The Waste Land, Prufrock and Other Observations by T.S. Eliot

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I have to say that of everything I have read in my life, I have understood this book the least. The commentator, Valden James Madsen, was very thorough, and I’m sure that he has studied literature for a long time. I can’t say that I was ever taught the appreciation of poetry, and I don’t know how to understand this book. I admire T.S. Eliot in writing it because he seems to know everything about everything, ancient greek and roman mythology, buddhism, Christianity, European geography, and more that I have no knowledge about. But for someone to be able to write poetry involving all those things must require a deep understanding of all of them, so I find myself very inadequate in my education, even though I have three degrees, a B.A. in History, B.M. in Clarinet Performance, and a M.M.E. in Music Education. Mr. Madsen mentioned that T.S. Eliot was an American expatriate living in Europe, which I’m sure widened his experience and broadened his knowledge of all this, he also mentioned that Eliot wanted to be “comprehensive” and “allusive” which he has definitely done for me. I will have to do some more reading in greek and roman mythology and Shakespearian plays and read a bunch more before I can come back to this poem with any hope of understanding it. Most of the page of the poem isn’t the poem itself, but footnotes regarding the references he uses. I need to sit and read it with no distractions… which might not happen for several years.

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