Subjective Correlative

"The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an 'objective correlative'; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is evoked." T.S. Eliot, 1919

Location: Academia, NJ/NY, United States

Overeducated educator seeks part-time position as novelist, essayist, pundit, hack, comic, and/or laughingstock.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

About It

Lest ye flee posthaste, I should say first off that this blog is NOT an attempt to (re)incarnate New Criticism, but instead an effort to adapt Eliot's theory in the service of a life (mine, frequently) and a nation (the USA, more importantly but probably less often, because that involves more work). While Eliot was perplexed by the popularity of his formulation, it makes a lot of sense; an emotion should be in direct proportion to the circumstances that caused it. In other words, I should not get my knickers in a twist because my daughters are card-carrying members of the cult of My Pretty Pony, and Congress should not waste their time and my money in thrall to the steroid sob stories of overpaid ballplayers. (This year, for the first time, I actually owed money -- $278, to be exact. Of course, since I have yet to pay them, they have yet to spend it, but now I feel as if they owe me some results. And here is where I send any and all Republicans packing, because I will happily keep putting change in the meter to keep the filibuster fight going until Kerry, Boxer and Co. triumph or Bill Frigging Frist expires in a fit of pique, whichever comes first.)

Even though I subscribe to the objective correlative in theory, I disagree with Eliot's very first application of it: Hamlet, the ur-slacker. For Eliot, Hamlet's emotion exceeds his circumstances, and the play fails as a result. I personally think that the murder of your father, his return from the dead to request revenge, the marriage "within a month" of your mother to the guy what done it, not to mention getting dumped by your girlfriend and having your two best friends sign up to spy on you, really merits giving it whatever you've got, emotion-wise -- five acts and two scenes worth, at least. (I do NOT, however, think that it was necessary for the sweet prince to strip himself stark five feet from my face in the otherwise amazing danish-minimalist-hipster production I saw a few weeks ago at the McCarter Theater in Princeton.)

Therefore, I urge you all to poach paradigms from important people and use them opportunistically and incorrectly for your own selfish, dastardly purposes. The goal here is to forge some rational relationships from chaotic pre-existing conditions, to entertain, edify, and probably but hopefully not completely embarass myself, my friends, and my family.