I‘ve put another paper in the “Longer Writing” section on the left. It’s a talk on T.S.Eliot and anti-Semitism that I gave at Brookes a couple of weeks ago – very deliberately the case for the defence.
It’s a paper I’d been wanting to write for quite a while, ever since my nosiness took me too look at the draft manuscripts of The Rock in the Bodleian. I went to look at these because Eliot is a hobby of mine, and I rather like the play. I have often felt surprised at how little it has been examined by Eliot scholars – Anthony Julius, for example, in his attack on Eliot’s attitude to the Jews. gives it only a page, vaguely written, although, as I hope my paper shows, it is a key document in any discussion of Eliot and prejudice. (Even more surprisingly, Christopher Ricks, in his Eliot and Prejudice, also only touches on it skimpily, and gives the impression of having explored no further than the choruses.)
When I started looking at The Rock, I had no particular idea about connecting it with my Great War research, but in fact whole sections of the play have to do, directly or indirectly, with defining an attitude to the War.
In his 1961 introduction to David Jones’s In Parenthesis, Eliot wrote of a literary “generation” including Pound, Joyce, Jones and himself:
The lives of all of us were altered by the War, but David Jones was the only one to have fought in it.
Is he implying that he, Pound and Joyce were affected more than the average civilian? Is this a political alteration? A personal one? A spiritual one? Or does he mean that they had to face a new literary challenge, to describe a world that had been redefined by the War?
There’s a lot more to be said about Eliot and the War, I think.