I didn’t do any posting Wednesday because I’ve been dealing with a stomach bug and slept the majority of the day. So, to right that, I want to share the discussion post I just finished for my Humanities class at Southern New Hampshire University.
For your initial post, choose one artwork from the various types of modernism discussed in the module. Identify the style of the piece and discuss why and how it fits into its particular “-ism.” In what ways does the piece respond to the challenges of its day? How does the artist use the art to engage the issues that concern him or her? How is this art different from the 19th-century movements that preceded it?
The piece I want to take a look at is T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
A little background on Eliot:
Thomas Stearns Eliot OM (26 September 1888 – 4 January 1965) was an essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic and “one of the twentieth century’s major poets.” Born in St. Louis, Missouri in the United States, he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 (at age 25) and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.
Eliot attracted widespread attention for his poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915), which is seen as a masterpiece of the Modernist movement. It was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language, including The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930) and Four Quartets (1945). He is also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948, “for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry”.
– Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._S._Eliot
|T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). Prufrock and Other Observations. 1920.|
|1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock|
Like it was mentioned earlier, Prufrock is a modernist poem. There are elements of expressionism and surrealism, among other things. Look at the first graph and read it aloud to yourself. Listen to the sounds of the T’s and the S’s – the muttering retreats, the sawdust restaurants and oyster shells – the purpose of the heavy alliteration is to connote a couple of different things, the primary of which being to enhance the imagrey of the surroundings and the narrative situation. That, almost excessive, quality is very expressionistic. In regards to the poems surrealistic qualities, i want to point to two places. The first of which being the graph referencing Hamlet. In the allusion, Eliot writes, “No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;” and is really commenting on the overall tone of the poem. To this point Eliot has almost bordered on a nihilistic lament, coming off a paragraph where he is openly contemplating the “worth” of everything. At this point he needs to throw in the bit about Hamlet because it will effect the overall tone of the poem if he does not. I find this to have a surrealistic quality because the jump or transition in train of thought takes us to a whole different interpretation of the piece. This specific line also shows a very expressionist trait.The “No!” at the start of the line is Eliot overcome with emotion – a expressionist tenant dating back to Romanticism. One more not on the surrealistic qualities of the poem. Look at the structure. The line structure (amount of lines in each graph) is 12, 2, 8, 12, 2, 12, 6, 7, 8, 3, 2, 12, 12, 9, 2, 3, 1, 3, 3. Is there any sense of order in that? The same can be said for the syllable count and the rhyme structure. The seeming lack of adherence to any of the previous standards makes this appear a very surrialist piece.
In response to the challenges of its day:
The poem, in and of itself, is a very contemplative account of life. We start with boyhood journeys in busy streets and cheap hotels and the various women that come in and out of life – who may or may not serve as muses. We end with an old man wearing his trousers rolled, doing all he can to savour the sounds around him one last time. The poem asks a very existentialist question of meaning. Our text notes that the Oxford guide calls Eliot “Cosmopolitian,” and I would say alot of that is dead on the money. Eliot is not Hemingway. He is not writing to an audience seeking a simple savoring of life. His audience are people working in cities, with all the luxuries of modern life, and are looking around wondering if their life has true purpose.
I think, generally speaking, Eliot uses a variety of poetical devices to enhance whatever he is speaking about. Like I pointed out earlier the poem is ripe with alliteration, allegories, assonance, consonance and many other techniques. Everything he does is with the intent to bring the reader on the journey that he establishes in the first graph.
While some pre-modernists played with structure, Eliot, and alot of others in the time period, totally abandoned it (yes, there are notable exceptions – Hughes, Pound e.t.c.). That is something much different from alot of pre-modernist poets who tried to adhere to older formats.