on all the characters, Eliot is suggesting that the reader make an effort to perceive them in a n equivalent way, from both internal and external perspectives. From a position insde the modern world, the characters are distinct and separate, but from the Tiresias or mythic position, the characters “melt” into each other.
Tiresias perceives contemporary world in the poem from a perspective outside space and time altogether
He suggests to the reader that The Waste Land is a phenomenon to be viewed from the perspective of the Absolute, or at least from a more comprehensive perspective
We as readers are obliged to experience the poem in two ways at once: from a perspective in our own time where its lack of clear order is its distinguishing characteristic and from a synthetic or imagined perspective from which it has a metaphysical substance
56 When reading passage in Fire Sermon, “the reader who is ignoring Tiresias as narrator experiences only [the typist’s and clerk’s failure to merge].” They are a failed relation.
But when readers consent ot eh mediation of Tiresias as both narrator and voyeur, their points of reference are multiplied.
From Tiresias’ perspective, both subject and object exist as aspects of that mind. From his perpective, they are fused, “melted into each other.”
Question of what if Tiresias himself judges the transaction of typist and clerk as failed relation
he is moving between two lives, between contemporaneity and timeless perspective; he reminds us of his temporal versatility, his competence in perceving from several viewpoints
Through Tiresias, Eliot is trying to provide a means for the reader to transcend jarring and incompatible worlds, to move to ahigher viewpoint that both includes and transcends the contemporary world
140 – 143
Eliot, Joyce, and Company (tied with Levenson)
Tiresias is not the ultimate speaker as other maintain because Eliot’s note is not to be taken seriously
Eliot refers literally to the centrality of Tiresias because his introduction is in fact placed at the very middle of the poem
Tiresias note is playful
Furthermore, a discrete Tiresias would be an unlikely ultimate speaker and controlling consciousness for The Waste Land because, in the poem, the context is spiritual
Tiresias is a pagan, able to “see” what ordinary mortals seek, and who has “foresuffered all,” is a singularly in appropriate Holy Grail quester, who despairs of success, and who suffers as he does at the end of “The Fire Sermon” and in “What the Thunder Said.”
T.S. Eliot: Design of his poetry by Drew
But Tiresias is blind, so the ancient seer seems therefore to represent the eye of the mind, a universal contemplative consciousness, almost ‘the historical sense’ itself. As such, it is the inner reality which subsists through all experience that he sees, which units past and present, men and women, the ‘characters’ in the poem and the’I’ who is its mouthpiece
80 Typist and ‘the young man carbuncular: irony in that “it is not the fire of lust at all which is illustrated, but merely the complete indifference towards chastity.”
Introduction of Tiresias,…points to two levels of meaning, and the flavour of debased ritual is caught and emphasized by the entrance of the formality of rhyme to describe its cheap tawdriness
Parody of the fertility ritual
Automatic, mechanical nature of the sexual performance
Waste Land: study of his writing by several hands (GO BACK TO LOOK FOR QUATRAINS)
Modern waste land as a realm in which people do not even exist – loss of individuality, personae
Fire Sermon makes use of several of the symbols already developed – Sosostris mentions Mr. Eugenides, the one-eyed merchant; pure song of the children reminds the poet of the song of the nightingale heard in Game of Chess