James Torrens Essay "Eliot's Essays: A Bridge to the Poems" was a very interesting read. Torrens directs the reader's attention to Eliot's essay "The Function of Criticism," where we find several important themes of Eliot's work including, "the artists struggle against the ego, the path of heroism leading to 'surrender or sacrifice, ‘the superior value of offering oneself ' to a common action'" (Torrens 46). Torrens also discusses a topic of particular interest to me and the other members of our Modernist London seminar in his passage detailing the similarities between Eliot's essay "Hamlet and his Problems" (required reading for last week) and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (required reading for this week). While Torren's conclusions are interesting, they remain undeveloped, especially in this particularly interesting section of the essay. In conclusion, Torrens muses "by analogy with the link Eliot sees between Shakespeare and 'Hamlet,' one may be let to assume some linkage between 'Prufrock' and Eliot himself. Perhaps 'Prufrock,' like 'Hamlet,' can be interpreted as a 'form of emotional relief' for the author." (48) While this is an interesting statement, Torrens leaves the reader without a concrete conclusion. Perhaps Torrens meant for his essay to be merely thought provoking, and on this front he has succeeded, but as a reader I was disappointed with the lack of conclusion drawn in the essay in general.
Torrens does mention that "Prufrock, the hyper-self-conscious modern, would love to be heroic," (48) a continuation of his interesting statement of Eliot's themes from the first paragraph. This fascinating statement opened my eyes to new ways of reading "Prufrock" and "Prufrock's Pervigilium." Suddenly, I am able to ready the timid "scuttling" crab as a would-be luminary as he asks, "Do I dare/Disturb the universe" (45-6)? What a profound question to ask! What a profound question to ask unless you (or Eliot) really thought he could actually disturb something as elephantine as the universe! This thought quickly gives way to a second thought....how does Eliot define the word "Universe?" Could this be an example of "the artists struggle against the ego" (Torrens 46)? Although as a student I am visiting these issues for the first time and feel it would be inappropriate to draw any conclusions without further research, I can truthfully say that Torrens brief article really opened my eyes to a new way of reading "Prufrock."
Although not entirely along the lines of the ego, Torrens essay also gave me a sort of permission to explore Eliot's work in relation to his other work. While reading Eliot's "Prelude IV" I discovered a line I thought interesting in relation to "Prufrock." Eliot writes of women in much the same way in both poems, describing in "Prelude IV" how "The worlds revolve like ancient women" (53). This revolution of women is strikingly similar to the "Prufrock" lines, "In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo" (13-4). Again, I am approaching a topic which requires further research to come to any concrete conclusion, but the marked similarity between the revolution of the women in both poems would be a very interesting point to explore in more depth.