Jewel Spears Brooker

Brooker and Bentley

Reading The Waste Land: Modernism and the Limits of Interpretation. Co-author, Joseph Bentley.

Southern Review (October 1991):
“Extraordinarily stimulating, ...Reading The Waste Land is a brilliant enactment as well as demonstration of the proposition that the act of reading is a series of strategic decisions instituted by the reader, and that ‘the value of interpretation is related more to something gained en route than to something waiting at the end.’ The sheer lucidity of this book, grounding its reading of the text as it does in insights about reading it, makes it the single most important study of Eliot to have appeared in the last twenty years. It is essential reading.”

American Literature (March 1991):
Reading The Waste Land integrates the poet’s philosophical concerns with a coherent reading of 'The Waste Land' that is both brilliant and persuasive. The authors guide us through the poem line by line, taking into account an impressive number of previous interpretations... Of particular importance to Eliot scholars, Reading The Waste Land is of compelling interest to the rest of us, the many who teach 'The Waste Land,' for whom the book will be of great use as the single volume that we can turn to for a comprehensive account of that difficult poem. This combination of scholarly importance and pedagogical interest is a rare accomplishment indeed.”

Studies in English Literature (Japan) (1992):
Reading The Waste Land shows awareness of, and gives credit to, virtually all that has been done so far, but perceptively goes on to open new vistas for appreciation of ‘the poem of the century.’ ...This text is a most comprehensive and complicated study in the best Eliotic mode; analysis and comparison, the tools he commended as keys for criticism, are employed throughout in a thorough-going manner. The scope... proves the importance of joint authorship, for at least two minds would have to be employed to put so much material in order... This text [is] radically original, uniquely stimulating, certain to be a key and a crux for all future scholarship in reading 'The Waste Land.'”

South Atlantic Review (January 1992):
“Brooker and Bentley take the successive parts of 'The Waste Land' as occasions for meditation on Eliot’s philosophical sources and on the challenges his poem makes to normative reading strategies. Meeting these challenges entails... a very sophisticated awareness of the nature and function of the linguistic sign, an awareness in which Eliot anticipated the theoretical perspectives of the later twentieth century... Written by two independent critics, each with a distinct and well-formulated view of Eliot, his work, and the modernist period in general, this book achieves a unity of style and point of view, together with a felicity of expression that are both a surprise and a delight. There is a breath of mind and generosity of spirit here, and this study embodies very well Eliot’s own guidelines for reading, ‘give, sympathize, control’.”

Sewanee Review (Fall 1992):
“Brooker and Bentley approach the poem from a philosophical standpoint... and rightly recognize that much of 'The Waste Land' is devoted to the science of interpretation or hermeneutics. This seems the most valuable contribution of the book because it places the poetry at the heart of many of the current interests of critical theory.”

Queen’s Quarterly (Canada) (Fall 1991):
Reading The Waste Land sets out to redefine T.S. Eliot’s relation to Modernism, and in some ways to redefine Modernism itself... What distinguishes Brooker and Bentley from other commentators is the fact that they do not simply lead us into the epistemological desert and leave us there... [They] suggest that the poem dismantles any facile idea of salvation through art, but implies ‘absurd hope’ and thus looks forward to Eliot’s recovery of religious faith. The argument throughout is intelligent and subtle... This is a book that every student of Eliot should read.”

Comparative Literature Studies (1992):
“Combining excellent scholarship with sensitivity and clarity, Brooker and Bentley offer a suggestive and startlingly innovative interpretation of Eliot’s great poem. Presented from the perspective of the Western mind, ...Yet, in this analysis the significance of the Eastern tradition for 'The Waste Land' is not negated completely, [for] the authors’ insightful concept of the oscillation of meanings can comprise many different interpretive perspectives.”

American Literary Scholarship (1990):
“A major publication this year is Brooker and Bentley’s Reading The Waste Land, which elaborates a hermeneutical approach to the text informed by wide reading from Foucault through Piaget. The authors situate their work in terms of the epistemological crisis of 20th-century thought, and they proceed to elaborate... a doubly coded approach to 'The Waste Land' that allows them to move in and out of Eliot’s intentions with respect to the text without trapping themselves inside either his horizon of meaning or the dizzying wilderness of mirrors that has grown up around the poem.”

Virginia Quarterly Review (Winter 1991):
Reading The Waste Land provides a genuinely fresh and insightful analysis of the most explicated modern poem. Drawing in a concerted way on the resources of criticism old and new--especially biography, history of ideas, and reader-response theory--Brooker and Bentley show how this (and any other) text is in significant measure the creation of informed, imaginative, problem-solving audiences--which, despite differences of orientation, remain committed to common standards of validity.”

Christian Century (June 27, 1990):
“Brooker and Bentley consider 'The Waste Land' the almost paradigmatic modernist poem. They see it beckoning for the very interpretation it also seems to elude or frustrate. In that and other ways, they contend, this poem and its author anticipated critical turns taken in our own time... Their preoccupations [include] ‘contingency of language, loss of community, loss of primal unity (Eden, immediate experience, infancy), women (wasted, abused).’ The authors avoid the barbaric jargon of much contemporary criticism... a comprehensible book on a difficult subject.”

Yeats Eliot Review (Summer 1991):
“Brooker and Bentley are both modest and self-assured. They admit that... there can be no absolute reading of the poem... Yet... there is a supreme confidence in what they bring to their reading of the poem--a wide range of learning and scholarship and a profound understanding of what Eliot and F. H. Bradley wrote... their knowledge informs the text even as that text is being deconstructed. While they dispute other readings... of 'The Waste Land,' they do so with a generosity that reflects their confidence and their willingness to accept multiplicity as one of the elements that define the poem’s modernism... This book is a fitting memorial to the late Joseph Bentley and one more tribute to the accomplishments of Professor Brooker.”

Library Journal (December 1989):
“'The Waste Land' has been one of the most... influential poetical works of this century... The authors address problems of interpretation and the reasons why former notions of structure no longer apply to this complex work. Although the subject of the book is dense and multifaceted, the book itself is very readable.”

SELECTED WORKS

Eliot Editions
Contains all surviving prose composed between the ages of 16 and 30. Scrupulously edited and critically annotated.
American Critical Archives . Comprehensive gathering of American and British responses to Eliot's work as it appeared.
Literary Criticism
This book examines modernism as cultural and literary phenomenon, with focus on T. S. Eliot.
A highly readable and richly detailed reading of T. S. Eliot’s "The Waste Land"

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