Melanie Bettinelli of The Wine-Dark Sea has started an ambitious project of explaining to the blogosphere why T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" is her favorite poem.
After I mentioned The Waste Land in my Make your House Fair post, I found myself pondering it in the shower (All my best ideas come to me in the shower). I was recalling my youthful zeal to enlighten the masses about how wonderful Eliot is. I have found that even among people who love The Waste Land it is often misunderstood....
When I first encountered it, I was told that The Waste Land is a poem about the bleakness and despair of the modern world—which is true to a point; but if it is a poem about doubt it is also a poem about hope. In the Judeo-Christian tradition the desert has often been a place of renewal, in the Bible new life is always springing up in places that were thought to be barren. I prefer to read The Waste Land as a great Christian epic that asserts that the problem of faith in the modern of world is not really a new problem but that people in every age need to seek again for the source of life.
...I believe The Waste Land is the poem par excellence that grapples with the problem of faith in a post-Christian world. True, the poem doesn’t mention Christ by name nor is it explicitly Christian in its imagery. But it is, to borrow a phrase from Flannery O’Connor, Christ-haunted. I believe that one must enter into the world of the poem and to accept it on its own terms but that it does help to have a tour guide. I propose to become that guide, to offer my own insights and experiences of it.
Four posts in, and she's barely cracked the first stanza:
I am fond of the poem, which I encountered in high school English class; but have not had anywhere near Melanie's passion for it, and am looking forward to learning more about it. Maybe she can communicate that passion -- one cannot have too many of those, literarily speaking.