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BOOK REVIEWS I would suggest, finally, that the most useful response to Professor O'Leary's monumental achievement would be a republication of critical editions of the work of Una Bean Ui Dhiosca and Liam Ó Rinn. LOUIS DE PAOR Centre for Irish Studies National University of Ireland, Galway Essays on Eliot Cassandra Laity and Nancy K. Gish, eds. Gender, Desire, and Sexuality in T. S. Eliot. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. xii + 265 pp. $75.00 HIGHLY GALVANIZED by how the Eliot estate chooses to parcel out new archival material, Eliot scholarship has been shaped by convulsive moments of publication: the dissertation, the facsimile Waste Land, the first volume of Letters, the Clark and Turnbull Lectures, and, most recently, Inventions of the March Hare. The poems of Inventions of the March Hare have spurred a reassessment of sexuality's role in Eliot's work; not surprisingly, Inventions leaves its traces all over Gender , Desire, and Sexuality in T. S. Eliot (incidentally helping to confirm my suspicions that "The Love Song of St. Sebastian" has become a canonical Eliot poem). Gender, Desire, and Sexuality in T. S. Eliot does a great job of focusing that reassessment, using as its subject matter "Eliot's largely unexplored engagement with various public and private worlds of women, eroticism, and the feminine." Partly a book about modernism itself, as any book about Eliot must be, Gender, Desire, and Sexuality in T. S. Eliot has a second generating force: the new direction in modernist studies, a direction which functions as a reaction to some typical postmodern uses of modernism. Addressing the fortunes of Eliot's reputation, Charles Altieri points to this collection's antagonist: the predisposition according to which modernism is "taught primarily as a reactionary evasion of historical realities from which we can be freed by a less pretentious modernism or, even better, by an enlightened postmodernism." The revival of interest in Eliot's career is tied to this new direction; Gail McDonald points out that the current reexamination "occurs as critics have become less sure of the usefulness of meta-narratives about modernism" and have instead begun looking at smaller sections of early twentieth-century culture, arguing that there are "modernisms." Gender, Desire, and Sexuality in T. S. Eliot fits into this new direction , complicating received understandings of Eliot. The central reassessment of the collection is one which chips away at understandings of Eliot the monolith: the new Eliot gains interest because of his ambiva103 ELT 49 : 1 2006 lences and contradictions. In particular, most of the authors in this collection argue persuasively that Eliot's texts speak obliquely yet tellingly on issues of gender, desire, and sexuality. Richard Badenhausen could speak for the volume as a whole when he argues that "Eliot's relationship to the feminine is far more complex than critics usually concede." The editors argue that the collection is a part of "efforts to recontextualize Eliot's work and thought, acknowledging that Eliot's poems, plays, and critical essays are often blatantly misogynist and homophobic, but also seeking to trace their intricate engagements with multiple forms and degrees of desire, contemporary feminism, the feminine, and homoeroticism ." In considering arguments about this complexity, I was initially surprised to see that biography was not as central as one might anticipate. The only major exception is one moment in Eliot's life, when he actively worked on suppressing a study examining a possible homoerotic link in his poetry. (What I should have anticipated, of course, was that biography will always have a nervous place in Eliot criticism, given the parsimonious access scholars have to details of Eliot's biography .) The lack of biography, while frustrating, also has benefits, for in this collection it has made for some very careful textual close readings. The result is that, should biographical evidence become more available in the future, this book may not be as productive as it once was, but it will not be glaringly wrong. For most of the authors in this volume the obliquity in Eliot's uses of gender and desire is a result of his conscious and unconscious attempts to harness control. Desire, though always present, is also always partly hidden...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 103-106
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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