3 Eliot and ImagismModernism involves imagism, and this in turn involves a variety of things:Getting rid of the WWian “I”Creating clear, objective images to which readers respond emotionally (cf. Eliot’s “objective correlative” below)Variations in poetic form—poetry no longer has to have standard rhythm and rhyme: free verse
4 Summary“Modern poetry must address the modern world with modern language and images appropriate to the modern experience, unfettered by the conventions which had grown up over the centuries.”Source:
5 Example of an Imagist Poem In a Station of the MetroThe apparition of these faces in the crowd;Petals on a wet, black bough.Ezra Pound
6 “Prufrock” and Periodicity Eliot’s poem illustrates Imagism.It also reflects the fragmentation resulting from World War I ( ): parallel to suppression of “the links in the chain,” the technique he uses in The Wasteland.
7 Mini-Quiz Which one of the following does not fit? Casanova Romeo Don JuanSirano de BergeracJ. Alfred Prufrock
8 Answer E: J. Alfred Prufrock But, more importantly, how did you know that?
9 Answer You know love songs because you listen to them every day. You know the names of great lovers because you are familiar with Western tradition.And you know enough love songs in Western tradition to know that J. Alfred Prufrock—a prude in a frock—does not fit with the other figures.
10 PointTo be a good reader of “Prufrock,” you have to know something about western tradition. This is very similar to what Eliot says about western tradition in his essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent.”
11 Page 2014/506 The par. begins, “Yet if the only form of tradition….” What is Eliot’s point in this par.?
12 Answer“History and tradition are not static artifacts that exist only in the past; they are also present in our reading of them and in the use to which we put them.”--Dr. Fike
13 Goals for Today’s Class To examine literary tradition in connection with “Prufrock.”To do a really close reading of the first stanza.And to talk about Prufrock’s problems and about how he ends up.
14 Section I: Literary Tradition and “Prufrock” What happens in this poem?In the literal sense, what does Prufrock DO?
15 AnswerHe goes to a party, hoping to ask someone to marry him, but he lacks the courage to get the question out.This action (one might say “inaction”) is based on a story by Henry James called “Crapy Cornelia”: the main character in that story hopes and intends to ask a woman to marry him, but because of ambivalence, does not do so.
16 From “Crapy Cornelia”“It was as if he had sat and watched himself—that came back to him: Shall I now or shan’t I? Will I now or won’t I? Say within the next three minutes, say by a quarter past six, or by twenty minutes past, at the furthest—always if nothing more comes up to prevent.”
17 PointsHere are the same agony of indecision and the same lack of conviction that P expresses.The action of the poem—its literal sense—is borrowed from literary tradition.The ambivalence of James’s character also informs Prufrock, who says, “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”
18 Other Allusions? What other allusions did you notice in the poem? Take some time with a partner to search for allusions to other authors and literary works.
19 Allusions in “Prufrock” Love songs/great loversHenry James, “Crapy Cornelia”Dante’s InfernoMichelangeloEcclesiastes 3:1-8Hesiod’s “Works and Days”Shakespeare’s Twelfth NightShakespeare’s HamletMark 6 & Matthew 14 re. John the BaptistMarvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”John 11 re. LazarusChaucer’s “General Prologue” and “Clerk’s Tale”Fools in Elizabethan dramaDonne’s “Go and Catch a Falling Star”
20 The Key AllusionsDante and LazarusMichelangeloHamlet
21 Dante and Lazarus“If I thought that my answer were being made to someone who would ever return to earth, this flame would remain without further movement; but since no one has ever returned alive from this depth, if what I hear is true, I answer you without fear of infamy.”Source: Guido de Montefeltro, speaking in Dante’s Inferno, Canto 27Why is this an appropriate epigraph?What connection can you make between Guido and Lazarus (line 94)?
22 AnswerPrufrock is like Guido: He thinks that he is damned and that he is talking to someone who is also damned.Lazarus, whom Jesus raises from the dead, gets a second chance.The implication is that there will be no such second chance for Prufrock: like Guido, he will stay in hell.
23 Michelangelo ( )What do you know about Michelangelo?
24 FactoidsMichelangelo was a Renaissance man: painter, sculptor, poet, architect.A. L. Rowse describes him as “all too virile and obvious, a powerful and stunning personality” who “imposed his extrovert brute force upon all around him” (vs. Prufrock’s timidity).His most famous sculpture was “David,” “the prime statement of the Renaissance ideal of perfect humanity” (Britannica) vs. Prufrock’s appearance.contains male frontal nudityPrufrock: See lines 40, 44, 82, and
25 More on “David”Rowse 17: “Actually, there is an ambivalence in the conception of this marvelous work, the kind of duality within one mind from which it springs. For Michelangelo it was an idealization of himself, the kind of self he would have liked to be; but also it was a projection, conscious or unconscious, of his own desires. There is no sexual response to women in the whole of Michelangelo’s work, any more than there is in Leonardo’s. And yet, all art is intimately connected with the sexual urge. Here [in ‘David’] is Michelangelo’s type: sexual appeal stands revealed in the whole stance, in every limb and curve and muscle, perhaps especially in the large strong hands.”
26 Points in the Rowse Quotation Michelangelo was a homosexual.“David” represents two things:An expression of Michelangelo’s ideal self-imageA projection of his own desiresSource: A. L. Rowse, Homosexuality in History: A Study of Ambivalence in Society, Literature and the Arts
27 QuestionWhat does any of this have to do with Prufrock?
28 Possible AnswersPrufrock does not feel secure because he does not look manly.His sexuality may be ambivalent: the women’s talk of Michelangelo may cut too close to P’s hidden desires; perhaps their remarks activate his sexual ambivalence.Therefore, for these two reasons, he does not ask his question.
29 HamletLines 111ff.: Prufrock thinks that he is like Polonius, not Hamlet.He thinks that Hamlet is capable of action, and this is a good example of how an author differs from the character whom he creates.Hamlet’s greatest problem is uncertainty leading to inaction, and Eliot knew this (next slide).
30 Eliot on Hamlet“Hamlet (the man) is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible…an emotion which can find no outlet in action” (my emphasis).POINT: If Prufrock admires Hamlet as a man of action, and if Hamlet is (for most of the play) certainly NOT such a man, then Prufrock himself must be really paralyzed.
31 “Ulysses, Order, and Myth” Eliot’s point in this essay is that juxtaposing a modern character with someone famous from literary tradition is a perfect way to undermine that modern character.This mythical method is partly what Eliot is up to in the references to Michelangelo and Hamlet: they illuminate and undermine Prufrock.
32 Form: Dramatic Monologue The poem’s form is also related to literary tradition.Dramatic monologue: “Prufrock” is the foremost modern example of this form.Characteristics:The speaker is caught at a moment of great stress.Most of the utterance is gratuitous; the business is over in line 86: “And in short, I was afraid.”Prufrock reveals himself unawares (as does Guido).We know something about the listener only by hearing what the speaker says (like one end of a phone conversation).
33 More on TraditionIn all of the ways above, Eliot uses literary tradition.But the poem, in turn, becomes PART of that tradition, and later works allude to it.“I can heard the mermaids singing, each to each”:John Donne, “Go and Catch a Falling Star”: “Teach me to hear mermaids singing”I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing: a film about a Prufrock-like woman who manages to make the transition that he cannot:Blown Away: “I should have been a pair of ragged claws” (line 73).Apocalypse Now? See “The Hollow Men” (491) and
34 POINT The poem is a hinge between tradition and popular culture. Thus the poem takes its place in the tradition to which Eliot refers.Any literary work can be a Janus figure in the same way.
35 Section II: Group Work on the Opening Stanza To whom is P referring when he says “you and I”?What kind of associations do you have with “a patient etherised upon a table”?What is P doing here?What is P’s problem here?How is this a love song gone wrong?How does the poetry act out its meaning?
36 Possible Answers First 2 lines: Typical of a love song“you and I”; the “you” may be some other person, the reader, or an aspect of P himself (he is, after all, a psyche divided against itself)“a patient etherised upon a table”: something is really wrong: lots of negative associations.There are breaks in the rhyme at lines 3 and 10: “table” and “question” do not rhyme with anything else. This discordant technique signals something important.
37 EnergyThe direction of sexual energy is downward both spatially and socially:“Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels.”The direction of the party is upward: Prufrock will “descend the stair” (line 39) when he leaves.“The yellow fog” in line 15: fog is linked to sexual desire in The Wasteland.Lines 15ff. echo “Crapy Cornelia”: “‘Well, I am a cat!’ Cornelia grinned.”
38 Analogy The Boston Evening Transcript THE READERS of the Boston Evening TranscriptSway in the wind like a field of ripe corn. When evening quickens faintly in the street,Wakening the appetites of life in someAnd to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript, I mount the steps and ring the bell, turningWearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,If the street were time and he at the end of the street,And I say, “Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript.”
39 Section III: Prufrock’s Problem and How He Ends Up A conflict between energy and restraint.The poem presents images of these two things.With a partner, identify as many of them as you can.
40 Energy vs. Restraint Energy Sexual energy (fog) 28: “murder” 46: “Disturb the universe”82: “my head…brought in upon a platter” (thought vs. feeling: what Eliot calls “a dissociation of sensibility” in “The Metaphysical Poets” [the essay appears in your book; see the 6th page for the term])Polonius gets stabbed by HamletRestraint57-58: “sprawling on a pin…wriggling on a wall”73: “pair of ragged claws” (i.e., pure sensation—no reason)105: “a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen”
41 Objective Correlative “The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of the particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked” (Eliot, “Hamlet”).
42 O.C. and Analogy to Songs A pair of lovers has a favorite song. You associate specific songs with specific places and persons.Songs function as the auditory equivalent of the objective correlative.
43 More on O.C.An individual image can be an objective correlative: e.g., a bug wriggling on a pin suggests extreme discomfort.But Prufrock himself has become an objective correlative.“He’s a Prufrock,” one might say, and the listener would get the meaning: some guy is the balding, middle-aged mayor of Nowheresville.
44 More on Energy vs. Restraint Which wins?Lines 122-end.
45 Possible Answers Drowning suggests that restraint wins. Drowning is what mermaids do to sailors.But Prufrock’s mermaids do not sing to him—they sing “each to each.”The “human voices” wake him, and THEN he drowns—both parts of him evidently—in the conscious awareness of his own failure to act.POINT: He is utterly overcome by a social situation and by his own lack of self-esteem.
46 A Final Element of Tradition The concluding tercets parallel terza rima, the rhyme scheme of the Divine Comedy: interlinked tercets in which the second line of each tercet rhymes with the first and third lines of the next: aba bcb cdc etc.Eliot’s tercets are NOT terza rima, but they do call Dante’s verse form to mind.Therefore, there is a slight sense that Eliot is framing the poem with Dante. The implication is that Prufrock, who is in hell at the beginning (as we know because of the epigraph), is still in it. He has done nothing to improve his situation.END