Incurably Quotes

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Categories: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Eliot's understanding of poetic epistemology is a version of Bradley's theory, outlined in our second chapter, that knowing involves immediate, relational, and transcendent stages or levels. The poetic mind, like the ordinary mind, has at least two types of experience: The first consists largely of feeling (falling in love, smelling the cooking, hearing the noise of the typewriter), the second largely of thought (reading Spinoza). The first type of experience is sensuous, and it is also to a great extent monistic or immediate, for it does not require mediation through the mind; it exists before intellectual analysis, before the falling apart of experience into experiencer and experienced. The second type of experience, in contrast, is intellectual (to be known at all, it must be mediated through the mind) and sharply dualistic, in that it involves a breaking down of experience into subject and object. In the mind of the ordinary person, these two types of experience are and remain disparate. In the mind of the poet, these disparate experiences are somehow transcended and amalgamated into a new whole, a whole beyond and yet including subject and object, mind and matter. Eliot illustrates his explanation of poetic epistemology by saying that John Donne did not simply feel his feelings and think his thoughts; he felt his thoughts and thought his feelings. He was able to "feel his thought as immediately as the odour of a rose." Immediately" in this famous simile is a technical term in philosophy, used with precision; it means unmediated through mind, unshattered into subject and object. Falling in love and reading Spinoza typify Eliot's own experiences in the years in which he was writing The Waste Land. These were the exciting and exhausting years in which he met Vivien Haigh-Wood and consummated a disastrous marriage, the years in which he was deeply involved in reading F. H. Bradley, the years in which he was torn between the professions of philosophy and poetry and in which he was in close and frequent contact with such brilliant and stimulating figures as Bertrand Russell and Ezra Pound, the years of the break from his family and homeland, the years in which in every area of his life he seemed to be between broken worlds. The experiences of these years constitute the material of The Waste Land. The relevant biographical details need not be reviewed here, for they are presented in the introduction to The Waste Land Facsimile. For our purposes, it is only necessary to acknowledge what Eliot himself acknowledged: the material of art is always actual life. At the same time, it should also be noted that material in itself is not art. As Eliot argued in his review of Ulysses, "in creation you are responsible for what you can do with material which you must simply accept." For Eliot, the given material included relations with and observations of women, in particular, of his bright but seemingly incurably ill wife Vivien(ne).

Jewel Spears Brooker
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