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T.S. Eliot's context and style

Providing context for Stage 3 Lit students.
by

Ron Barton

on 13 June 2013

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Transcript of T.S. Eliot's context and style

T.S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns Eliot was born on September 26, 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents were Henry Ware and Charlotte Stearns Eliot. Eliot was the youngest of seven children.
T.S. Eliot attended Smith Academy in St. Louis and Milton Academy in Massachusetts for his early education. In 1906 he began attending Harvard. However, he ended up on academic probation. Eventually he recovered and earned a B.A. in comparative literature and a M.A. in English literature. In 1911 T.S. Eliot returned to Harvard to study philosophy.
After making England his permanent home in 1915, he met and fell in love with Vivienne Haigh-Wood. His parents were opposed to the marriage when they learned of her emotional and physical problems. The marriage nearly caused a split in the family. In 1930 until her death in 1947, Vivienne was sent to a mental institution. T.S. Eliot then married his secretary, Esmé Valerie Fletcher.
Due to money problems, in 1916, T.S. Eliot taught at Highgate Junior School in London. He then worked as a clerk at Lloyd Banks. Here he wrote for the monthly in-house magazine Lloyds Bank Economi Review. He quit this job when he experienced a mental breakdown in 1922 where he recovered in Lausanne, Switzerland.
T.S. Eliot was influenced by Laforgian Symbolism: “A kind of poetry which would be psychology in the form of a dream … with flowers and scents and wind .. complex symphonies with certain phrases (motifs) returning from time to time”
T. S. Eliot died on January 4, 1965 in London, England (age 76). His ashes were taken to St Michael’s Church in East Coker, his ancestral village.
A wall plaque commemorates him with a quotation from his poem “East Coker”: “In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning.”
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", commonly known as "Prufrock", is Eliot's best known piece and is regarded as a masterpiece of the modernist movement.
T.S. Eliot’s other notable works (poems) include the following: Gerontion (1920), The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930), and Four Quartets (1945). He is also known for his seven plays, the most well-known one of them being Murder in the Cathedral (1935).
T.S. Eliot has received numerous notable awards, including the following: the Nobel Prize for Literature (1948) and the Order of Merit (1948).
Considering how well-known T.S. Eliot was, he produced a relatively small amount of poetry. He was aware of this early in his career. He responded by saying, “My reputation in London is built upon one small volume of verse, and is kept up by printing two or three more poems in a year. The only thing that matters is that these should be perfect in their kind, so that each should be an event.”
At first, T.S. Eliot’s poetry was criticized as not being poetry at all. Many critics attacked him for including quotations from other authors in his work. They condemned such a practice as showing a lack of originality, and for plagiarism.
T.S. Eliot, however, responded to such critics and defended his actions, explaining that they were “a necessary salvaging of tradition in an age of fragmentation, and completely integral to the work, adding richness through unexpected juxtaposition.”
While influenced by impressionism and expressionism, Eliot was predominantly a Modernist writer. Modernists experimented with literary form and expression, adhering to Ezra Pound's maxim to "Make it new."
The modernist literary movement was driven by a conscious desire to overturn traditional modes of representation and express the new sensibilities of their time. The horrors of the First World War saw the prevailing assumptions about society reassessed. Thinkers such as Sigmund Freud questioned the rationality of mankind.
Eliot's reputation grew to nearly mythic proportions; by 1930, and for the next thirty years, he was the most dominant figure in poetry and literary criticism in the English-speaking world.
T.S. Eliot was an Anglophile (a person who is fond of English culture) and this is evident in his writing.
Also, as a critic, he had an enormous impact on the literary taste of society at the time.
“The Waste Land”
Repetition of words and sentences.
Kind of bleak and melancholy.
Divided into parts – each part has a different title.
Used random German, French and Italian.
As the poem progressed, it appeared to become more random, towards the end seeming to make less sense.
Used a lot of imagery – also used sounds that take up an entire line.
"Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things." T. S. Eliot
For further research about T.S. Eliot's life and the historical period (Modernism literary movement, etc.) of which he was a part of, you can visit:
http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/life.htm
http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1948/eliot-bio.html
http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/bio.htm
For further research about T.S. Eliot's work and poetical theory, you can visit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._S._Eliot
http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/prufrock.htm
http://www.online-literature.com/forums/showthread.php?t=20089
For further research about T.S. Eliot's work and style (including technique, sound, sense, and structure), you can visit:
http://www.bartleby.com/198/1.html
http://www.gradesaver.com/author/t-eliot/
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/184705/T-S-Eliot
Full transcript