Dr. Hochenauer posted these thoughts on our homepage for our contemplations over T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”:
The question becomes whether The Waste Land is meant to be read or studied. The poem creates a super-reader who should know several languages and cultures. It’s literary references and allusions are obscure so readers must also be extremely well read. Even then, the subjectivity of the poem renders it almost incomprehensible. It becomes part of a cult of the obscure. It’s obscurity for obscurity’s sake.
According to the ideas conveyed here, it seems as Eliot is trying to establish a culture of meta-knowledge–a required amount of precursory ideas that the reader must comprehend before his ideas are digestible. Now, as a poet who wishes to convey their ideas to a wide audience to touch a multiplicity of people, why would he wish to do this? As someone who admittedly does not know much about Eliot and his history, it seems as if he derives an extreme pleasure from the concept of knowing that he has such a wide knowledge base beyond the realm of the average individual.
Eliot, in this regard, I believe shares a lot of attributes of the trendy “hipster” youth social group. One popular definition of hipster that has cycled around my peers is that a hipster is someone who tries very hard to appear as if they have gone to no effort at all.
I think that there are elements of Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” that can be applied to this definition. Eliot makes his poem difficult to understand seemingly for the reason of making it “obscure for obscurity’s sake”, an avant-garde realization made by Dr. Hochenauer. Eliot seems to be re-defining what it means to be a poet and why it means to be a poet in this work in a way that’s purposefully dense to make the reader frustratingly search for answers.