Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nostalgia in Wasteland

From the beginning of The Wasteland, Eliot uses nostalgic imagery and verbiage. Memory and forgetfulness are mentioned within the first ten lines. I also started to realize a pattern. Almost all the verbs are in the past tense, "surprised", "stopped", etc. Eliot wants us to look backwards. Why? Well if we read the Wasteland as a criticism of cultural disintegration, then it is easy to see why Eliot is nostalgic for more meaningful, more cultural times. The nostalgia felt by Eliot reminds me of the nostalgia felt by the Buendia family, who wanted to get rid of the railroad and go back to the more simple more magical ways of life. When Eliot mentions Madame Sosostris, Tiresias, and other magical figures they seem to be more unique, and more interesting than his more "contemporary" characters.

7 comments:

Austin Falk said...

I do agree to an extent that Elliot looks into the past. We know that modernists' goals were to get away from Romantic thought and the emphasis on nature. However, Elliot uses many classic examples in his poem such as Shakespeare's Hamlet and lines from Buddha. I think Elliot's goal was just like other modernists to get away from Romantic verse and its restrictions but at the same time not to forget the classics such as Shakespeare whom he references frequently in his poem.

Ian J said...

When Elliot writes, "April is the cruelest month", he might mean that the rebirth or reoccurring of the month brings back old memories, and maybe some that are good. However, most Modernist strive to bring about allusions of the past. The allusions they try to bring up are the ones that they believe to be good and best for society to "relive". This can be seen when Elliot alludes to older works like mythology, the Buddha (religious), exotic non-Western cultures, Bible, Dante, Fisher King (Holy Grail) and Middle Ages, Vogner, French Symbolists (namely, Baudelaire), and Shakespeare. They were selective in terms of time period, for example they chose specific authors from classical times, Biblical times, Shakespeare, the Middle Ages, and not many more.

TSHAH said...

I believe Elliot's desire to look back into the past stems from the idea that some of the new modern improvements and innovations has ruined our society. In the past things were more simple and les corrupted. Elliot also points out that history in a way has not change given that the same warfare that we has in the past is still preset today as he alludes to a past war to indirectly reference World War I.

Laura N said...

I wonder who/what Eliot suggests is the 20th century’s "Fisher King," or if such a savior can exist in post WWI society. Perhaps, these allusions can be a source of knowledge and guidance. Or perhaps these allusions are just a part of the nostalgia of the poem. Alluding to stories such as the Grail or ancient sorcerers may be Eliot's way of either mourning or mocking simpler times, when men thought reality was orderly, predictable, and (to some extent) controllable.

Laura N said...

After reading the last part of the poem, I think individuals who sympathize with other people are he who/what Eliot links with the savior Fisher King. If each person could break free from their alienated state and reach out to another person, perhaps the world could heal after the devestation brought on be WWI and other changes to society.

Michell D said...

Elliot complains of how bored the 20th century has become. He complains of how they live their lives from one day to the next without caring about anything that he considers worthwhile. He wants things to go back to the way things were before people started to care more about themselves and earthly pleasures more than their addition to society. He employs nostalgia in the poem to parallel his feelings and draw those same emotions from the reader. The nostalgia in the poem does not necessarily talk about pre WWI, but the overall emotional connection to that times is represented by the memories the subjects of the poem long for.

Ben Bonner said...

I don't neccessarily think that Eliot is yearning to go back in time, at least not in all respects. The allusion he makes to the Punic Wars and the destruction of Carthage seems to correlate with World War I. In this case, he seems to be suggesting that war is just as brutal in the 20th century as it was in the 3rd century BC. In this respect, he seems to be arguing that society hasn't really advanced and that it certainly is no less brutal.