the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

gluck on tennyson’s “the lovesong of j alfred prufrock” part 2

Posted by rigorousm on November 20, 2014

The reader, in a poem like “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” is sought. His role, in its highest form, fulfills the function of the savior, because salvation lies in resemblance: that is the maxim Prufrock lives by so mistakenly, if indeed it can be said that Prufrock lives; but the intuition is sound. Amongother things, Eliot reveals, through Prufrock, the horror of uncreative isolation. That’s the worst of shame, its capacity to isolate. Prufrock isn’t stupid; he’s smart enough to be afraid of everything. But he’s lost the passion that would have overcome his indecision. He seeks relief of solitude in invisibility; his life is an aggressive assertion of his unimportance, a history of not doing, not speaking, not violating existing modes; all this not doing is synchronized to meditation, in the form of anxious query and undermining evaluation. Prufrock accepts existing modes, having inherited a pressure to perform certain actions, but the reasoning that underlay the pressure is lost. IN his cuation and genteel automatism, Prufrock attains indistinction he remains unspecific, bodiless, unrecognizable. A portrait of an unidentifiable man is a portrait of many, of a culture. When I talk about being heard, reaching toward, about connection, through tradition, to a lived present, I’m talking about what Prufrock can’t do; the figure adrift may not be Eliot, but he locates Eliot’s concerns. This is a poem infused with yearning, as is nearly all Eliot’s works. Even his famous passion for tradition manifests, in another way, a longing for completion, for linking, for correspondence. He locates himself in relation to.

– Louise Gluck, “Invitation and Exclusion,” Proofs and Theories: essays on poetry, p 114/

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