The tone of The Owl is an interesting contrast to the modern, radical tone that categorizes the majority of the magazines found in the MJP. The Owl, edited by Robert Graves, only had three issues, two published in 1919 and one published as The Winter Owl in 1923. The Owl had difficulty taking off for multiple reasons, but one of the main reasons was because of its refusal to take a modernist approach which gave it an anarchronistic label.
Both the cover and the foreword of the first magazine only help to give it a conservative feel. The cover and many of the illustrations within the magazine remind one of illustrations that would function well in a children's book. They are generally bright and innocent illustrations and contrast the sharp, new art often seen in more modern magazines. The foreword (http://library.brown.edu/cds/repository2/repoman.php?verb=render&id=1174...) establishes that the magazine has no intent of making a political stance or attaching to any movement. Indeed, the magazine issues are mostly filled with poetry that avoids the hot topics of war and modernism and clings to topics of love and nature. Unfortunately, Graves concept was too escapist and conservative and eclectic to last long in the midst of the modern magazine movement.
I'm aware that it doesn't take much to clearly identify The Waste Land as a modernist piece of literature, but just the same, having read it once or twice before this time I was still struck by how well he uses "a heap of broken images" to express the emotions of the modernist era. I was specifically intrigued by the 2nd section in The Burial of the Dead. It is not at all surprising that this poem is used so often as a prime example of modern thought. Eliot's lines "What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow/ Out of this stony rubbish?" define well the struggle of modernists to find meaning in a world of chaos.
In the rest of that section Eliot uses images ("dead tree," "dry stone") to further depict humanity's grappling for meaning in the modern, war-torn world. And then he offers a place of security from the dry waste land beneath "the shadow of this red rock". For a moment it feels like there is a place of peace in the chaos. However, the comfort found there is fleeting as the reader finds what awaits them beneath the rock is only more "fear" and confusion. The confusion coming from Eliot's use of a different language for four lines that leaves the reader once again disorientated and grasping for meaning.
Between various classes and research projects, I’ve probably read The Waste Land close to fifty times. That said, there is still so much in this poem that I do not understand. T.S. Eliot weaves a myriad of historical and literary references, pop culture shout-outs, and foreign languages into this masterful poem, and I find much of it to be incredibly cryptic. One of my favorite aspects of this poem, though, is the fact that I find something new virtually every time I read it. For example, in the very fist stanza, there is an interesting use of the seasons. Three of the four seasons are mentioned, but not in logical order or with any of the descriptions that one would typically associate with them. Spring (“April is the cruelest month” ) is mentioned first, but instead of being followed by summer, Eliot jumps to winter (“Winter kept us warm” ). After these two abnormally described seasons, Eliot jumps ahead to summer (“Summer surprised us” ), and back to winter at the end of the stanza (“I read much of the night, and go south in the winter” ). By starting off the poem in this manner, Eliot immediately calls attention to the disordered, disjointed nature of the world, a common trope of modernism. In The Waste Land, even the seasons—a phenomenon governed by the laws of nature—are off-kilter. Considering the importance of the seasons in human culture since the beginnings of civilization, the fact that Eliot begins his poem in this way really speaks to the state of the world in the early 20th Century. Like his fellow modernists, Eliot saw the world as a confusing, fragmented place.
As Voss and Werner worded in their essay, “Archives appear in the most unlikely places” (vii). The Waste Land certainly defies the physical attributes of what we consider an archive, but archives are vastly evolving to encompass even those “conceptual space[s] whose boundaries are forever changing” (i). Eliot incorporates fragments of significant historical events and mythological and literary allusions into his poem, essentially constructing a unique archive that utilizes elements of the past to sustain the mentality of the present and allow modernity to take root in literary history.
One of the things which struck me about both final readings for class involves these authors' wishing to legitimize the literary field in scientific ways. In class discussion was raised the idea of a certain insecurity which tugs at the consciousness of the literary-minded, a need to situate artistic merit, especially of the non-pop-culture sort, amid the more imposing technological goliaths, which tend to garner appeal from monied sources.
This comes into focus particularly in the academic arena, in which English departments the nation over come under fire for usefulness (or alleged lack thereof) in the modern world, especially an American one, driven by markets and demand. Perhaps we can benefit from considering what is perhaps a little too sparse these days, at least from a mass media perspective: careful scientific method at work in all fields. Then the tension between the fine arts and fine sciences can reunite as they creatively tended to begin in inception, and the arts will not have to justify themselves into existence quite so anxiously.
If one remembers that the great money-making filmss of Hollywood begin overwhelmingly in the creative minds of literary talents, the truth remains that while the talent may not garner its due attention in a timely manner (or at least from the perspective of the author/artist), its influence is indisputable.
If students of magazine research systematically and thoughtfully approach their subject matter, great psychological and sociological finds are thus sure to emerge from these seemingly maddeningly inconsistent fields of data--even if the results become only unhazy from research progeny; it requires due faith.
My reaction to Woolf and Humm was pretty similar to Emma's. I think Three Guineas positions itself in a particular way against the methods and content of previous archivization. Humm says that Woolf is troubling the symbolic function of war images in Three Guineas but I am interested in expanding that beyond the relationship between Woolf and patriarchal images to the larger and more abstract field of modernism and the archive. Derrida's feels that the archive is controlled by archons who exercise and preserve a given social order by fixing and adjudicating knowledge through the archive. I think it's possible to see Woolf as working against this type of knowledge. She is critical of the way images mean according to their symbolic cultural role and that cultural role could be seen as the manifestation of the patriarchal archons that Derrida describes. Like I said, I think Three Guineas is one example among many different modernist texts seeking to achieve the same thing. It seems to me, and Humm seems to suggest this as well, that modernist authors and artists were hyperaware of the tradition in which they created and often took an ironic or mistrustful view of it. We can list all the major modernist texts if we like.
What Three Guineas seems to acheive more than the other texts we've read so far this semester is a more radical criticism of the identity politics as the archive outlines them. I don't want to use this word archive too much, but it's the only way I have to express this idea. Gender roles and significations were fixed in this or that way by dominant patriarchal ideology and so Woolf's project is to combat this by repurposing and reappropriating elements from that archive (which is interesting because that's how Lyotard defines modernism as well, a rearrangment of the same elements in different ways). This isn't at all to say that she is creating her own archive that exists independently of the larger one. Instead, her work is a reaction to and part of the larger body of knowledge but by resisting the previous archive and expressing a different viewpoint. Thus there is no metaarchive, but individuals can alter it. I wrote a paper that made this argument about African American poet Melvin B. Tolson last semester. I think this is a larger dynamic within modernism. The ideological paroxysms that Eliot and Sassoon or whoever describe are symptomatic of a disatisfaction with tradition or the way that knowledge is fixed and ordered.
As I have been reading Tarr, I have been struck by the vivid nature of the images. An example of this is the description of the climate that Tarr experiences on his way to see Bertha in Part I, Chapter 4. Lewis writes,
The new summer heat drew heavy pleasant ghosts out of the ground, like plants disappeared in winter; spectres of energy, bulking the hot air with vigorous dreams. Or they had entered into the trees, in imitation of pagan gods, and nodded their delicate distant intoxication to him. Visions were released in the sap, with scented explosion, the Spring one bustling and tremendous reminiscence. (37).
This description of the heat represents, at least to my mind, the world around Tarr and his willingness to embrace that world. Despite Tarr's desire to condemn the mundanity of the bourgeois world around him, it seems that he is at least somewhat appreciative of that world. The "heavy pleasant ghosts" seems reminiscent of the descriptions of Bertha. Bertha is described as having a "consciously pathetic ghost of a smile, a clumsy sweetness, the energetic sentimental claim of a rather rough but frank self" (41). These ghosts are not condemned as being horrible or even particularly ghastly; indeed, they are described as "spectres of energy" which suggests, not only that the ghosts are made of energy, but full of energy - an energy that produces "vigorous dreams." This seems to suggest to me a hidden appreciation on the part of Tarr for the stable productiveness of the bourgeois bohemians and Bertha.