I had such a horrible time sleeping last night. I’m reasonably certain it was the book I was reading: The Matrix of Modernism by Sanford Schwartz. A person likes to feel that they know who their friends are. I’ve made such a career of demonizing Eliot and Pound— and now I find myself sympathetic. I’m so confused.
Russell Murphy, editor of the Yeats Eliot Review recommended it to me years ago. He knew how much I loved Yeats and detested Eliot. I suspect he also knew that this book would strike at my weak spot— philosophy. I’m starting to find things to admire about the well-thought out nature of Pound and Eliot’s philosophical take on representation, and this is hard for me. Even if I still don’t care for their poems, I can’t think of them as total assholes anymore. That sucks. I’ll need new straw men to beat up on.
The other thing that sucks is complicating my view of metaphor right before I need to lecture on it. Gestating in my head is a new way to look at Walker Evans and James Agee— it seems like Evans overlaps a great deal with Pound, philosophically, and Agee overlaps with Eliot in the strangest ways. They form an interesting matrix of representation, which hopefully I can try to write out sometime soon. The world doesn’t really need another treatise on Evans, but the paradoxical nature of Pound and the paradoxical nature of Evans fit too damn well. It warrants at least a mention. Eliot’s “objective correlative” also fits with Agee’s endless inventories of household objects, and tension over his own subjectivity. My head’s a mess just thinking about it.
I’m beginning to narrow the focus of my thesis to captioning practices in the photographic books of the 1930s. It’s a small piece of the larger puzzle which might be more easily completed in the next year. Simply stated, it has to do with how photographs work as units of meaning in the format of the book. Evan’s rejection of the caption has much to do with his ideas of how reality, and photographs should be read. Though other books before Let Us Now Praise Famous Men refrained from captioning, the reason why Evans was resistant to captioning was far different. Strange to find even greater depth and complexity to that choice in a book which explores the theories of Nietzsche, Bergson, Hulme, and William James compared to the poetics of Pound and Eliot, but whatever works I suppose.
I suppose I should get used to having my world view altered radically by books I read every few weeks, but I never do. It’s a shock to the system. Damn, the last thing I really wanted to do is start liking Eliot!