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.)


Some good observations here, Cailie. I'd like to point out that the pieces you identified speak to two strands of post-war aesthetics: the return to classicism (structure, form, solidity) and the frenetic rejection of old morés (Jazz Age dancing, frivolous partying, exploring taboos, etc.). Let's be sure to discuss this and your questions in class.