Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hulme, Pound, and Eliot

I think I ended up agreeing with a lot of Hulme’s points about the way criticism works and how readers’ interests and backgrounds affect their perceptions, though I was rather annoyed at some of his attacks on Romanticism, mostly because I couldn’t tell if his extreme approach was entirely sincere or if he was just making such characterizations in an effort to get more attention for himself by making statements that might seem outrageous (though I wasn’t sure if anyone was genuinely shocked or angered by his statements, despite his reference to the French riot, or if the “us vs. them” aspect of his characterizations was just set up in a way to give him the appearance of being provocative by implying that any effort to defend romanticism would be a result of being some junkie-like fanatic or else irrelevant). In particular, I didn’t like how he referenced the scientific aspect of the classicism/romanticism conflict in just one paragraph and then mostly dropping it (94), because he referenced both sides of the argument as if he didn’t really have an actual opinion of them beyond just viewing them as convenient, making the whole idea of referencing them seem rather pointless. I also didn’t really agree with the “spilt religion” concept (95), since it assumes so much that people would naturally be religious if only it wouldn’t be questioned so much, which I don’t think is true, since it doesn’t seem like anyone becomes religious just by instinct, it either seems to get pushed on them as children, or they just decide on it as adults because nothing else was working for them (he also compares this “instinct” to that of sex, which I found pretty ironic considering how organized religion tends to frown on sexual activity of any sort; I wondered what he would have made of more current issues such as the Catholic priest sex-abuse scandal, which he could use to prove his point about not suppressing natural behaviors, though it doesn’t say much about the organizations he seems to want to uphold so much).

I was also interested in Pound’s and Eliot’s criticisms, because I liked how they really seemed to just be writing as poets rather than established critics (as Kermode noted), and seemed to have absorbed the better aspects of Hulme’s writing, since Pound convincingly characterized the difficulties faced by writers of his generation, while Eliot’s cited influences and interests (such as The Revenger’s Tragedy and his approaches to Shakespeare and the metaphysical poets) were ones that I hadn’t expected and made me more interested in how they tied into the Modernist movement as part of a particular tradition, as he had suggested. Hulme’s references to “zest,” along with Pound’s emphasis on word usage, made me think a bit of Marianne Moore’s discussion of poetry in “Humility, Concentration, and Gusto,” though their arguments otherwise often seemed too gendered and focused on poetry to have much consideration for women writers, or prose works such as Howards End (Hulme’s characterization of romanticism in particular didn’t seem to take into account the more ambivalent roles of writers such as Mary Shelley within the movement), which I guess may have been a factor in Woolf’s writing, though she seemed more interested in discussing prose over poetry (though I only know the “Shakespeare’s Sister” aspect of her criticism so far).

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