Out Of Our Heads
Scientists and researchers who focus on cognition endeavor to understand the human brain’s capability to formulate thoughts, ideas, and personal perceptions; all of which are processed and generated by our consciousness. While there is an understanding that the physical brain is the mechanism that outputs our consciousness, researchers debate what exactly is the source of this consciousness. In T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the speaker, Prufrock, engages the reader in a dramatic monologue that vividly records personal perceptions and observations. Through Prufrock’s words, the reader can clearly observe that his thoughts are a product of his own perceptions of people and the world around him prior to World War I:
That chaotic consciousness seemed to Eliot especially pronounced in the early decades of the twentieth century; though not sanguine of easy solutions, he did believe that modern poets, writing a poetry that would synthesize the seemingly unrelated sensations and experiences of modern men and women, might show a way out of ‘the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history… (Damrosch and Dettmar 2285).
Poems like “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” therefore offer the reader a material copy of the speaker’s consciousness that articulates their perceptions of the setting in their work. The written setting though is really an imitation of the world and the reality they live and experience. The following pages will explore how the material copy then serves as a symbolic microcosm of Eliot’s personal perception of the world, and ultimately, his analysis of the world’s own self-destruction.
Reading of Prufrock by T.S. Eliot
Reading of Prufrock by Anthony Hopkins
Or, if you prefer a different voice, you can listen to Hannibal Lecter.