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The Waste Land


Adrian
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The Waste Land

 

The Waste Land evades me. I own it. I start reading it, I get part way through it (up until the part about April) and then I just fizzle out.

 

This is a wonderful site: Exploring The Waste land

 

Maybe it's epic (i.e., long) poems I don't like. Every year I start both A Shropshire Lad and The Borough and maybe one day I'll actually finish them.

 

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Barblue 13th October 2006 02:04 PM

Thanks for the link Adrian. I have only browsed through it, but I think it is wonderful. I studied this poem for my 'retirement' degree a few years ago. Initially I too thought it inaccessible. Once some of the references had been explained, of course, it became clearer. I think it becomes clearer every time I read it but I never expect to fully understand it.

 

Someone once told me a poem is like an onion. You need to go back to it time and again in order to peel off one more layer of understanding. I've always thought that a good analogy. I feel a poem gives you something new every time it's read.

 

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David 13th October 2006 02:22 PM

It's a remarkable but elusive poem. Well worth the effort, not least if you're particularly interested in seminal literature since this is really the most important poem of the twentieth century.

 

That said, it's far from being my favourite Eliot, since it comes in that middle-range of his output that is highly experimental and abstruse, employing all manner of ridiculously specialised allusions. He actually delighted in using references to older literature that he knew very few people would get. This was in the thick of the birth of New Criticism (pioneered by Eliot himself) that stated literature detached itself from the writer the moment it left his pen and the only valid meaning was that which was created in the act of reading through the relationship with the reader. As a consequence, many poems began to throw out the notion of clear signposting and became more abstract, enabling a welter of interpretations through their stream of consciousness approach. Eliot refused to say anything for a long time about the meaning of his poems so as not to impede this process.

 

Still, for all that if you can persevere it is a remarkable piece of writing and offers some extraordinary moments through powerfully wrought language. My favourites are still the bookends of his output, though - 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' at the start and Four Quartets at the end.

 

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katrina 13th October 2006 06:48 PM

When I had to studying The Wasteland for my degree I kept picking it up, not understanding and putting it down again. Then as it came nearer to the time to study it I got a Penguin study guide, and then i really started to understand parts and loved the poem.

 

When i was planning my MA dissertation I was planning to write it about The Wasteland and modernism in art, so the cubist movement and expressionism was a really interesting comparrison, and look at the way the Great War, Dawinism, the 'Death of God' and Indutrialism caused these reactions in literature and Art

 

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gg106 14th October 2006 11:43 AM

this has been one of my favourite poems since I studied it at Alevel with the guidance of a super enthusiastic English teacher who obviously loved it and made us all love it too. I just love the way he plays with language and creates really explicit images. I often give the odd line of it to my GCSE students and ask them to engage with it and have a response - its amazing what they make of lines like "a woman drew her long black hair out tight" and "bats with baby faces" etc. Notice I have n't said I understand it.......!!!

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