The Home Front Waste Land: Williams, Zukofsky, and Epistemology after Eliot

By Kritikos, Dean | WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

The Home Front Waste Land: Williams, Zukofsky, and Epistemology after Eliot


Kritikos, Dean, WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts


How will the dead bury their dead? -Louis Zukofsky

In the wake of World War One, or at least at the end of the first interval of world-wide war that has characterized lived experience since 1914, T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922) happened to poetry the way that James Joyce's Ulysses (1922) happened to prose. But what exactly was that happening-what did it mean? There's no sustainable way to doubt that The Waste Land is a powerful poem, regardless of whether you think its effects/affects on the field of poetry have been positive, negative, over- or under-underemphasized or -recognized, or what-haveyou. The real project is figuring out what the impact was-what the power of the poem is. This essay will argue that some of the most interesting effects it has had have been philosophical-epistemological. I want to look at two (of many) poetic works written in (direct) response to The Waste Land, William Carlos Williams' Spring and All (1923) and Louis Zukofsky's "Poem beginning 'The'" (1926/281). This paper isn't about Eliot; it's about Williams and Zukofsky. But their pieces, I'll argue, take up the W WI-inflicted problem of epistemology Eliot's poem foregrounds, attempting to offer home-front reconciliations of Eliot's problematic of inside/outside or subjective/objective-imaginative/real-in the space opened up by The Waste Land.

With regard to form, the three following sections of this essay will discuss Eliot, Williams, and Zukofksy, respectively, with the first functioning as a scaffold for the latter two. In the first, I'll flesh out a brief introductory framing of The Waste Land-less a reading than a suggestion of a way to think about the poem- focusing heavily on Eliot's philosophical work within (and without) the poem. The next two sections, significantly heavier, will focus on readings of Williams' and Zukofsky's answers to Eliot and the problematization of knowing his poem incurs. Most specifically, I'm interested in the way that both poets' works conceptualize the relation of the imagination to reality: similarly yet paradoxically in opposition to the way Eliot's poem does, but also in a way that pre-empts Wallace Stevens' exploration of the imagination/reality tension. Toward the close of my Williams section, I'll introduce and briefly discuss Stevens' Necessary Angel: Essays on the Imagination and Reality, which Spring and All pre-empts. Stevens' collection will surface, as well, in my section on Zukofsky. The titles of each section, you'll notice, are jokey derivatives of lines from the poetry I'm reading in this essay. You'll also notice that each section of this essay, with the exception of this introduction, incorporates a portion of correspondence between the poet I'm discussing and Ezra Pound.

On the one hand, Pound's letters are as cryptic and interesting as anything he or any other (post)modernist has written, and worthy of study in their own right. But on the other hand, I'm using Pound to contextualize my readings because no real discussion of poetry between WWI and WWII would be complete without at least a nod toward how he "was the force upon which many depended and with which all had to contend" (Wright viii).The motivation behind my Eliotic scaffolding and Poundian segues is to focus on Modernist poets other than Pound and Eliot without completely disregarding the influence of either on poetry being written-globally-in the context of WWI. And the motivation to revisit poetry written at the ostensible end of WWI is that, in a half-poetic sense, we're just now entering its hundredth year2. An alternate title for this essay could have been "World War One at 100," following the month-long "Burroughs at 100" posthumous celebration of Uncle Bill's life occurring right now (April 2014) in New York City. "WWI at 100," though, wouldn't be a retrospective; rather; it'd be something in the way of a centennial, a recognition of continuation-a call for help. The epistemological problems of a world ravaged by WWI are as relevant today, as it becomes history's second Hundred Years' War, as they were approximately 100 years ago. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Home Front Waste Land: Williams, Zukofsky, and Epistemology after Eliot
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.