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The Great Modernists (II): T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence


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The Great Modernists (II): T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence

Thomas Stearns Eliot Poetry: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, (1910), The Wasteland (1922), etc. Drama: Murder in the Cathedral (1935), The Family Reunion (1939), The Cocktail Party (1949), etc.

Of American origin

Under the influence of Ezra Pound


Relation with the predecessors: We dwell with satisfaction upon the poet's difference from his predecessors, especially his immediate predecessors; we endeavour to find something that can be isolated in order to be enjoyed. Whereas if we approach a poet without this prejudice we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously. And I do not mean the impressionable period of adolescence, but the period of full maturity.

Judging a poet: In a peculiar sense he will be aware also that he must inevitably be judged by the standards of the past. I say judged, not amputated, by them; not judged to be as good as, or worse or better than, the dead; and certainly not judged by the canons of dead critics. It is a judgment, a comparison, in which two things are measured by each other.

Main current, Europeanness: The poet must be very conscious of the main current, which does not at all flow invariably through the most distinguished reputations. He must be quite aware of the obvious fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the same. He must be aware that the mind of Europe - the mind of his own country - a mind which he learns in time to be much more important than his own private mind is a mind which changes, and that this change is a development which abandons nothing en route, which does not superannuate either Shakespeare, or Homer, or the rock drawing of the Magdalenian draughtsmen.

Giving up personality: What happens is a continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.

Modernist poetry

reaction to the excesses of Victorian poetry

against traditional formalism and flowery poetic diction

models: ancient Greek literature, Chinese and Japanese poetry, the troubadours, Dante, and the English Metaphysical poets

urban, mechanical, and industrial settings: the new heroes would be London office workers, and the new settings would be vacant lots, smoked over buildings, and subways.

New poetic experience: techniques as collage, found poetry, visual poetry, the juxtaposition of apparently unconnected materials, and combinations of these. Poetry, painting and music: logopoeia, melopoeia, phanopoeia.

Influence of Ezra Pound's A Few Don'ts by an Imagist, The ABC of Reading


Direct treatment of the 'thing', whether subjective or objective.

To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.

As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome


new logic based on the perception of disconnected word-groups, new attitude toward language, intertextuality.

summarizes the Grail legend, not precisely in the usual order, but retaining the principal incidents and adapting them to a modern setting.

the Grail legend seen as the surviving record of an initiation ritual of the Greek Mysteries. It also dramatizes initiation into maturity, and it bespeaks a quest for sexual, cultural, and spiritual healing.

death and rebirth, initiation, fertility symbolism, mythology (Adonis, Osiris), failure of love and faith (James Frazer, The Golden Bough)

waste land a world that makes too much of the physical and too little of the spiritual relations between the sexes. Symbol: Tiresias, for whom love and sex must form a unity, is unable to unify them.

Parts: I. The Burial of the Dead, II. A Game of Chess, III. The Fire Sermon, IV. Death By Water, V. What the Thunder Said.

I.  The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruelest month, breeding 1

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering 5

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

Son of man, 20

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter,  the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water.

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