By David Trotter
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Extra resources for The Making of the Reader: Language and Subjectivity in Modern American, English and Irish Poetry
The debate revealed that in one respect at least the nation's sexual conduct differed according to social status. The enlightened and responsible classes used contraceptives, the rest did not. As the Practitioner put it, 'limitation is now practised by the classes from which it is desirable that the community should be recruited, and is not practised by the undesirables'. Clearly this had important social and political consequences. ' Eliot's juxtaposition of a childless and frustrated middle - or upper- class couple with a recklessly fertile working-class woman followed the line of a real social fissure which was asserting itself in terms of sexual conduct.
This being the case, their relation to one another within language comes to the fore. In English 'this' and 'that' are ranged along a scale of proximity. The former refers to things which are close (in time or space) to the speaker, which bear some relation to him or her; the latter refers to things which are distant from and bear no relation to the speaker. ) 'This' has associations of intimacy and relatedness built into it, while 'that' tends to suggest distance and strangeness. These associations are so powerful that they survive even where we can not identify the object referred to, as is often the case in The Waste Land.
One theory surveyed by the book, and judged 'highly satisfactory', was that of an American sociologist called Ellen Churchill Semple. This is what she had to say about desert peoples such as the Jews: The dry, pure air stimulates the faculties of the desert-dweller, but the featureless, monotonous surroundings furnish them with little to work upon. The mind, finding scant material for sustained logical deduction, falls back upon contemplation. Intellectual acttvlty is therefore restricted, narrow, unproductive; while the imagination is unfettered but also unfed.