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T.S. Eliot " The Waste Land"

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Lejla Pindzo

on 27 May 2014

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Transcript of T.S. Eliot " The Waste Land"

The Damaged Psyche of Humanity
Mythic and Religious Ritual
“These fragments I have shored against my ruins” (431).
Themes :
- Eliot used
in his poetry both to demonstrate the
chaotic state of modern existence
and to
juxtapose literary texts against one another

- In Eliot’s view, humanity’s psyche had been shattered by World War I and by the collapse of the British Empire

- Collaging bits and pieces of dialogue, images, scholarly ideas, foreign words, formal styles, and tones within one poetic work was a way for Eliot to represent humanity’s damaged psyche and the modern world, with its barrage of sensory perceptions

- Critics read the following line from The Waste Land as a statement of Eliot’s poetic project:

- In his notes to The Waste Land, Eliot explains the crucial role played by
religious symbols

- He drew heavily from ancient
fertility rituals
, in which the fertility of the land was linked to the health of the Fisher King, a wounded figure who could be healed through the sacrifice of an effigy
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Vol XCIII, No. 311
in brief...
" The Waste Land" first appeared in print in 1922

Ezra Pound - Eliot's main mentor and editor, also Eliot's wife Vivien worked on editing

Eliot attributed a great deal of his early style to the French Symbolists—Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Laforgue
symbolizes both

Eliot’s characters wait for water to quench their thirst, watch rivers overflow their banks, cry for rain to quench the dry earth, and pass by fetid pools of standing water

T.S. Eliot " The Waste Land"
- Eliot wanted his poetry to express the
fragile psychological state of humanity in the twentieth century

- The
passing of Victorian ideals
the trauma of World War I
challenged cultural notions of masculine identity
10 million people dead; much of western Europe in ruin
The Fisher King
Music and Singing
more Analysis...
The Fisher King - central character in The Waste Land

Fisher King - symbolic of humanity, robbed of its sexual potency in the modern world and connected to the meaninglessness of urban existence
- Eliot was interested in the divide between high and low culture, which he symbolized using music

- In The Waste Land, Eliot blended high culture with low culture by
juxtaposing lyrics
from an opera by Richard Wagner with songs from pubs, American ragtime, and Australian troops

- Eliot splices nursery rhymes with phrases from the
Lord’s Prayer in “The Hollow Men,”
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
is, as the title, implies a song, with various lines repeated as refrains
- The Waste Land opens with a reference to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

- The topic of
, particularly when it involves remembering the dead, is of critical importance in The Waste Land
- The second episode contains a
troubled religious proposition

- The speaker describes a
true wasteland of “stony rubbish”
The third episode explores Eliot’s
fascination with transformation

Eliot transforms the
traditional tarot pack
to serve his purposes

Transformation in The Tempest, though, is the result of the
highest art of humankind
; transformation is associated with
fraud, vulgarity, and cheap mysticism
- The
episode of the first section allows Eliot finally
to establish the true wasteland of the poem
modern city

- Eliot’s London references Baudelaire’s Paris (“Unreal City”), Dickens’s London (“the brown fog of a winter dawn”) and Dante’s hell (“the flowing crowd of the dead”)
The Waste Land Section II:
“A Game of Chess”
- This section takes its title from two plays by the early 17th-century playwright Thomas Middleton, in one of which the moves in a game of chess denote stages in a seduction

- focuses on two opposing scenes, one of
high society
and one of the
lower classes

The Waste Land Section III:
“The Fire Sermon”
- the longest section of The Waste Land - taken from a sermon given by
in which he encourages his followers
to give up earthly passion (symbolized by fire) and seek freedom from earthly things.
The Waste Land Section IV:
“Death by Water”
shortest section of the poem, “Death by Water” describes a man, Phlebas the Phoenician, who has died, apparently by drowning
The Waste Land Section V:
“What the Thunder Said”
- final section - dramatic in both its imagery and its events
- the first half of the section builds to an
apocalyptic climax
, as suffering people become
“hooded hordes swarming”
and the “unreal” cities of Jerusalem, Athens, Alexandria, Vienna, and London are destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again
Full transcript