July 11th, 2011
|09:21 am - Eliot fandom|
This weekend altariel and I went to the sixth annual TS Eliot festival, at Little Gidding. Little Gidding is the name of a poem by Eliot, which won the Nobel Prize (as part of Four Quartets), and it is also an Anglican chapel/shrine deep in the Cambridgeshire countryside.
There were 150 Eliot fans present. About 100 members of the TS Eliot society, and 50 students of the TS Eliot Summer School. altariel and I were amused at how like any other fandom it is, and how unselfconsciously they displayed the enthusiasm, and delight in shared reference, that you see in other fandoms. For example the organiser telling everyone to take a seat for the next guest said 'Hurry Up Please It's Time' (which is a quote from The Wasteland) and everyone guffawed good-naturedly. Just as if he'd given some quote from Captain Kirk. It was very nice to be among poetry fans.
Eliot fans are generally grey haired upper middle class Anglicans, who are rather more eccentric than they probably realise. Like SF fans many of them may be slightly too gentle for this world.
The most famous guest was the poet Simon Armitage; although he was the most successful and famous person in the room he was really quite shy. His reading of Little Gidding itself was astonishing. I felt I was floating a foot or two above my chair. In the panel discussion which followed he was very quiet, and the three Eliot academics sounded forth with great confidence.
The concluding lecture was from Daniel Albright, professor of Literature at Harvard, who spoke about Non-Euclidean aspects of the Four Quartets. Albright was a mercurial and playful speaker. My private feeling is that by using the term non-Euclidean he was making a conscious reference to Lovecraft, and the problem of using words to gesture towards the ineffable, which we discussed the previous weekend at the SFF class. I wish I had been confident enough to accost him and ask him about this.
My feeling is that Eliot's personal philosophy, and even his faith, were very problematic to him. altariel compared this to Milton, whose overt arguments are undermined by division of mind which underlies them. I think many Eliot fans appear to align themselves to his overt philosophy, and the weekend dwelled more on that, than on doubts, divided thought, reservations. But I think that is natural where a fandom forms.
It was a pleasure to be among fans of this titanic figure. It gave me so much to think about. Will Definitely Go Again.
Meeting other fandoms is wonderful. I have been to several meetings of the Alliance of Literary Societies and met many members of single-author societies (I don't recall TS Eliots, though they are members). Any member of any society can go to the annual meeting.http://www.allianceofliterarysocieties.org.uk/
How wonderful. I had no idea such an umbrella organisation existed. I feel strangely proud that there are so many groups devoted to writers.
|Date:||July 11th, 2011 09:17 am (UTC)|| |
although he was the most successful and famous person in the room he was really quite shy.
Oh, is that it! When I've met him he has always kept very much to his own close group and I wondered if he were standoffish, but that makes sense.
He seemed really nervous and he ducked his head down and spoke up through his fringe in a very sheepish way. I thought it was sweet but I wish he had been more confident to speak about his ideas. He started talking about the shape of Eliot's words and the feeling of saying them, but the group mainly wanted to talk about Dante and sacred venues and more cerebral issues like that, so he just sat looking awkward.
I thought he came across as shy too.
He referred to "these islands", which I liked.
What a wonderful weekend! I enjoyed altariel
's tweets. I've been periodically pulling out my copy of Collected Works in response to some of your thought-provoking posts on Burnt Norton
, and it's felt like re-discovering the joy of Eliot's poetry all over again. I remember the excitement of reading my first Eliot poem (The Hollow Men
- I'd been looking up quotations about shadows in the dictionary of quotations) and it sounds as if being at the festival was similar in being both reminder and re-discovery?
Yes, and also made me want to try writing some more poetry which is a nice feeling
|Date:||July 11th, 2011 11:52 am (UTC)|| |
That sounds so lovely!