The first time I read T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland was several years ago in an anthology I was reading for a class. There is something so wonderful about reading something in print, in a book that has smell and heft. The IOS app, and in effect, the IPad takes away the physical aspect of the text, though it is replaced by something else that is still tangible. The App adds the ability to hear the poem read in something other than the voice in your head. Everyone interprets the things they read differently, and so every line is read differently by someone else. It is impossible for them to not leave their imprint on the poem and even on our interpretation of the meaning of it.
I found listening to Eliot himself to be the most helpful in trying to discern meaning. There are several phrases that he almost sings, and others that you can feel the pain he is trying to convey. The App also includes a copy of Eliot’s original manuscript which offers an even more in depth view of the poem. Cathy Levarkus better explains the value of the IPad Application in her article The Expanding Book Apps Market:
One impressive new app is T.S. Elliot’s The Wasteland, developed by Touch Press. This app incorporates readings of the poem by Alec Guinness and T.S. Eliot and a performance of the poem by Fiona Shaw. The Waste/and app also includes original manuscripts with the author’s notes as well as other documents. The Wasteland is certainly the precursor and model for other excellent book apps geared for the middle school, high school, and even college English class. Imagine a book app for To Kill a Mockingbird or The Scarlett Letter with primary sources, historical commentary, video, and readings!
I have read this poem several times over the last few years, and every time, I discover some new meaning to Eliot’s words. I think the App is a beautiful way of bringing more voices and ideas to the discussion of a poem that is almost too complex to ever be fully understood. It gives you the tools to find your own meaning without having to venture too far outside of the App. Technology truly can be beautiful when it is used in the right way.