PAPER first part

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Oct 12, 2018 11:42
PAPER first part

When it comes to Eliot’s ‘Ash Wednesday’ scholars of many different generations share a common view that tends to privilege the influence of Dante over Cavalcanti, in the composition of the poem. The reasons for which are both historical and psychological. On one side, the first commenters of the poem were caught in the net thrown by the poet himself, who, in several circumstances, manifested his love and admiration for Dante and Divina Commedia; on the other side, his conversion to Anglo-Catholicism seemed to be even a clearer sign of a poetic and ideological shift from the inferno of the ‘Waste Land’ to the purgatorio of ‘Ash Wednesday’. Likewise it could stand for an element of assimilation to Dante`s life and ideas, his conversion has being the center around which any interpretation of his poem has revolved up to the present.
Despite the research line was drawn shortly after the publication of the work, many critics faced several difficulties in the attempt to find convergences between the work of Dante and Eliot. In particular, it was difficult to parallel the structure of the two poems and especially to understand in which ways the progression toward God in ‘Ash Wednesday’ follows the Italian equivalent. Cleophas (1959) in her effort to show ‘Ash Wednesday’ filiation from Dante`s work, evidences all the aspects in which the poem differs from its model: the emphasis of Eliot on the internal psychological journey of the Self, the skepticism of the world outside the poet`s mind, the paradoxes that the soul encounters in this path to redemption. Even the references to the Garden of Eden maintain a certain ambiguity about the final output of the effort. More generally speaking, the whole poem structure diverges from the systematic logic of Dante`s Purgatorio where every and each detail contributes to the expression of self-contrition and penitence.
Another of the critics apparently caught in Eliot`s net is Rodgers. In his analysis of the poem, he try to follow strictly Eliot`s statements about the great long-lasting influence that Dante had on his poetry. However, almost at the beginning of his analysis he is forced to admit the ‘substantial difference that exists between the two poets’. He has to recognize that what in Dante supports the idea of the reality and of the objectiveness of the meaning of the pilgrim`s journey, has in Eliot the impressionistic traits of a doubtful conscience. What in Dante is faith and contemplation of divine order, is in Eliot only a desperate attempt to reach salvation. Therefore his analysis has to move away from an unclear parallelism and to move toward the examination of the ritual of the Mass as a myth used by both authors to explain the recoincilation of opposite tensions in their poems.