Readings for January 17th

Posted: January 15, 2019 in Readings

I thought I had posted these earlier. Unfortunately, I set the date for 2018, not 2019. Sorry for that mistake. I hope that 15 hours will be enough time for you to get through the first of Eliot’s essays. I’ll be reading right along with you.

I was very pleasantly surprised and pleased by your apparent interest in Wordsworth and Coleridge. Many students in the past, though hardly all students, have shown far less curiosity and endeavor. So, good for you. While upcoming readings will get more difficult, they will also get more unexpected and fascinating. Let’s keep up the effort and try to enjoy future assignments as much as possible. Keep in mind that we’ll most likely only have time on Thursday to discuss the first of these two essays, ‘Tradition and The Individual Talent’. We’ll get to ‘The Metaphysical Poets’ next Tuesday. Good luck with this new material!

  1. Nick Fontaine says:

    T. S. Elliot in “Traditional and The Individual Talent” praises the timelessness of poetry. New pieces of poetry change the past by modifying its own collective body. He makes an interesting point when he says that poets must harness an awareness of the past. The present is an intangible moment that ends as soon as it begins. Poets through this lens have a greater understanding of past events than those those who confront them in current time. This reminds me of my trip to Thailand in which experiences flew by in the present, but upon introspection in the future possessed a deeper meaning. T.S. Elliot in a way describes how maturing poets establish connections between indescribable feelings to the these tangible events of the past opposed to the present.

  2. Aleah Griffin says:

    In “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” T. S. Eliot explores the relationship between originality and conformity. It’s now essentially impossible to create art that is entirely original, entirely new–something that has never been seen before–because so much art has already been made. This can be intimidating for people who aspire to become artists or authors, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. T. S. Eliot points out that even though any poet or artist must be compared to earlier poets and artists, this doesn’t detract from the value of the new work. It gives the new work more value and meaning, and even adds new meaning to the past, building it up as a whole. Newly made art can both conform and be original. A lot of this comes from the huge range of emotion present when reading or seeing art, along with the different emotions different people experience from the same thing. Tradition is dynamic and never stops changing, but it has a solid base in every work of art or literature that was made in the past. Acknowledging the past is important, both for the sake of you as an individual and society as a whole.

  3. Kenzie Crowley says:

    I loved when Elliott made the point, “we might remind ourselves that criticism is as inevitable as breathing, and that we should be none the worse for articulating what passes in our minds when we read a book and feel an emotion about it, for criticizing our own minds in their work of criticism.”
    Often times we are taught to withhold criticism because criticism is disrespectful to the artists and their work. It is the artists that welcome the natural criticism that comes from reading or observing their work. Instead of withholding our criticism, we should find a way to articulate our criticism in a respectful and constructive way to benefit the artists and push them to become better.
    Poets, artists and many alike use criticism to better their work. It is a natural thing that happens, but it is unnatural to assume that all poets are alike and therefore their work should be the same.
    Wordsworth criticized poets for using complicated language and instead strived to write more simply. I’m sure he received criticism for his argument and instead of letting it halt his opinion, he stuck to what he believed and let it strengthen his resolve.

    • I’m with you. We are trained to think that all judgment is bad, “judgy”. Eliot, against today’s dominant opinion, believes it is impossible not the judge, as judgment is one of the most fundamental faculties of the human mind. If we can’t help but judge, the point should not be to strive not to judge anyway, but rather to cultivate our judgment and do it the very best we can. You’ll see him elaborate this thought is his essay on Metaphysical Poets.

  4. The comparison of writing poetry to chemistry is fantastically clever because they are two things that are not necessarily associated with one another. I think the real genius behind these ideas is how they comment on the dynamic position of poets and how the ‘greatness’ of their work stems from the process of its creation. Throughout this entire section of “Tradition”, I am reminded of contemporary art in the 21st century.

    My thoughts are mainly focused on these two snippets of “Tradition”.

    The main concept: “ The analogy was that of the catalyst. When the two gases previously mentioned are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. This combination takes place only if the platinum is present; nevertheless the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum itself is apparently unaffected; has remained inert, neutral, and unchanged. The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum.”

    The continuation of the main concept: “For it is not the “greatness,” the intensity, of the emotions, the components, but the intensity of the artistic process, the pressure, so to speak, under which the fusion takes place, that counts.”

    The idea that: ‘the greatness and meaning of an art piece comes from the pressure and intensity of the artistic process that births it’ is something very commonly seen in contemporary art. The end result of an idea and creative process may seem obscure, abstract, and otherwise nonsensical at first, but once you learn of the creation process and inspiration for a piece you are able to understand it more clearly and appreciate it in a new way. In fact, understanding the ‘behind the scenes’ of contemporary art is what takes the piece to a whole new level.

    I bring up the comparison of contemporary art because just as Eliot said, the greatness of a piece of poetry is more dependent upon the vigor and intensity of its creation rather than the sum of individual concepts and components. Poetry and contemporary art may seem unrelated, but when looked at considering the previous idea, the comparison is clear. Both may seem mediocre and inaccessible at first, but knowing the context and methods behind their creation fully develops their meaning and ‘greatness’. If anything, I think it’s a significant connection because its applying ideas that are over 100 years old to something that is uniquely 21st century in a relatable way.

    Furthermore, I would extend the sentiment that poets are ‘catalysts’ to artists of all stripes. I don’t think he intended for that to happen, but in light of my previous thoughts, I think it is a fair comparison.

    TL;DR Eliot’s thoughts on the process and creation of poetry can easily be applied to contemporary art. In addition, I think it’s fair to say both poets and artists can be considered catalysts for the ‘transmutation’ of their passions.

  5. Sevin Park says:

    I like how T.S. Eliot provides a passage as an example to illustrate the combination of positive and negative emotions. It was nice to visually see what he was talking about rather than simply envision it.
    Something that confused me was Eliot’s explanation about the difference between present and past: “the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past’s awareness of itself cannot show.” What does he mean by that? I think I understand it a little bit but not quite.

    • One cannot comment objectively on the moment in which one is subjectively immersed. If you try to identify the grammatical rules you are you using as you speak, you will immediately stop speaking. The same is true of historical periods.

  6. Kevin Nielson says:

    I Found it interesting how Elliot proposed that the author of poetry has to personalize themselves to carry out tradition in their work. I am not sure that I agree with Elliot in this sense because I think that works of art should be synonymous with the artist. I think that poetry should be unique enough that it is distinguishable from author to author.

  7. Joanna Soh says:

    I agree with Elliot when he wrote “It will even be affirmed that much learning deadens or perverts poetic sensibility.” In American high school literature classes, they attempt to teach high schoolers to appreciate and understand poetry. Because high schoolers barely want to be in these high school classes, they cannot truly appreciate the wonders of poetry, and come out of high school hating poetry. Often, poetry in high school is overanalyzed and does not allow for people to enjoy the poetry because they are too wrapped up in analyzing the possible meanings. High schoolers are simply not ready to appreciate poetry, especially if it is being shoved down their throats. This is sad reality, because I think that poetry deserves to be truly appreciated, but the way it is taught in high school pushes people away instead.

  8. Aralia Ward says:

    T.S Eliot in Tradition and Individual Talent makes a interesting claim regarding a poet’s relationship to poetry. “Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.” Which I believe Eliot is arguing that successful poetry should transcend the poet itself and be able to exist on its own. I agree with this because art of any form should be allowed to have value beyond who created it. For example, I would not want my art to be judged as less appealing because it was not produced by a famous artist.

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