I'm doing a line by line close reading of The Wasteland,
because I have the utter gall and audacity to think that I may do some kind of review here. I don't know what that will look like, yet -- but I reckon if I make this note, some of the goodreaders might actually hold me to it.
I'm through sections I and II. I love this edition, which has copious annotations including Eliot's own, an excellent introduction that discusses some of the more important and interesting text changes over the early years, plus lots of in-depth background material, lit crit, etc. All jam packed into 288 un-intimidating pages. (note to self - the poem is 433 lines. My updates will be expressed as % completed of the poem alone)
The beauty of Eliot (as I recalled and can now re-confirm) is that you can pay attention to this, i.e., the classical allusions and other context, or not, as you choose. The poem is accessible, readable, interpretable without these. Engage with it, and you cannot help but get something out of it.
This is another text (I'm thinking of Mrs. Dalloway
now) that changes, morphs into whatever the shape of container that the reader brings to it. It's hard, for me at least and especially these days (despite my training by avid New Critics) to approach any text cleanly and in a vacuum. So I confess that this time I am thinking of Eliot a little more broadly. (I am also reading his letters side-by-side).
Here, Eliot's proselytizing Christianity (not his anti-Semitism) is hovering in the background, inflecting the text with a layer of meaning that I find myself reacting to (against?) and needing to incorporate. There is also a materialism/anti-materialism theme that is emerging this time around, where it didn't before.
I look forward to seeing how these themes and others shape up in the remainder of the poem, and whether I end up having a different view of the poem -- and the poet -- than I once did.
More to come....