“The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock” and Digital Semiosis

Poetry is an art indebted to reference. In T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of Alfred J. Pufrock”, this idea holds true. The poem contains multiple abstruse references (e.g. anecdotes of fog personified as a cat, an epigraph from Dante’s the Inferno, references to the biblical figure Lazarus) that do not specifically create a direct meaning. The reader is forced to infer what is unstated, given to a Barthesian paralogical struggle to interpret what is being said from the layers of contextual meaning that is able to drawn upon. This dynamic between indicated and inferred meaning is the quintessential idea of communication, “[f]or philosophers of language from Wittgenstein to Austin, this point is basic: all meaningful relationships begin by creating a semiotic structure that excludes something else” (Peters). In this sense, poetry functions similarly to indexing: both are indicators of meaning, approximating the locations and means to access information, but falling short of relaying something directly. Neither is complete on its own terms. Those who access these digital or poetic indexes are left the role of arbiter, made to bridge symbolic indicators of meaning into that which they can convey.


2 thoughts on ““The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock” and Digital Semiosis

  1. Jacob, I definitely agree with you. Even though we read the poem in a print form I saw how this poem is constructed as digitial following Dr. Peters’ thesis. The epigraph from Dante’s the Inferno is one of the many references that T.S. Elliot utilizes in order to direct the reader’s interpretation of the poem and indicate the true meaning of the words on his work.
    Dr. Peters states that like fingers, digital media carry out three fundamental categories of action, one of them being to index the real. ”To be an index is to render approximately or refer to something outside of its own signifying system, and thereby to claim some non-necessary but useful connection to that thing.” This poem invites us to decode those connections that not only will allow us to truly digest this piece of work by T.S. Elliot but clearly reveals its digital form.

  2. To me, this poem is digital because it connects the reader to so many different literary works in one place, so I certainly agree with you. The digital is wrought with indexes, connections from one thing to another and “The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock” does just that. The references to obscure Greek poetry may go over our heads as we read them but they are what make the work digital. They give the work that extra dimension. If one is reading the poem wondering where he could be going reading the epigraph (a translated version that is) would shed some light. Dante’s journey through the layers of hell are used to parallel the poems progression. Poetry requires some amount of interpretation but T.S. Elliot in some regards has eliminated the need. The reader simply has to do some digging to understand the allusions Elliot makes.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s