Commentary Magazine


Criticism & Identity

To the Editor:

Robert Alter’s “Eliot, Lawrence, and the Jews” [October 1970] is one of the most penetrating and thoughtful essays in criticism that I have read in a long time. The section on Lawrence, brief as it is, is the first satisfactory attempt in all the vast accumulation of Lawrence criticism that we now have to get at the root and the function of Lawrence’s attitude toward Jews. The section on Eliot enables me at last to formulate the uneasiness that so much of Eliot has always made me feel. The learning, carried so gracefully, that illuminates the reading of “Burbank,” is most impressive, but the way that it enables Mr. Alter to make his conclusions about Lawrence and tradition is nothing less than beautiful.

Mark Schorer
Berkeley, California

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To the Editor:

“People who shrilly insist on the uniqueness of their own identity are likely to be insecure about it; groups that must forever affirm their own exclusiveness are almost certain to have inner doubts about their coherence or collective validity.” Where he states this, in his interesting article, Robert Alter gives as his example the Germans. He might have chosen a group nearer home. . . .

Anthony Rudolf
European Judaism
London, England

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Robert Alter writes:

Anthony Rudolf will be happy to learn that my generalization in fact was intended to include all groups, near and far, from nations and races to literary coteries.

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