Tuesday, June 8, 2010

RE: on T. S. Eliot, a Heideggerian Poet?.

Malcolm P. MacPherson left the following comment in regard to my  post "T. S. Eliot, a Heideggerian Poet?":

Eliot may have been making references to "wastes" of war, and then again, he may not. We have to take the poem, I think, as it can be interpreted "on its face." It says what it says, nothing more, nothing less.

An astute reader will orient themselves in the period of its creation, but won't be a slave to such period. After all, some poems, though from times distant past, still ring true today. In the poems of the masters, there are, of course, literal references which often date poems to linear time and place, but there are also spiritual and non linear time and place references that are impervious to the historical milieu in which the poem was created.

Malcolm P. MacPherson


            If MacPherson had said that Eliot may not have meant what I am suggesting, I wouldn't argue, but he doesn't say that.  He says something that strikes me as slightly barbaric when in the world of poetry interpretation.  But I probably don't understand him.  His saying that The Waste Land must be interpreted "on its face" and that "it says what it says, nothing more, nothing less" is quite a bit less than an argument.  When Eliot wrote, "ambiguity" was probably understood quite a bit better than it is today -- at least that is my impression.  Yes, all statements involve some ambiguity.  And Poems, especially poems written by complex people like Pound and Eliot involve quite a lot of it. 
            I am curious to know why MacPherson what it is MacPerson thinks the poem means "on its face . . . nothing more, nothing less."  I shall hone my debating skills while I await MacPherson's response, for if ever there was a poem that could not be interpreted on its face and did not "say what it says, nothing more, nothing less," it is Eliot's The Waste Land. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


No need to take offense, or to prepare your "debating" skills.

I will put it in terms you can understand. My post speaks to "new criticism," a movement in American literary criticism from the 1930s to the 1960s, which concentrates on the verbal complexities and ambiguities of poems considered as self‐sufficient objects without attention to their origins or effects.

Eliot held this viewpoint, but surely someone as "learned" and "civilized" as you would already know this.