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Title: Thinking with the Rocks: Life and Non-life in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land
Authors: Roy, Nabanita
Keywords: Lithic images
geological imagination
new materialism
Issue Date: 27-Feb-2022
Publisher: Registrar, Vidyasagar University, Midnapore.
Series/Report no.: Journal of the Department of English. Vol. 15 2022;
Abstract: Rocks, as Jan Zalasiewicz suggests, embed stories of “corpses.” They archive deep time as well as deep memory. As the bedrock of civilization as well as the stratigraphic object to visualize Anthropocene, the rock is a geologic capsule. A medium to translate traumatic planetary stories of death, desire, and extinction, to think with the rock is to think geologically. It compensates for the anthropocentric vision that is indifferent to capitalist driven human slaughter or bodies aging without perception. The lithic becomes a prescient metaphor in the hands of T.S. Eliot to visualize the machinic age in The Waste Land (1922), where humans are automatons with stony indifference. In its materiality, the lithic metaphor animates the poem’s geologic imagination. Pearl-eyed Alonso, the carbuncular (carbuncle) man, the recalcitrant lovers “neither living nor dead,” flowing corpses, dry bones, dead mountains, stony rubbish, each of these lithic images suffuses the ontological wasteland, an arid desert of cataclysmic times. The poem also works through transposing the lithic in humans and the anthropomorphic in the stone to present moments of transit between human and non-human nature. As such, the paper will investigate the non-human entanglements in the poem through the lithic metaphors/figures and read intertextuality as the sedimentation of voices and presences such that the poem itself becomes a geological metaphor to visualize life and non-life. To do so, the paper will critically evaluate the poem from the new materialist perspective, reading intertextuality through Stacy Alaimo’s theory of inter-corporeality. It will also read Eliot’s geological imagination as a contestation of the anthropocentric view of reality, deferring the Enlightenment’s project of instrumentalizing life and non-life.
ISSN: 0973-3671
Appears in Collections:Journal of the Department of English - Vol 15 [2022]

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