Thursday, February 7, 2013

Waste Land = cubist?

Eliot's poem is often described as "fragmented". The multiple voices and layers of allusions make the reader feel disoriented and uncomfortable. There's no linear structure, it is composed of various bits and pieces with similar themes to form a larger concept. The poem reminds me a lot of the collage/cubist work of the early 20th century. Cubism was born in 1907 with Picasso's "Las Senoritas de Avignon", which revolutionized the art world. Cubism is both an intellectual and an artistic movement in that the artist tries to capture the essence of the object; they communicate their knowledge about the subject rather than just to visually represent it. Cubist work is choppy and fragmented, just like Eliot's poem. It also, like the Waste Land, was influenced by ancient african and iberian art work (specifically masks). Both Eliot and the Cubists were inspired by the past in order to create their Modernist art. Reading the Waste Land, for me, is very similar to looking at the work of Picasso, Braque or Gris.

5 comments:

Austin Falk said...

Modernist artists such as Elliot and Picasso both definitely do not really follow a theme with their artwork. I remember from the paintings we have studied in Spanish class of Picasso, that they are very random and often do not really display a constant message. We know from reading Elliot's poem Waste Land that it does not really have a constant theme either. This lack of a theme is a goal of Modernist artists whether it be in literature like Elliot's Waste Land or paintings like Picasso through Cubism. They shared a common goal of getting away from set themes in Romanticism and forming a new trend through Modernism.

Ian J said...

Cassidy, I believe that Elliot was indeed a cubist writer, especially in his "Waste Land", as you described. The way Elliot tries to capture the "essence of the object" is by using all his fragmented ideas and allusions. However, I shouldn't say that that his ideas and allusions are fragmented, because when they are analyzed and people see the original work the idea or allusion came from, they all fit together in such a logical order. Now, of course it is very difficult to know where all these allusions off the top of your head and this is the reason Elliot and his critics provide the footnotes and headnotes in the Norton. I believe that even though "The Waste Land" may be extremely difficult to piece together, due to its cubist features and characteristics, they all seem to fit together quite well, like a puzzle.

Tyler Dean said...

Although cubism never really became a true literary movement, one could definitely consider much of Eliot's work cubist in nature. He uses fragments, as you said, to make a confusing, and even nonsensical, story. He uses allusions from past societies like Greece, Rome, and medieval Europe all in one. Much of what he says makes no sense at all, and as Austin said, there are many different meanings to each allusion.

Madeline Davis said...

In response to Ian and Austin's comments, I do think that Modernist writers followed themes in their work, but they had very choppy and seemingly disconnected means of communicating their message. I think the theme is present in modernist works, but the reader must back away from analyzing each and every specific reference and feel the essence of the work as a whole to uncover its theme before analyzing the allusions and understanding the puzzle pieces that comprise the entire poem.

Ben Bonner said...

I think that one can definately draw parallels between Cubist art and Modernist literature. When I think of Cubism, the painting that allways comes first to my mind is Picasso's "Guernica." This painting depicts the destruction and bombing of the city of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Although "Guernica" and "The Waste Land" are seperated by 15 years, they possess the same fragmented and disjointed style. I think the similarity in style results from the fact that they were both inspired by the horrors of war.