Thank you for your thoughtful responses to the first three sections of The Waste Land. I’ve posted my notes about the entire poem on Blackboard. BE SURE to listen to my Mini-Lecture 2 and read my linked notes on The Waste Land, before you do your blog Response this week.
I am heartened to hear that listening to Eliot read his poem, and reading the Sounding Out! piece, helped you understand the poem better and appreciate the importance of intonation and performance in the experience of reading and interpreting poetry. If you enjoy live poetry readings, consider attending one on Thursday, February 16th, at 7 p.m. at the Levan Humanities Center at Bakersfield College. Local poets will be presenting the work of seven great poets born in the Central Valley, including Robert Duncan, Gary Soto, Juan Felipe Herrera, Frank Bidart. I will be there. Also, another poetry reading is coming up April 7th, with Brandon Constantine. He will be reading at 7 p.m. in Walter Stiern Library’s Dezember Reading Room, as part of the PG&E Writer-in-Residence and the California Writers Series.
This Friday by 10 p.m., you will post your first recording on our class site on Blackboard. You will do this on the Discussion board, under the “Recordings” tab. (See the guidelines on the Course Calendar on the Syllabus.) Just about any file format is fine; WAV files and MP3 files are common. Try using Audacity (a free open-source program you can download and install) or Clear Record, an iPhone app that costs $1.99, or any other program you are familiar with. If you have trouble recording and/or uploading the file, just let me know.
Thus far, I have not mentioned Eliot’s biography much. Though it is quite possible to offer a personal, biographical interpretation of the poem, as Eliot himself sometimes did—“a personal grouse against life”—it is very significant for literary history that, in “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” he set forth an influential argument that art is impersonal, “an escape from emotion.” Here he was arguing, implicitly, with the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, who said that, in “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads,” “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility[.]” Eliot’s seeming opposition to personal emotion in poetry led many poets after him to avoid the explicitly personal in their work, until Confessional poetry emerged, partly as an open rebellion against Eliotic impersonality.
As you conclude The Waste Land this week, and read William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens, here are the questions I’d like you to respond to.
1) In Section V, “What the Thunder Said,” where are we, geographically and temporally? What seems to be happening in this section, and how does it relate to at least one earlier section of the poem? Cite and analyze evidence to support your answer.
2) How can Williams’ “Spring and All” be read as a response to The Waste Land, formally and thematically? Cite and analyze evidence from “Spring and All” to support your answer.
3) Note that while “Sunday Morning” was written before The Waste Land, it shares some of its Modernist concerns about a crisis of faith. Try to write a one-sentence summary of each stanza. How do the questions in “Sunday Morning” set forth an argument between the speaker and the woman he describes? What are her concerns, and how does he respond? Analyze a few of your favorite lines to illustrate your answer.