The Dartmouth Observer
Monday, September 29, 2003
And the Floodwaters Turned to Blood
I am quite amused concerning the buzzflood (I imagine hordes of insects descending upon the Green) and its detractors. Now while I am aghast that some seek to trivialize elite education into a name-branding-- it has a much loftier purpose than the stepping stone to materialism I assure you-- what irks me about the group is that their High Commander preventing the organization from engaging in a public debate under the aegis of the Dartmouth Independent Forum. Considering that the Force-turned-Flood is trying to publicly shape what Dartmouth as an abstraction represents, for them a mere name brand, it should engage in the necessary act of being contested within the public spheres of our community. However, given their High commander's penchant for control and amoral selfish achievement, they were not prepared to struggle in an arena where their supporters could not inundate the pages of the D in the defense of the shtick their High Commander started. (And if I ever have to see another article by him, which became simply a repetition of what his last column was about I think I will have to scream.)I support Mr. Eisenmann in his petition and hope that this will prompt them to consider rescinding their summertime veto of campus discourse. It would be said to have to dismiss a group for something as simple as inability to work well and play with others.
Clinton attempting the Free the Left writes: "The boys club- The sort of small time politics practiced at Dartmouth are way male, and mostly way white. If this doesn't change now, how can the dems expect to excite people unlike the ones who will be on stage?"
I always thought it was very simple. The Left, nor the Right, is really about "the other people." While pretending to be concerned, and relegating the so-called oppressed to the sidelines where mere scraps of bone would occasionally be shaken in their direction, it was always about using the right buzzwords to mobilize enough voters to grant the elites of these parties, whom we must admit will more likely be propertied, have wealth and be in the upper (middle) class, enough power to enact their political agenda. "Other people" are tangential to the formulation of their philosophies. If Clinton were truly concerned with "adding people to stage" in the future, he would immediately begin working for a few economic changes: the changing of property laws (such that it becomes easier for more people to own homes), the repeal of all agricultural subsidies (to promote trade with the third world and to lower food prices), federal and state subsidies of health services for single mothers including both adoptive, abortionist and early childhood care, crackdown on and huge penalties for criminals and illegal aliens and the disbanding of worker's unions. Combined with support for vouchers and charter schools, these measures should begin to address a good deal of the problems that restrict upward mobility. I have a distinct feeling that I won't see Clint's name of this progressive agenda. Anyone up for a protest against humanitarian intervention? (I couldn't resist throwing in the last sentence.)
In All Possible Worlds
Given that I will be doing a radio show this term on the recently dubbed "Dartmouth Election Network" on Sunday evenings, I have taken to the habit of reading the newspaper everyday again (instead of twice a week). Since I also work at Feldberg, I have taken to the habit of reading the Financial Times in my spare time. For the few days that I have been doing this, I have been assaulted by one fact: Bush is begging the world for support after burning his international social capital while his support erodes at home.
This is particularly bad news. First, without much domestic support Congress will prove unwilling to take two necessary steps: finance the war and raise taxes to do so. (I am usually against raising taxes but all wars must be financed.) Second, without international support the US will have to use its own reserves to provide the additional manpower. Third, Bush may be beaten by a Democrat presidential nominee. This, of course, given the current line-up, would be disastrous for the judiciary and the nation. The only thing worse than a Democrat White House is a Democrat-controlled HOR. God-forbid all of those people (and by those people I am referring to the members of the minority left with their endless ethnic whore-mongering) become heads of committees and such things. It can only make me cry.
It would also be disastrous if we lost our commitment to Iraq. Having now done this act, whether justified or not, we must have the testicular fortitude to continue through with this project. That being said, Bush-the-strong-man who played the UN last year, has now come begging for its support and blessing. I'm sure this can only send ripples of glee toward those who believe the UN is central to any international action. The recent pandering to the UNiphiles and self-righteous smugness of Kofi Annan derives from the seemingly strategylessness of the Bush team. Why didn't anyone plan for and set it up such that there would be a large amount of international reserves troops to rely on? Luckily, Russia's President is clever and will may us pay dearly for his support.
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Daniel Webster '01, as in 1801, in response to former Surgeon General of the United States C. Everett Koop '37, cited as an eminent supporter of the project, goes public against the BuzzFlood:
"'This, Sir, is my case! It is the case not merely of that humble institution, it is the case of every college in our Land! It is more! It is the case of every eleemosynary institution throughout our country — of all those great charities founded by the piety of our ancestors to alleviate human misery, and scatter blessings along the pathway of life!...Sir, I know not how others may feel," (glancing at the opponents of the college before him) "but for myself, when I see my Alma Mater surrounded, like Caesar in the senate house, by those who are reiterating stab upon stab, I would not for this right hand have her say to me, Et tu quoque, mi fili!'"
The D's new website
Larry Scholer intends to offer critical commentary on the writings in The D.
But before you even get to the prose, how about their new website? Broken links I can understand; that happens when you transition to a new system. The new layout, however, seems to me less user-friendly than the last one. Take the op-ed page for instance. There's no need to post half of Robert Butts's piece in order to get people to read the entire thing. Multiply that several times (depending on how many op-eds there are), and you're forced to scroll a long way down the screen to access previous day's op-eds. That's a bit tedious if you ask me. It's not a huge deal, but still...
Oh, and before I forget
I'm back on campus after a six-month hiatus, whose contents I shan't bore you with (lots of books were involved). As I'm writing a History thesis and taking two tough classes - one by Pamela Crossley on the Mongols, the other on James Joyce's Ulysses - I plan on not blogging as much as usual. (Although, as Jon Schroeder has told me, blogging's a great way of curing writers' block.)
But John Stevenson has an off-term, Ryan Samuels isn't writing a thesis, Jon Schroeder's graduated, and...you get the picture.
The best obituary so far is by Said's close friend Christopher Hitchens, who manages to combine praise and criticism in equal measure:
When talking to him about the various types of sacred rage that poison the region, one gained the impression of someone to whom this sort of fanaticism was, in every declension of the word, quite foreign.
Edward had a slight tendency to self-pity, and the same chord was struck even in the best of his literary work, which often expressed a too-highly developed sense of injury and victimhood.
And he was capable of stooping to mere abuse when attacking other dissidents—particularly other Arab dissidents, and most particularly Iraqi and Kurdish ones—with whom he did not agree.
His emotional strength—one has to resort to cliché sometimes—was nonetheless also a weakness.
For the sake of comparison, check out Alexander Cockburn's encomium here. The following quotation seems worth mentioning:
He never lost the capacity to be wounded by the treachery and opportunism of supposed friends. A few weeks ago he called to ask whether I had read a particularly stupid attack on him by his very old friend Christopher Hitchens in the Atlantic Monthly.
Cockburn thinks Hitchens's Atlantic piece was an "attack" on Said. Hitchens can be far, far more polemical than that. Also, Cockburn seems to have forgotten (or ignored) what some other people (Martin Kramer, Stanley Kurtz, Bernard Lewis, Fouad Ajami, et al.) have had to say about the late man and his work.
Worse still is his insinuation that Hitchens, by writing what he did, has somehow betrayed his old friend and is now only a "supposed" friend. That insinuation, and Cockburn's final paragraph (it comes right after the above quotation; read it yourself: it's over the top), suggest that Cockburn's engaged in some absurd contest to be Said's best pal. This is no way to conclude an obituary.
Or maybe I'm reading too deeply, as English majors are prone to do?
Conservatives and Academia, Part 52945
David Brooks writes on conservatives in the academy, quoting Harvey Mansfield, Robert George, and Alan Charles Kors (who is actually more of a libertarian). Nothing that we didn't already know: it ain't easy getting a job in the humanities and social sciences if you openly espouse right of center viewpoints. (But in the sciences, things are somewhat different. According to a Republican friend of mine, there's a Dartmouth chemistry professor with a picture of George W. Bush prominently displayed in his office. Dartmouth Review people, I sense interview potential here.)
Juan Non-Volokh has more to say on this, plus some excellent links to other comments on Brooks's piece.
Friday, September 26, 2003
Former Review Editor-in-Chief Larry Scholer has his own blog, Smarter Dartmouth.
I'm launching a petition against BuzzFlood.
Blitz "firstname.lastname@example.org" if you assent to this:
We, the undersigned students and alumni of Dartmouth College, believe that BuzzFlood, an organization whose purpose is "to simply point out what's so special about Dartmouth College," is making a mockery of the College, its goals, and ideals.
If you wish to offer an amendment, blitz it there too. When I've collected a sizable amount of signatories, I will amend the statement if necessary, blitz it to those signatories to confirm they still wish to "sign" it, and then send it to The D.
West of what?
Here's a fun quotation from Heather Strack's article in today's D:
"The art of Japanese puppetry appears like nothing else in Western culture."
And that's just the first paragraph.
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Received while I was in the shower:
I'm writing to you about a fascinating new student group that was formed this past sophomore summer. The "BuzzFlood" is dedicated to celebrating Dartmouth's excellence. Our goal is to tell Dartmouth's story and celebrate excellence at Dartmouth. Our College is, we believe, New England's and one of the nation's best kept secrets. By celebrating the Dartmouth tradition, we can enhance the Dartmouth experience for generations to come.
Over the summer, the "BuzzFlood" quickly grew to what is now one of the largest student groups at well over 200 members. For too long Dartmouth has been underappreciated and silent about its accomplishments. Our goal is to simply point out what's so special about Dartmouth College. "BuzzFlood" is sending out a periodic "BuzzLine" blitz that celebrates Dartmouth individuals in the news. For example, did you know the first female Native American in the Marine Corps was a Dartmouth Grad (Class of 2003)? Or did you know that Professor David Kang recently wrote an op-ed about the North Korean crisis in the New York Times? If you would like to join the 200+ members already receiving the "BuzzLine" blitz, simply reply to this message indicating your class and you will become a member!
For the many of you who are already members, please keep sending your stories of Dartmouth's excellence. You will also be receiving information about the launch of our new website (www.buzzflood.com) that will further our goal.
One Small Step in Nigeria
Nigerian Woman Escapes Stoning Sentence
The woman, who was convicted of adultery, was supposed to be stoned to death according to Nigeria's strict Islamic law. She was let off based on a legal technicality:
The Islamic appeals panel ruled the conviction couldn't stand because Lawal wasn't given enough time to understand the charges against her; only one judge, instead of the required three, presided at her trial; and she was not caught in the act of sex out of wedlock.
Supposedly, this is a great triumph for the forces of good:
"It's a victory for law. It's a victory for justice," said defense attorney Hauwa Ibrahim. "And it's a victory for what we stand for — dignity and fundamental human rights."
Me, I'll continue to remain a bit skeptical about "dignity" and "human rights" in a country that has no problem sentencing people to be stoned to death for adultery - provided that three judges hear the case and the woman is "caught in the act," of course.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Janos, got a point?
I think that people should stop trying to decipher the central topic of a Janos Marton speech and possibly try to enjoy it for its incoherence. Sometimes when the fruit is a little too ripe it tastes better than normal; other times, of course, you get sent to the hospital:
"In discussing how his interests have evolved at Dartmouth, Marton spoke of the enforcement of drug laws that he said unfairly targets poorer communities while sparing the middle and upper classes. He used this issue as a springboard for the declaration of his candidacy." [link]
The real speech (and I think I nearly shot myself when I read Karsten Barde's near-panegyric about Marton's speech) contained as many snippets like these two as it did about drug enforcement:
Quote 1: Between serving as Student Body President, writing regularly for the Free Press, helping run two houses, and working on a presidential campaign over my 3 years here, I have come a long way in finding causes that I believe in, and learning how to fight for it.
Quote 2: the last few years I've also crashed Dick Gephardt's birthday party, chilled with New York Knicks Center Michael Doleac, Sean Penn, Ben Stein, and the Rev. Sharpton.
And while these are choice selections that don't represent the entire content of his speech, they do reveal a glaring contradiction in the person known as Janos Marton. (For some reason with Janos, I'm reminded of Gregg Easterbrook's running joke in his TMQ column about how Kurt Warner had been inhabited by an alien for a few years -- when he was good -- and now that the alien has left him, he's returned to his former mortal state. Let's not debate about whether the alien inside Janos makes him good or not.)
The contradiction of such self-aggrandizement in the two quotes above is that Marton consistently puts forth an extreme left, populist platform built around welfare for the poor and radical activism. Should a populist leader who wants to educate the underprivileged of the world brag about his own exploits with celebrities, drugs, and the like? At least if he runs in New Hampshire for any elected position the press won't have to dig up any dirt on him.
N.B. I have invented a term for these types of liberals: misandopes, a name apt for particularly misguided liberals with a desire to change the world but no cogent plan for how to fix it. Misandope being a conflation of "misanthrope" and "dope." Janos is a bit too optimistic about everything for this term, but he is nearly there.
As for The Dartmouth's Mark Herman, be glad that convocation comes around only once a year.
Making a Feeble Return
Well, after quite a long hiatus, I am returning to the blogging sphere. The 04s are back for their senior year; I myself am a junior in college and a new class has joined the ranks of Dartmouth students. Looking at the D, we see that some of the same old problems exist: housing, etc. and that the new class was welcomed in the time-honored tradition of convocation. Apparently, the President plugged the humanities this year. I am current working down in Felberg, becoming familiar with yet another facet of campus life. We are quite pleased with what we see here.
The Guardian has an extract from Terry Eagleton's new book, After Theory. It reads easily and is a bit refreshing after reading too much literary theory.
I wonder if the newspaper editors gave the extract the title "Living in a material world" or if Eagleton did. I also wonder if the Madonna reference is coincidental or intentional (let's hope for the former).
This was a particularly good point:
Postmodernism is obsessed by the body and terrified of biology. The body is a wildly popular topic in US cultural studies - but this is the plastic, remouldable, socially constructed body, not the piece of matter that sickens and dies. The creature who emerges from postmodern thought is centreless, hedonistic, self-inventing, ceaselessly adaptive. He sounds more like a Los Angeles media executive than an Indonesian fisherman. Postmodernists oppose universality, and well they might: nothing is more parochial than the kind of human being they admire.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Finally, what we've all been looking for: Ice cream with a conservative flavor!
Friday, September 19, 2003
The barbarians are at the gates: "Under pressure from publishers to shake up its sleepy image, the organization that presents the National Book Awards is planning to give its annual medal for distinguished contribution to American letters to Stephen King...Told of Mr. King's selection, some in the literary world responded with laughter and dismay. 'He is a man who writes what used to be called penny dreadfuls,' said Harold Bloom, the Yale professor, critic and self-appointed custodian of the literary canon. 'That they could believe that there is any literary value there or any aesthetic accomplishment or signs of an inventive human intelligence is simply a testimony to their own idiocy.' Richard Snyder, the former chief executive of Simon & Schuster, which is now Mr. King's publisher, and a co-founder of the awards organization, said, 'I am startled every time you say it.' He added: 'You put him in the company of a lot of great writers, and the one has nothing to do with the other. He sells a lot of books. But is it literature? No.'"
vilia miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo
pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua (Ovid, Amores, I.XV.35-6).
Good developments toward ideological balance from Jeremy Eggleton, the new assistant director of the Rockefeller Center. I immediately thought of Victor Davis Hanson. Any other ideas?
>Date: 28 Apr 2003 09:45:01 EDT
>From: Jeremy Eggleton
>To: email@example.com, College Republicans, Dartmouth Independent Forum
I have mentioned this to several of you recently and am just following up. Rocky is seeking some input on bringing more conservative views to campus. Most of our speakers and guests arise out of requests from students and faculty, and it's rare that we get requests from conservatives. We have pushed forward student requests for Doug Bandow and David Brooks, as well as many professors and academics who, while not as prominent, might be described as conservative. But we would welcome any other suggestions you all might have for viewpoints you would like to see represented. Can you give us some names?
FYI, we're working on Sen Gregg and Grover Norquist for next year...
Nelson A. Rockefeller Center
HB 6082 Dartmouth College
Hanover NH 03755
fx (603) 646-1329
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
The More, The Merrier
Wesley Clark is the 10th Democratic presidential candidate. Just two more and the dems can make it an even dozen.
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Re: Edward Said
As I've tried to suggest in my comments on this post, I don't have an agenda against Edward Said. I think his politics are beyond the pale and consider Orientalism a deeply-flawed book driven more by the power of its ideas than the strength of its scholarship. But the man, like Cornel West (whom I've defended previously - the post was on May 21, 2003), has redeeming qualities. He's said and done enough besides bemoan Western imperialism, after all: call for the Columbia English Department to stop squabbling amongst itself and start teaching literature again, write excellent essays on music and the arts, stand up for humanism during the worst of times for humanists ("Restoring Intellectual Coherence," in MLA Newsletter, Vol. 31, No. 1 [Spring 1999], p. 3). You might even be surprised to note that he doesn't bring his political views into the classroom. At least that's what he says in this interview.
Put it this way: I'd rather read Said than Homi Bhabha.
As 9/11 comes once again
Christopher Hitchens weighs in how we should and shouldn't commemorate the occasion. No "flagification" and sentimentality, please:
This steely injunction is diluted by Ground Zero kitsch or by yellow-ribbon type events, which make the huge mistake of marking the event as a "tribute" of some sort to those who happened to die that day. One must be firm in insisting that these unfortunates, or rather their survivors, have no claim to ownership. They stand symbolically, as making the point that theocratic terrorism murders without distinction. But that's it. The time to commemorate the fallen is, or always has been, after the war is over. This war has barely begun. The printing of crayon daubs by upset schoolchildren and the tussle over who gets what from the compensation slush fund are strictly irrelevant and possibly distracting. Dry your eyes, sister. You, too, brother. Stiffen up.
He also has a few choice words for the anti-war left:
Here was the time for radicals to have demanded a war to the utmost against the forces of reaction, as well a full house cleaning of the state apparatus and a league of solidarity with the women of Afghanistan and with the whole nexus of dissent and opposition in the Muslim world. Instead of which, the posturing loons all concentrated on a masturbatory introspection about American guilt, granted the aura of revolutionary authenticity to Bin Laden and his fellow gangsters, and let the flag be duly seized by those who did look at least as if they meant business.
"[P]osturing loons all concentrated on a masturbatory introspection." What a phrase!
Even more Said
Just in case you need even more argument against Edward Said and Orientalism, here's a lengthy piece by Ibn Warraq from the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society.
Here's some information that comes us by way of Frontpage Magazine: a list of Commencement speakers at top colleges over the past nine years or so. The guys at Frontpage have classified the speakers according to the following scheme: L = liberal, D = Democrat, R = Republican, C = conservative, N = neutral. An example:
1994 Robert Reich - Clinton Cabinet (D)
1995 Bill Clinton - US President (D)
1996 David Halberstam - Author (L)
1997 Paavo Lipponen - Finland PM (N)
1998 Doris Kearns Goodwin - Historian (L)
1999 George Mitchell - Senator (D)
2000 Shirley Ann Jackson - RPI President (L)
2001 Madeleine Albright - Clinton Cabinet (D)
2002 Fred Rogers - Actor (N)
2003 David McCullough - Writer (N)
4D, 2L, 0C, 0R, 3N
Do we really need another survey showing how the academy is biased? I don't think so. Furthermore, there's a difference, a functional difference if you will, between Commencement speakers and members of the faculty, who have also come under David Horowitz's scrutiny in the past. Professors actually influence their students, making their political beliefs somewhat more important than those of people who show up for a day or so to shake hands, hand out diplomas, and say a lot of things about giving back to society, living life to the fullest, working hard, upholding good moral values, and so on. I'm not sure how this latest survey adds weight to Frontpage's mission; anecdotes like this strike me as far more effective.
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
This is really good
Whan that Septembre with his shoures sote
Summers droghte hath percéd to the rote,
And bathéd Napas vynes with swich licour
As makéth Gallo Brothers shayre price soare;
Whan al vacacioun tyme is used and gonne
And beaches emptye lye beneath the sonne,
Whan freeways clogge with workers offys-bounde
Whyl scole-buses mak roade rage all arounde.
Whan harlots on the Strippe crye to be payd
By Englishe heart-throbbes crusyng for rough trayd
(Whom Nature hath anon depryved of braynes!)
Than longen folk to run polityckal campaygns
And pollsters for to scanne ye publick moode
By telephoun and questionnaire intrude.
And specially, from every countys ende
Of Golden State, to Sacramento wende,
The Governour's fyn castel for to wyn
And dwel with powre and glorie ful therein.
The Nobel Committee thought he was pretty good.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Speaking of Eliot
- I'd recommend Denis Donoghue's Words Alone, one of the best recent efforts on Eliot, by one of our preeminent literary critics (Harold Bloom, eat your heart out).
- And why not a piece on Eliot by the good men at The New Criterion? They named their publication in honor of Eliot, after all.
"Real poetry stands alone"
Mr. Samuels, I must protest this comment of yours, in two ways. First, far from being "ostentatiously allusive" as you suggest, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is completely readable on its own. There are some references here and there to Marvell, the Bible, and Shakespeare, but you don't need to know them to enjoy the poem. Bill Cook didn't mention them when discussing Prufrock during English 50 (see Jon, Eliot is discussed in college today - and rightly so!), and neither did I in my term paper. Lines like these stand on their own:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
The last two quotations - the last two stanzas - are in my mind some of the most beautiful around, by sheer virtue of how they sound. You don't need to "decipher" these lines - as if poems were lines of code that needed a cryptologist to understand them.
Second, real poetry need not stand alone. Are The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost not then real poems? Of course not. Poems come in all shapes and sizes, and if we do want a grand unified theory of poetry, it would be that poetry does things with words, charging language with meaning - through allusion, if need be - not that poetry dwells in splendid isolation from history, culture, and tradition. I'm a big fan of the New Criticism, having been reared on it in high school, but I'm well aware of its limitations (someone who enjoys history cannot possibly be a full-blooded New Critic). Lionel Trilling puts it very perceptively in The Liberal Imagination: "there inheres in a work of art of the past a certain quality, an element of its aesthetic existence, which we can identify as its pastness. Side by side with the formal elements of the work, and modifying these elements, there is the element of history, which, in any complete aesthetic analysis, must be taken into account."
Monday, September 01, 2003
Is it perfume from a dress,/ That makes me so digress?
I'm expanding on the small burst of anti-Eliot sentiment two posts ago. Eliot, by the way, went to my high school where he was abused because of his St. Louis accent.
It is somewhat ironic that Ryan makes two allusions (three names) in his denunciation of Eliot's allusiveness (admittedly I liked his quotes, and just as most people, save Ryan and myself of course, would not understand Eliot's references to Hesiod's Works and Days, I did not have any sense of the context with which Ryan's quotes were originally spoken). I also happen to find Eliot's poetry rather irritatingly learned, but maybe we can apply a little dialectical thinking and say that there is a reason for his ostentations, a method to his madness, or nonsense as Ryan puts it (which for some reason reminded me of how John McWhorter calls the chorus of "Rapper's Delight" nonsense -- it seems to me to be about the boogie, don't it Johnny?).
Standard criticism, if I'm not wrong, has it that Eliot's plethora of allusions refers to the disorder with which Eliot finds society -- the fact that we can't understand all of his allusions points to the loss of an understanding of the classical roots of literature, and to the gradual fragmentation of society. You've heard this rhetoric before, of course. Modernism seeks to eliminate the past in favor of the new, even though it ("somehow, some way, [critics] keep coming up with funky ass [theory] like every single day") can't really function without reference to a past.
And here's where I cut and paste two sentences from my thesis:
The Wasteland posits that a return to religious roots and restoration of Christian culture would remove humanity from the halfway house between order and disorder, away from the conflict between spiritual and the material that Eliot sees as fundamental to his city (London). His conservatism and religious poetry that dominate the later stages of his life again point to his frustration at a city that was alienating, and a society he viewed as morally and spiritually degraded.
The funny thing I've always felt about the experience of reading Prufrock is that it's more fun to gloss over the allusions than to look at the 8pt Norton Anthology font (since that's about the only place that we seem to read Eliot these days -- in high school English classes). But this is of course the same experience we get when we enter any modern city -- the general occlusion of the high rise, the teeming masses that disturbed Wordsworth so much in Book VII of The Prelude. If Eliot's poetry mimics the experience of the modern city-dweller, and I'm saying it does, then aren't we still not very far removed from the sound and sense of that ugly deformed man, Alexander Pope, a near contemporary to Dryden?
But if some people want to apply standards, I say go ahead. I just believe that what's important in literary analysis is that when we take the "patient etherized upon the table," the literary text, we can balance two possible outcomes: first, that we try not to rewrite our own knowledge on top of the writing in our analysis, and second, that we still can derive something productive that will aid us in how we view the world.
A sidebar commentary:
Poetry, moreover, as Milton said but did not always follow, is "simple, sensous, and passionate." The learned obscurity of the modernists is only a small step to the illiterate obscurity of the postmodernists.
Since I'm counting Henry Miller and Gertrude Stein among my list of modernists (not to mention Ibsen and many more), I would say that modernism is not centrally concerned with "learned obscurity," but tries to make sense of the world not through a genuine connection (objective reality has an original meaning) but through symbolic works of art that strive for that meaningful relationship but ultimately fail because they are only fictitious renderings, shadows that touch nothing in the world except the reader, a failure of modernism that Lukacs noted in his Theory of the Novel. Miller seems to be more concerned with the mechanical nature of his numerous sexual partners and his dissatisfaction than at impressing the reader with his obscure knowledge. Stein is crazy, etc.