Literature of our Time – The Wasteland, continuation (OCT. 5 , 2012)
• Wasteland: what does allusion do for wasteland? Main purpose to suggest the
lingering presence of old stories in modern cities. Stories that are in fragments, a
culture in ruins.
• Partly, or mostly, a lament for the loss of those stories. For Elliot, not the stories
but for the ability to bring people together.
• Trying to suggest the persistence of those old stories, that ophelius survives in the
• Lament or celebration? Allusions open up literary work, add richness, historical
dimension… “this story like another story
• One of the functions, they’re a sort of test, if you feel something the way Prufrock
feels then you will understand what he is talking about. And then you will not be
able to communicate. If you understand ENOUGH of the allusions in the
wasteland, then you will share others despair. The allusions are crucial.
• Last part, wrote in a kind of trance. Part 5: “the approach to the chapel of heras”,
the knight has been purified by fire, and water. He has to cross hostile lands
before reaching his destination. (Frodo + Sam to Mordor)
• The landscape becomes progressively more horrific (bats handing upside down
with baby faces – Dracula?)
• Men hear “data” (give), demons hear be compassionate. Gods hear control
yourselves. God gives the answer. At the chapel, the god speaks the word of
power. “die”. This is the answer. The word itself is the grail. Meaning that has
been missing from the world. The poem ends with three interpretations of this
word, in different languages.
• The fisher king is fishing again, so perhaps the knight was successful. Should he
put his lands in order? And yet, through the babel of the last stanza, the fisher king
hears the words “chanti…” means “peace/silence” the Buddhist nirvana. Peace
that passes understanding.
• The problem for readers, is that the peace that passes understanding passes
understanding. It cannot be paraphrased, it cannot be explained, it can only be
experienced. It is the peace that passes understanding. You can feel it, you can’t
explain it. That meaning is not accessible, or comprehensible to anyone but the
• Elliot chose faith. He was baptized in secrecy, in 1927.
• Windows of history create the time. He taught his generation how to see their
time. William Mensa? (said “I do not know for certain how much of my own
mind you invent”)
• Elliot was wrong about popular culture, he could not understand that 95% of
everything is crap (haha).
• Different versions of the truth.
• Elliot also hoped and ultimately believed that there is some sort of meaning.
There’s a “shape”, an order.
• The loss of a shared culture (what Elliot is really lamenting) • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
• There is no plot (in the traditional sense). Like Picasso, Elliot, Woolf gave up the
deceit of plot. Stream of consciousness, a narrative technique. Tries to represent
and capture the way our minds try to perceive the world. A continuous flow of
• The method of writing smooth narrative can’t be right. Things don’t happen in
one’s mind like that. We experience, all the time, an overlapping of images and
ideas, and modern novels should convey our mental confusion instead of neatly
arranging it. The reader must sort it out” –VW
• (pg 92), the internal problems… “why must they grow up and lose it all?”
• The character are constantly flitting back and forth. See the narrative as how it’s
seen. The narrative perspective is moving through the house. To the kitchen,
living room, to town, to the attic…
• The narrative perspective is like the wind being blown through the house.
• In a realistic novel we are presented with a illusion that the character