Advertisements in The Dial

The first thing I noticed when comparing The Criterion to The Dial was the amount of advertising in The Dial. The names of some of these novels presented do not even sound real. The Goose Man and Rootabaga Stories have intrigued me more than I care to admit. Even though this magazine mostly has ads related to literature, the ads make the magazine feel less pretentious than The Criterion. In The Criterion, there was no explanation of the pieces chosen or any explanation of the magazine’s overall purpose. The Dial seems like a magazine I would actually enjoy or at least I would mind pretending to enjoy. The Criterion did nothing for me. I must admit that the pleasure I got from The Dial was entirely from the advertisements. What’s not to love when it has a header reading “The Color of Life is in These Books.” Which seems like a bit of a stretch considering all the novels sound absolutely boring. Nonetheless, The Dial was a far more enjoyable read.

Interesting point: Scott Fitzgerald seems to approve of the novel Babel stating that “Babel is the love affair of hundreds of thousands of people, one of the most real and human love episodes in recent fiction.”

Dada and The Broom

In the Dada Manifesto, Tristan Tzara states that “Dada is nothing”. The Broom magazine published art and poetry post WWI. In the first issue published there is art by Pablo Picasso. The image I found most interesting was Volume 4 Issue 1. The image is on page 13 following a poem by Louis Grudin. The poem has a similar feel to the Wasteland with multiple characters and narrators. The image on page 13 looks like a two-headed child with one side monstrous and the other normal. Comparing the art to the poem, there is not an immediate correlation. The image is also blocky, looking almost like a work of cubism. The image is childlike and does not logically fit with the poem it follows.

That Shakespeherian Rag

Some of you have suggested that the addition of the old Shakespeherian Rag is a condemnation of low culture in the modern era compared to Shakespearian drama. Although I agree with this idea, I think it is more important to look at why he chose to include the Shakespeherian Rag immediately after including a quote from The Tempest. It seems presumptuous of Eliot to suggest that the use of Shakespeare in any modern platform is low culture and it would be diminishing his writing since he repeatedly references Shakespeare himself. Instead, it seems to me that Eliot dislikes the songs obvious misuse of Shakespearian tragedies. The song is overly chipper and does not acknowledge the many deaths and sadness that occur within each play. This is particularly interesting to me considering how similar he makes his poem to a Renaissance drama. The Wasteland possesses the five-act structure of a drama and it plays out the tragedy of WWI throughout the course of the poem.

Women Beware the Wasteland

I had a hard time remembering exactly why we were studying Women beware Women for this class. As I read, I could not find any immediate connection to the Wasteland until I read the footnote. The second part of the poem is titled “A Game of Chess” after the play. In this section of the poem, Eliot writes about the story of Philomel who was raped by her sister’s husband. In that story, the two women band together to fight Tereus; this is a very different arrangement from what happens in Women Beware Women. In Women Beware Women, as the name suggests, women do not help one another, Livia works with the Duke to corrupt Bianca leading to a bloody ending for all. Women in the play are both pawns and players in the game, with no prejudice for whose life they toil.

As the poem goes on, Eliot includes a conversation between two women at a bar. Lil’s husband Albert is coming back after four years in the army and Lil’s friend tells her to work on herself. Her looks were never the same after taking the abortifacient, she has had five kids already at the age of thirty-one but her friend still does not think her abortion was justified. Instead of showing sympathy, her friend tells her it is her problem and that Albert deserves a good time. “Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is, I said, / What you get married for if you don’t want children?”(Eliot 163-164). There is no solidarity between women in the Wasteland just as there is no solidarity in Women Beware Women. Eliot has shown the erosion in relations between men and women post-war and now he is showing the degradation of the homosocial sphere as well.

Sex, Violence, and the Natural Order

In The Wasteland fertility and rebirth are overtaken by the violence of WWI. The natural order of spring cannot continue and relationships are changed because of what people have experienced. In the two Ovid pieces, we read there is a similar dysfunction although both follow different structures. In the story of Tiresias, he is called upon by the goddess Juno and the god Jove to help them decide if men or women have better sexual experiences. Tiresias, having experienced life as a man and woman tells the couple that women do. Juno does not like this answer and blinds Tiresias. From this, he is able to see the future but his physical sight is forever gone. For Tereus, Procne, and Philomel the story begins with desire leads to the violent rape of Philomel by Tereus and ends with Procne feeding her own son to her rapist husband. At the end, the three of them return to nature in the form of birds.

Weston’s discussion of the medicine man or healer takes a different turn. In her chapter, she says that the healer was a part of dramatic fertility rituals as well as their usual healing practices. Weston writes of healers who helped heal knights such as Sir Gawain, wounded from violence in battle. This character then bridges the gap between violence and sex. The Ovid stories show sex and loss/violence following one another, as cause and effect. Weston shows that there had to be a resolution of violence/loss before rebirth, sex, and fertility can begin. The Wasteland shows that there has not been a resolution of violence/loss so the natural cycle cannot be completed.

The Dead Knight and The Fisher King

In Ritual to Romance, Jessie Weston writes about the legends of the Grail and the Fisher King. She writes that in the Bleheris version of the story there is a Dead Knight next to the King. He was killed by the ‘Dolorous Stroke‘ which was also responsible for the creation of the Wasteland. The Dead Knight plays a role similar to the Fisher King of other stories who were similar in appearance and circumstance to the land. The Wauchier text contains the Perceval version of the grail legend. In this version, the Dead Knight is the brother of the King. The dead brother of the King (now given the name Gondefer) was murdered by the treacherous Partinal. Perceval must then slay the murderous traitor to renew the land and the King.

Both the character of the King and the Dead Knight show a connection between leaders and their land. In both versions of the story presented, the leaders are harmed and nature follows. The same thing happens when wars are fought. There is some sort of struggle among leaders and the rest of the country has to deal with it. Wars begin with various causes but they end with soldiers left to fight on the ground. Soldiers do not hold ill will towards the opposing soldiers because this is not truly their fight. They have not sat down with the other soldiers and realized how much of a jerk that one German lieutenant is. No! They fight because they have been told to do it and their fighting is destroying the land.

Eliot, along with his contemporaries, felt disillusioned with the world and how easily country leaders could flippantly change it. In the grail legends, the King and the Knight do nothing to restore their land and they pay no further price. A new knight simply comes along to pick up the pieces and restore the land. I doubt Eliot would like this type of ending. Throughout his poem there is fire and water. Fire is often written as destructive and bad whereas water is good and gives life but Part IV of the poem is titled Death by Water. In this way, restoration and life does not yield the best outcome. I am left wondering if Eliot sees any possible way of overcoming without entering a new cycle of destruction.

Old and New Ruins

In part 1 of “The Wasteland” there is a conflict between the old and new. The mythological intermingle with current events. In the first stanza, there is a reference to Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his cousin going sledding and enjoying coffee and conversation. There are references to the bible, tarot readings, and the ancient battle of Mylae. T.S. Eliot does this throughout the poem, adding to the fragmented and unnatural feeling to the poem.

When first reading the poem, I thought the red rock in stanza 2 was meant to be natural. Images of the Oklahoma panhandle’s red dirt came to mind as well as the Australian outback. Although these are very real places, they are likely not the intended imagery. Instead, I believe the red rock are actually rocks. It is from this brick ruin that the guiding spirits show’s the reader “fear in a handful of dust.” This supernatural figure comes from modernity and this intertwined relationship continues throughout the poem. We are left in limbo between life and death, old and new.