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Reading The Waste Land
 

Reading The Waste Land

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The Waste Land by T S Eliot. It's one of the most influential poems ever written. One of the most innovative. And, to many, the greatest poem of the twentieth century....

The Waste Land by T S Eliot. It's one of the most influential poems ever written. One of the most innovative. And, to many, the greatest poem of the twentieth century.

So why is it so difficult to read? Many (including those who've read it) still feel at a loss when they try to talk about the poem, let alone enjoy it. Is that even possible?

In his talk "Reading The Waste Land," Will Gray will explore these all-too-common experiences while delving into the poem itself, its writing and its sources, its difficulty and its graceful energy, its long road that out of hell leads up to light. Shouldn't your experience of such a great poem be . . . well, great?

[Note: For a maximum listening experience, you'll want to read the poem in advance, and even bring a copy if you have one. See you there!]

Will Gray is a Lecturer in Contemporary Literature at Clemson University. He writes professionally for VantagePoint marketing firm and is finishing a PhD on T S Eliot and the Metaphysical poets from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. To boot, he likes to think he's a nice guy who can talk about complicated topics in less-than-complicated ways.

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  • wonderfully helpful as it keeps the poem fresh for the new generations
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    Reading The Waste Land Reading The Waste Land Presentation Transcript

    • Reading The Waste Land The Bird & Baby Philosophy Club lecture series 18 September 2009
    • “a practically meaningless collection of “so much phrases, learned allusions, quotations, waste paper” slang, and scrap in general” “the relief of a personal “expresses the and wholly insignificant disillusionment of a grouse against life; it’s generation” just a piece of rhythmical grumbling” greatest poem of the 20th century?
    • shantih shantih who? languages + fragmentation = confusion
    • barriers to reading languages | jumpy structure | grandiose language | what’s it about?
    • reading The Waste Land ✤ reading I :: discovery ✤ reading II :: uncovering ✤ reading III :: recovery
    • reading I: first thoughts
    • ✤ fragmentation ✤ foreign languages ✤ stark images ✤ memorable scenes & lines ✤ cast of characters ✤ notes ✤ slight familiarity
    • Genuine poetry can communicate even before it is understood. Eliot—Dante (1929)
    • ✤ confusion? ✤ fear? ✤ alienation? ✤ landscape of the mind? ✤ search for meaning/redemption? ✤ call for change? ✤ hope?
    • reading II: method in the madness
    • gathering the fragments ✤ Origins ✤ Writing ✤ Editing ✤ Sources
    • Origins & what was
    • Origins & what might have been
    • Composition :: 1914?-1922
    • The unkindest cuts of all?
    • what is The Waste Land?
    • The Waste Land = mashup “something better, or at least something different”
    • The Waste Land = cultural critique “how the mighty have fallen”
    • The Waste Land = ecological poem
    • Myths & rituals via The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer
    • The Waste Land = spiritual journey
    • The Fisher King legend via From Ritual to Romance by Jessie Weston
    • Dante’s vision of heaven & hell via The Divine Comedy
    • Horror at the centre of life via Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
    • The Waste Land = transformation
    • Water, loss & transformation via The Tempest by William Shakespeare
    • Silence & transformation via the myth of Philomela
    • Blind vision, gender confusion via myth of Tiresias
    • The Waste Land
    • Eternal life without eternal youth the myth of the Cumaean Sibyl
    • The Burial of the Dead
    • April is the cruelest month
    • I do not find the Hanged Man
    • I had not thought death had undone so many
    • You! hypocrite lecteur!
    • A Game of Chess
    • The Chair she sat in
    • The change of Philomel
    • HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME
    • good night, sweet ladies, good night
    • The Fire Sermon
    • Sweet Thames, run softly
    • Lord, thou pluckest me out
    • Burning burning burning burning
    • Death by Water
    • Consider Phlebas
    • What the Thunder Said
    • He who was living is now dead
    • Who is the third?
    • Falling towers
    • I sat upon the shore fishing
    • Eliot, post-Waste Land Sweeney Agonistes, The Hollow Men, Ash-Wednesday, “Journey of the Magi”
    • reading III: shoring the fragments
    • ✤ our connection with nature is wounded ✤ our connections with each other are wounded ✤ none of us has the answers ✤ we long for deliverance & healing ✤ salvation may not be what we expected ✤ I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
    • what in the thunder it said consider The Waste Land, which is just as fragmented and human as you