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Eliots The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock ENGL 203 Dr. Fike.

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1 Eliots The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock ENGL 203 Dr. Fike

2 Quiz Today Please clear your desks.

3 Eliot and Imagism Modernism 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. Eliots objective correlative below) –Variations in poetic formpoetry 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: htm htm

5 Example of an Imagist Poem In a Station of the Metro The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough. Ezra Pound

6 Prufrock and Periodicity Eliots 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? A.Casanova B.Romeo C.Don Juan D.Sirano de Bergerac E.J. 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 Prufrocka prude in a frockdoes not fit with the other figures.

10 Point To 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 Eliots 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 Todays Class 1.To examine literary tradition in connection with Prufrock. 2.To do a really close reading of the first stanza. 3.And to talk about Prufrocks 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 Answer He 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 himselfthat came back to him: Shall I now or shant I? Will I now or wont I? Say within the next three minutes, say by a quarter past six, or by twenty minutes past, at the furthestalways if nothing more comes up to prevent.

17 Points Here are the same agony of indecision and the same lack of conviction that P expresses. The action of the poemits literal sense is borrowed from literary tradition. The ambivalence of Jamess 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 lovers Henry James, Crapy Cornelia Dantes Inferno Michelangelo Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 Hesiods Works and Days Shakespeares Twelfth Night Shakespeares Hamlet Mark 6 & Matthew 14 re. John the Baptist Marvells To His Coy Mistress John 11 re. Lazarus Chaucers General Prologue and Clerks Tale Fools in Elizabethan drama Donnes Go and Catch a Falling Star

20 The Key Allusions Dante and Lazarus Michelangelo Hamlet

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 Dantes Inferno, Canto 27 Why is this an appropriate epigraph? What connection can you make between Guido and Lazarus (line 94)?

22 Answer Prufrock 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 Factoids Michelangelo 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. Prufrocks timidity). His most famous sculpture was David, the prime statement of the Renaissance ideal of perfect humanity (Britannica) vs. Prufrocks appearance. –http://vlsi.colorado.edu/~rbloem/david.html: contains male frontal nudityhttp://vlsi.colorado.edu/~rbloem/david.html –Prufrock: 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 Michelangelos work, any more than there is in Leonardos. And yet, all art is intimately connected with the sexual urge. Here [in David] is Michelangelos 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 Michelangelos ideal self- image –A projection of his own desires Source: A. L. Rowse, Homosexuality in History: A Study of Ambivalence in Society, Literature and the Arts

27 Question What does any of this have to do with Prufrock?

28 Possible Answers Prufrock does not feel secure because he does not look manly. His sexuality may be ambivalent: the womens talk of Michelangelo may cut too close to Ps hidden desires; perhaps their remarks activate his sexual ambivalence. Therefore, for these two reasons, he does not ask his question.

29 Hamlet Lines 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. Hamlets 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 Eliots 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 poems 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 Tradition In 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 –Ive 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 1.To whom is P referring when he says you and I? 2.What kind of associations do you have with a patient etherised upon a table? 3.What is P doing here? 4.What is Ps problem here? 5.How is this a love song gone wrong? 6.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 Energy The 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 Transcript Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn. When evening quickens faintly in the street, Wakening the appetites of life in some And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript, I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning Wearily, 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: Prufrocks 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 6 th page for the term]) Polonius gets stabbed by Hamlet Restraint 57-58: sprawling on a pin…wriggling on a wall 73: pair of ragged claws (i.e., pure sensationno 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. Hes 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 Prufrocks mermaids do not sing to him they sing each to each. The human voices wake him, and THEN he drownsboth parts of him evidentlyin 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. Eliots tercets are NOT terza rima, but they do call Dantes 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


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