Eliot in His Time: Essays on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of "The Wasteland"

Eliot in His Time: Essays on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of "The Wasteland"

A. Walton Litz Editor
Hugh Kenner
Richard Ellmann
Helen Gardner
Robert Langbaum
Robert M. Adams
Michael Goldman
Donald Davie
Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Eliot in His Time: Essays on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of "The Wasteland"
    Book Description:

    The essays in this new collection, all by outstanding experts in the field of modern literature, provide a different and more complex sense of Eliot's place in literary history. The eight essays are: "The Waste LandFifty Years After," by A. Walton Litz; "The Urban Apocalypse," by Hugh Kenner; "The FirstWaste Land:' by Richard Ellmann;"The Waste Land: Paris 1922," by Helen Gardner; "New Modes of Characterization inThe Waste Land," by Robert Langbaum; "Precipitating Eliot," by Robert M. Adams; "Fear in the Way: The Design of Eliot's Drama," by Michael Goldman; and "Anglican Eliot," by Donald Davie.

    Originally published in 1973.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7009-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-2)
    (pp. 3-22)
    A. Walton Litz

    The fiftieth anniversary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’sThe Waste Landis an obvious occasion for critical revaluation. Already we are separated from the great works of thatannus mirabilis,1922, by a distance in time and sensibility as great as that which separated Eliot and Pound and Joyce from their Victorian predecessors. In the late 1940’s, when I first encounteredThe Waste Land,I could still read Eliot as if he were my contemporary: evidence both of the extraordinary impact of the “modernist” movement and ofThe Waste Land’s central place in that movement. Few works can...

    (pp. 23-50)
    Hugh Kenner

    There is nothing so appeasing as a category; think how chaotic many eighteenth-century poems would seem if we did not know that we were supposed to call them Pindaric Odes. A name for the kind of poemThe Waste Landis might have spared criticism much futile approximating. There used to be a kind of conducted tour, in which the student was bidden to observe how checkpoints would align if he closed one eye and sighted in the proper direction. This or that feature—the drowned man, the desert traveller, the unnerving woman—entered one or another thematic system, depending...

    (pp. 51-66)
    Richard Ellmann

    Lloyds’ most famous bank clerk revalued the poetic currency fifty years ago. As Joyce said,The Waste Landended the idea of poetry for ladies. Whether admired or detested, it became, likeLyrical Balladsin 1798, a traffic signal. Hart Crane’s letters, for instance, testify to his prompt recognition that from that time forward his work must be to outflank Eliot’s poem. Today footnotes do their worst to transform innovations into inevitabilities. After a thousand explanations,The Waste Landis no longer a puzzle poem, except for the puzzle of choosing among the various solutions. To be penetrable is not,...

    (pp. 67-94)
    Helen Gardner

    Fifty years ago last OctoberThe Waste Landappeared in the first number ofThe Criterion,and later in the same month Eliot packed up and posted to John Quinn, the wealthy New York banker, as token of his gratitude for Quinn’s generous patronage and help, a parcel. It contained what Eliot described as “the MSS of the Waste Land . . . when I say MSS, I mean that it is partly MSS and partly typescript, with Ezra’s and my alterations scrawled all over it.”¹ This famous collection of documents was thought to have been lost, since it was...

    (pp. 95-128)
    Robert Langbaum

    One sign of a great poem is that it continues to grow in meaning. A new generation of readers can find in the poem their own preoccupations, and can use those preoccupations to illuminate the poem, to find new meanings in it. Presumably the poem contains the germ of all these accrued meanings; that is why it is great and endures. Certainly no poem ever seemed more of its time thanThe Waste Land,which expressed, as we used to hear, the despair and disillusion of the twenties. Yet a survey ofWaste Landcriticism illustrates perfectly the reciprocal relationship...

    (pp. 129-154)
    Robert M. Adams

    A small, ironic, and perhaps extraneous circumstance provides a first surface for reflection. Writing a paper on T. S. Eliot in 1972 is easier, on at least one preliminary level, than it ever used to be. There are all sorts of books and articles on the topic: they are all on the shelves. There is a way of saying this that makes the remark sound malignant and triumphant; I mean no such tone to be heard. It is an occasion for surprise only because, for almost forty years, I have been accustomed to find a snarl of students buzzing over...

    (pp. 155-180)
    Michael Goldman

    “Nothing is more dramatic than a ghost,” says Eliot,¹ and his remark offers an illuminating technical insight into every play he wrote. It also has the virtue of forcing us to think specifically about drama, rather than, say, prosody or moral philosophy. Eliot’s own practice as a critic and reputation as a poet have tended to concentrate discussion on either the versification and language of his plays or their Christian implications, and this, while leading to much excellent and valuable criticism, has helped promote a serious misunderstanding of his achievement as a dramatist—as a writer, that is, whose texts...

    (pp. 181-196)
    Donald Davie

    As a Briton commenting on an Anglo-American poet, I am assuming that a little insularity will not come amiss. And in fact it can hardly be avoided, seeing that my particular concern is with those last poems—theFour Quartets—which were undertaken by a British citizen and completed in a Britain at war, and which allude continually to England’s historic past and to what was then London’s imperiled present. This is borne out by that one of theQuartetswhich seems not to fit my description; Eliot, when he herded all his American references into “The Dry Salvages,” rather...