Transatlantic Focus and Post-War Literature (4/8)

Diversity in the 'Notes on Contributers' section of Dial encourages a reader to appreciate the many nationalities, birthplaces, and locations of those who took part in the publication. That Dial editors gathered such a collection of authors/artists would imply a transatlantic focus or, at least, an interest in work that is not limited by national borders. Through every article or short story, it was possible to see the different impacts of WWI (in the subtext or ideological scaffolding); I also experienced a reading of unique, existential voices that, in spite of being disjointed by individuality, held together and wondered if The Waste Land embodies the post-war literary culture just as much as the generation that produced it.

"The Victim" by May Sinclair explores the psychological landscape of guilt, referring to shell-shock and war-time routines. Stephen is haunted by the ghost of his employer who he killed over a misunderstanding, but is forgiven by Mr. Greathead (the murdered man). Mr. Greathead tells him hate was his worst crime; he forgives him for the horrible, violent acts that resulted from it. Stephen was wrapped up in the idea that everyone feared him and for this reason, he feels justified in his behavior for much of the story. The moral complexity of The Victim is deeply troubling as it addresses the results of violence on the mind and social interaction.

Similarly, in "Many Marriages," Sherwood Anderson creates a character entangled in societal expectation. He conflates business and busyness at the beginning of his arc, avoiding depth of thought or feeling. He pursues sexual relationships as a form of fulfillment, even distraction. An employee at his office enters into an affair with him, leading to a series of contemplations about how tradition cannot satisfy. This new freedom of expression separates him from the spaces he used to inhabit.

While these two are examples of post-war ideology, "Reflections on the Greek Genius" leads back into transatlanticism. Faure addresses the introduction of Egyptian, Hindu, and Chinese art, for which society was prepared by "music, war, and universal anguish." This new interest in artwork from other cultures and other cultural histories outside Europe's Grecoroman roots is reflected in The Waste Land.

Questions about transatlanticism:

1. Could the majority of the literary allusions in The Waste Land have been recognized on a transatlantic, European scale? Consider the ways in which the answer illuminates Eliot's intentions as an author --and whether these goals extend to how his audience was meant to react.

2. How do multicultural references direct the reader's attention outward? This is another interesting angle of approaching the various sources: how they are employed to further transnationalism instead of how they demonstrate it.

3. How does the "Books for Dial Readers" section read, besides being an advertisement?

4. Why was it so important to Pound (who played a major role in modernism's defining body of literature) for The Waste Land to be published in periodicals like Dial and The Criterion?


(1. Maybe Eliot wanted readers to recall a shared classical education while reading, something to be transformed if not restructured. Many of the people fighting on opposite sides had experienced the same literature to a degree.)

2.,3.,4. All directing toward transatlantic discourse and exchange.)

The Dial and American Poetry (4/8)

I found it interesting to place the "Paris Letter" by Ezra Pound and "Two American Poets" within the same issue. There is certainly a sense of the commercial when people refer to America. Everyone knows about iconic American movies and the next American blockbuster because there is such a great (as in large) investment in advertising and marketing. 

Ezra Pound writes, "Market as applied to the arts has NOT worked. Nobody with any knowledge of poetry or the fine arts has ever, I think, claimed that it did work" (The Dial 551). Even though marketing is found on each end of the magazine for various sources and within via book reviews, marketing in the arts ultimately fails. He talks about the need for the literate consumer and that the production of content relies upon the tastes of the consumer. After all, this magazine/journal is supported by its subscribers. Subscribers are in complete control of whether they continue to give money and support the production. Funnily enough, Pound added his own twist to The Little Review's subtitle claiming to be above the tastes and whims of the general populace, but one does have to eat and pay production costs. Malcom Cowley almost seems to contribute to Pound's piece by stating, "America remains a thing seen and not a manner of seeing. America is... a subject" (567). American writing is developed by people from all backgrounds and by people moving abroad; it is commercial, in a sense. American poetry is made to be seen by others.

"Two American Poets" was a great section to make me think. Malcom Cowley is viewing American poetry and trying to decide on what is distinct about it. He says, "There is no poetry so deeply rooted in our soil and tradition that a foreigner can never fully understand it, and I doubt whether such a poetry is to be desired" (The Dial 567). If I myself think back on older American works, many are written by British subjects and those moving back and forth across the ocean. By nature and circumstances, the work of these authors has an element of various cultures melding into one. Even now, many American works draw upon the ideas and traditions of various cultures.

Questions for Class: 

  • Does "Two American Poets" point toward a transatlantic nature in American poetry? 
  • How do magazines and  journals form a transatlantic style in their configuration and inclusion of various pieces and authors?

Week 5: Magazines and Wasteland’s Transatlantic Influence (Blog 3 of 8)

I see some connections between T.S. Eliot’s poem and the overall tone of the magazines chosen for this week. One major example from The Dial 1922, is “The Player Queen,” which has themes of royalty getting murdered (Archduke Ferdinand), mobs of people being ignorant and wanting blood (soldiers), wife and husband separation (Septimus and Decima), dark humor and drunkenness, and attempted suicide to avoid a living death. (Decima) The play takes place in an unknown country, which could be anywhere. It has influences of Christianity and the Bible (Jesus and thou shall not suffer a witch to live), but does not outright say England. By this time Christianity is the dominant form of religion all over Europe by this time. The writer is William Yeates, an Irishman playing satire with European popular sentiment and conventions of the time.  

There is also a continual mention of the Unicorn, a mythological creature that is mentioned in legend all over the world for purity and serenity. However, there is also man’s desire to constantly hunt and kill the animal, symbolically also killing the peace that man wishes to attain. This is another universal jab at the war and senseless killing that took place which could have been avoided.  

Another important character is the Queen, who believes she is a sinner and must die a martyr. The notion of sacrifice for one’s country during WWI was extraordinarily strong, which also lead to more casualties as men were forced to charge into heavy gunfire and if they deserted they were executed. (France) The idea of honor is also challenged because the war was so senseless and being lead by senseless people. (compare mob to leaders of countries) 

Week 2: (1 of 8) Regarding Modernism and Latham’s Analysis

I apologize, I forgot to post this in the second week.

Mr. Latham’s questions only bring more questions to mind about the definition of modernism. When I was growing up, there were magazines that would tout ads or articles about “the modern man” or the “the modern woman.” The word is bandied about even today in the news and on tv. It seems modern must go through a growing process with every generation, because they want to use the ‘now’ that that comes with word association. One of the writers asserted that modernism was dead, like some artists now claim, ‘art is dead.’ Is it just me, or does anyone think it’s kind of funny to think of a word as something alive? Why do humans associate words or thoughts with life or death, like a breathing creature? 

Also shaping the word modernism is the history that came before, which some modernists wish to reject. Is it right to cut off the past and all that we have learned just to create something new? Are we losing something by only taking in the product of the present? Humanity wants to move forward, always forward. But I think modernism is in many different directions, not just one. 

On The Waste Land

This poem made a lot of references to Greek mythology as well as some Hindu mythology, which I found somewhat confusing because I do not know much about the latter. I liked the poem but I can't say I understand it yet. I do think there is a part of this poem that speaks to the experience of women in the Western world and elsewhere, and how they have been treated in their relationships and encounters with men. Eliot references the story of Philomela. According to some versions of the story, she was assaulted by the king, who was her sister's husband, and had her voice taken away via the removal of her tongue. There is more to the story but that portion about Philomela being attacked by someone in her immediate circle seemed to parallel with the interaction found in section III of the poem. Even though it is not particularly violent, the woman still does not want to have relations with her husband or whoever this man is to her. He is indifferent to how she feels and "makes a welcome of indifference." This interaction is followed "(and I Tiresias have foresuffered all enacted on this same divan or bed...)" So, the woman, like Philomela, has been assaulted by someone that would be considered close to her. Tiresias seems to be empathizing with this more mdoern woman, saying he's suffered similar things in the same place. I feel that this could be Eliot's illumination of the experience many women have with men when it comes to relations like these. Tiresias, according to the Greek myth, turned into a woman for some years. It would make sense that he would understand the plight of the woman. Perhaps Eliot was trying to make a statement about the male treatment of women over the course of history, and how the treatment of some women in ancient Greek myths is not terribly different from the treatment of women in his lifetime. I think this speaks to the temporality of modernism, and how some things do not really change over such lengths of time. Instead, they are just spoken about and lived through in a more acceptable way for the time period, like a woman who knows what is expected of her by this man and merely submits to that reality. People don't seem to mind that as much as an ancient tale about an assault. I'd like to think Eliot could have been pointing to an idea like that.  

Spatiality, Market Modernism, Collaboration and The Waste Land

I’m going to be thinking along several strands in relation to The Waste Land, which intersect aesthetic, social, and material aspects of the poem’s production and emergence. I’m somewhat summarizing these strands under three umbrellas of spatiality, modernism and the market, and collaboration which all tend to intersect into each other anyways.

In terms of spatiality, I found myself drawn to thinking about the waste land in its spatial dimensions. In particular, I was drawn to the lines “Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind / Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed” from “The Fire Sermon” (11). I felt this strongly resonated with the war poems we read last week in terms of depicting a dying landscape and the imagery of clutching, sinking, mud, and absence seemed like it resonated with the imagery we’ve read so far on WWI. I also found myself drawn to thinking about the Atlantic itself as another form of waste land with Eliot’s heavy emphasis on water and sailing throughout the poem. While the crossing of the Atlantic presented new opportunities, the vast distance itself could be seen as an interesting parallel to the land-based waste land that we’ve already touched upon in class so far.

Some questions I’ve started thinking about in regards to spatiality in TWL and the Transatlantic include: 1. What spaces facilitate movement across the Atlantic?

2. What spaces frequently appear in the transatlantic spatial imagination?

3. What continuities and deviations exist in spaces formed from the same structure but existing on different sides of the Atlantic (i.e., what does a port city look like in England versus the U.S.? How does Paris differentiate from New York? Etc.)

The essays on the emergence of TWL also touched another broad theme I think we could track in this course, which is thinking about the intersection of the growing global market and modernism which both find facilitation through transatlantic exchange. I thought it was interesting in Rainey’s “The Price of Modernism: Publishing The Waste Land” that they observed that “By 1922 literary modernism desperately required a financial-critical success that would seem comparable to the stunning achievement of modernist painting,” yet this desire for market success contrasted with Eliot’s own fears for what the market might due to his modernist magnum opus (99). In particular, Eliot’s decision to not pursue Vanity Fair as a publisher for The Waste Land is posited as a decision driven by the fact that VF “represented a degree of commercial success and popular acceptance that would have undermined the very status of the work that he was trying to establish” (110). This creates an interesting tension between modernism and its need to be marketable in order to maintain its heart beat, yet the fear that this very marketability will stifle what gives the heart its beat in the first place. Thinking about the market also makes sense in the context of the transatlantic, as the exchange of goods and ideas across the Atlantic has had an exponential impact on the emergence and expansion of a global market. The Waste Land’s publication on both sides of the Atlantic is one testament to this new transatlantic market.

Some questions on the market and modernism in the transatlantic:

1. What technologies facilitated the exchange of goods and information across the transatlantic, and in what ways did these technologies impact the growing global market?

2. What are the tensions between modernism and the market as illuminated by TWL’s publication history and motivations for certain publishing venues?

3. How did the markets of literature and art change in relation to the proliferation of modernism?

Finally, in those same essays that touched upon the emergence of TWL I was struck by the immense collaboration (transatlantic collaboration, but also transhistorical collaboration) that was essential to TWL’s creation (and publication as touched on earlier). According to Helen Gardner’s article "The Waste Land: Pairs 1922," Eliot’s poem was the product of collaboration through editorial processes with both Ezra Pound and Eliot’s wife Vivienne. Both Eliot and Pound lived on both sides of the Atlantic, providing them each with sensibilities curated by life both in the United States and their travels in Europe. This, mixed with Vivienne’s input (being English and not American like Pound and Eliot), means that TWL was the product of transatlantic collaboration in the actual development of the poem, let alone its eventual transatlantic emergence and dissemination which involved several publishers and editors from both sides of the Atlantic. Focusing on the location of transatlantic authors during the periods in which they were writing, and some of the biographical context as to what was encouraging that transatlantic travel, could be another interesting lens for our class.

Some questions I’m thinking about regarding transatlantic collaboration:

1. Can we trace national elements from modernist texts that are a result of transatlantic collaboration, or does the text obliterator those national markers in an effort to move towards the transnational?

2. Who were the major collaborators who seemed to have a stake in the directions modernism was moving in on both sides of the Atlantic?

T.S. Eliot - The Waste Land 1/8

The rhythm of The Waste Land is hypnotic. I am still trying to grasp the meaning of each section, but I found the II. A Game of Chess is interesting as I reminisce about my own youth and playing chess, but that reminiscing is left in the 3rd line. It seems that there is a struggle here between high and low society and the different parts of seduction. Then the last part of the poem reminds me of women that get lost in conversation and not realizing that the store/bar is closing. The phrase "HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME" (11. 168-169) could also reference the closing time and maybe it calls to you to remember something that you have forgotten. Also, the pills that the lady takes to induce abortion because of her fear of death from her last birthing experience makes me wonder why the husband isn't concerned with her death. The husband is not resisting his sexual urges toward her. Is she still considered property and once she expires, the husband will find someone else? Also, if she doesn't look good or gives in to her husband, it is mentioned that he will find another. I wonder if this is an acceptable practice. 

I still have a lot to learn about The Waste Land, but in relationship to the transatlantic connection, I would suggest that woman feels that her body is punishing her with the loss of her teeth and maybe that same feeling of loss, rejection, or isolation could be felt by those that made the transatlantic journey from Europe to America? 

Eliot and Pound (3/8)

I have no idea what The Waste Land means at this very moment and probably never will for the rest of my life. It is a dizzyingly fascinating poem, but I am limited in my abilities to understand. In terms of the piece being transatlantic, though, there is a degree of sense to me. Eliot writes that, "No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone" (115). I found it in the Essays and London letters section of Norton Edition of The Waste Land. T.S. Eliot is no exception to his statement; his letters and communication with people he knew and their feedback create an amalgamation of ideas. While the background on Eliot, and the quotes from Ezra Pound, state that Eliot created this poem entirely on his own and that the suggestions only provided a ground from which Eliot could begin to build his monster (although, he clearly outdid Victor Frankenstein because it is quite fascinating).

"The Burial of the Dead" was the most interesting section for me with its bizarre connection of death with natural images. It kind of brought me back to the poem "Grass" without the apocalyptic and sentient earth. The section begins with this immage of these "Lilacs out of the dead land" growing (l. 2). Lilacs are such a vibrant, happy plant that tend to symbolize innocence, purity, youthfulness, etc. Such a brilliant plant being bred from such a dark ground is ironic, but not really hopeful as would be expected from most works. My favorite lines, though, "That corpse you planted last year in your garden, / Has it begun to sprout?" are really confusing (ll. 71-72). It harkens back to those first lines of the section, and the idea that we often bury "dead" remains of plants hoping they will transform into something new. If I am honest, I am still not sure what they mean, but I like the way the are both alarming yet hopeful.

Global References in the Fire Sermon

I considered the transatlantic questions Drouin posed to us over “The Wasteland.” I couldn’t come up with much. I am reading from the The Poems of T.S. Eliot Volume 1 which has included a wealth of annotations that include commentary. I scoured the pages—I found little to nothing about a transatlantic exchange of ideas. The sources Eliot is pulling from seem to be European (transnational, yes, but in Europe not across the Atlantic). There is the fact that Eliot himself is an American writing in England/Europe, and that Pound, a major editor, is an American in Europe who is editing Eliot’s work. It’s tough to read that in the poem. I guess what I was trying to do initially was find some sort of Americanness in the text. I didn’t succeed.

I did find, however, a more globalist text in that there were references and source material pulled from different non-European places. (This embodies the intercultural exchange inherent to transatlantic modernism, yeah?) Beyond the European locales and Euro-derived source materials, there are a few references that emerge from a global context. The war, though destructive, created a space of intercultural exchange; and Eliot quotes a song which was “reported to me from Sydney, Australia” (Eliot qtd., Ricks et al 655): “O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter/ And on her daughter/ They wash their feet in soda water” (WL 199-201). Eliot positions this quote between the Thames riverbank description and the appearance of Tiresias (who details a sex scene in “The Fire Sermon”). This section is incredibly auditory, beginning with sounds of the city that is at the narrator’s “back,” the sound of birds, Mr. Eugenides “demotic French” (WL 212). Mr. Eugenides embodies another “global” reference as a Syrian (?) merchant bringing exotic objects (i.e. currants) into the London, into the poem. The interconnecting sounds bring together foreign shores to create a global context. Like the references to water that lace the poem, sound serves a similar function—the liminal space/connection between different locales.

What do these few lines (199-214) do for the rest of the section? These two global socio-cultural markers bring to an especially localized scene a sense of the world around, in a similar way that Tiresias brings to the poem a widened perspective/vision of time. They interrupt the narrator’s musings over Shakespeare’s The Tempest on the banks of the Thames and preface a decidedly (?) modernist rendering of intimacy, “indifferent” and detached with hints of violence and passive responses to that violence. Eliot shifts perspectives here, yes, but also asks us to reconcile their messiness and incongruency. As Eliot writes in The Metaphysical Poets, “When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for its work, it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the ordinary man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The latter falls in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have nothing to do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or the smell of cooking; in the mind of the poet these experiences are always forming new wholes.” (125) By the end of the section it seems as if the gramophone recording put on by the woman leaves the apartment and finds its way to the streets of London, and thus to Eliot himself by the end of the section. Through these chains of association, Eliot sews together a complex series of stimuli and cultural flotsam that begins and end with concrete, local experience.

II. The Chess Game (3/8)

        Philomela as the nightingale, and her form of speech, was one theme throughout the Waste Land that I found compelling. She resorted to visual and nonverbal expression, or art, to communicate with her sister. At the myth's end, her voice and her autonomy both return but not in ways they had manifested previously. She becomes a nightingale -"still the world pursues"- crying to their "dirty ears." What she says has significance; however, this message depends wholly on the context of her experiences. Stretching a thread between Eliot with the Waste Land and Philomela and her tapestry ("jug, jug, jug," even) doesn't seem like too much of a reach.

        Eliot himself stated: this was a personal work, without any generational generalization in mind. He wasn't relaying a verdict on behalf of the jury. He also posited in his commentary that "the business of the poet is... to use the ordinary [emotions] and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings that are not in actual emotions at all." A vehicle of this imperfect transition is objective equivalence, which he describes as implying emotions through external means. Philomela's story, told for centuries and echoed too often, represents just one of the motifs used in the Waste Land to acquaint the reader with personality and emotion that the poet himself wishes to escape. His message is as indirect and articulated as birdsong. The feeling present in the poem may be manufactured, or even complicit in an attempt to tell a story without a tongue, but it is felt by the reader.