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Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Cinema Show/Genesis

There are references to Romeo and Juliet in "The Cinema Show," from the 1973 Genesis album Selling England by the Pound, but this appears to be ironic shorthand for a pair of lovers rather than a specific allusion to Shakespeare's play. Instead, the literary work at the heart of the song is the "Fire Sermon" section of T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land. The song depicts, in turn, a young woman and a young man preparing for a date at the end of a workday, with the young man anticipating a sexual conquest. As in the poem, the song filters the episode through the perceptions of Tiresias, a figure from Greek mythology. Born a man, Tiresias was transformed into a woman for seven years before being changed back to his original gender (and concluded from the experience that women derive more pleasure from sex than men do). So, the lines: I have crossed between the poles, for me there's no mystery/Once a man, like the sea I raged/Once a woman, like the earth I gave/But there is in fact more earth than sea. In alluding to Tiresias, Eliot was specifically drawing from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Submitted by William Scheckel and by Laura in Space

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