T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

A selective list of literary criticism for the poet, playwright, and essayist T.S. Eliot, favoring signed articles by recognized scholars and articles published in peer-reviewed sources

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introduction & biography

"Capturing and Creating the Modern," a project from the British Library, provides a group of excellent articles covering many early twentieth-century modernist works, including T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prefrock," the short stories of Katherine Mansfield, James Joyce's Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, Virginia Woolf's novels, W.H. Auden's poetry, and much more. Introductory, close reading, and thematic articles by recognized experts in their subjects, and links to manuscript drafts in British Library's archive.

"T.S. Eliot." Excerpts from reputable literary criticism of the following poems: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Gernonition, The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, The journey of the Magi, Burnt Norton. An extended biography of T. S. Eliot by Ronald Bush. Modern American Poetry, Univ. of Illinois, Ed. Jed Esty.

Hammer, Langdon. "Lecture 10 - T. S. Eliot." In the first of three lectures on T.S. Eliot, "The early poetry of T.S. Eliot is examined. Differences between Pound and Eliot, in particular the former's interest in translation versus the latter's in quotation, are suggested. Eliot's relationship to tradition is considered in his essay, 'Tradition and the Individual Talent.' The early poem, 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' is read, with emphasis on the poem's resistance to traditional forms and its complicated depiction of its speaker's fragmentary consciousness" [3 lectures]. Audio, video, and transcript from Professor Hammer's class at Yale, ENGL 310: Modern Poetry, Spring, 2007.

"T.S. Eliot." A brief introduction to Eliot: "With the publication of The Waste Land in 1922, now considered by many to be the single most influential poetic work of the twentieth century, Eliot's reputation began to grow 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." Academy of American Poets.

"T.S. Eliot." Poetry Archive. Directors, Andrew Motion and Richard Carrington. A UK web site founded by the former UK Poet Laureate Andrew Motion.

"T.S. Eliot." An encyclopedia-type article on T.S. Eliot, covers his poetry and drama, themes, reception, includes samples of Eliot's poems, audio files of him reading them, and additional lectures. Poetry Foundation.

Kermode, Frank. On Eliot's life and Peter Ackroyd's biography of T. S. Eliot. The Guardian 27 Sept. 1984.

Raine, Craig. Private passions. "Although the idea of a life not fully lived is central to his poetry, T.S. Eliot was not the dry old stick of his self-caricature. His personal story was full of quiet drama, and even recklessness." The Guardian 6 Jan. 2007.

Thormählen, Marianne. A substantial introduction to T. S. Eliot from the Literary Encyclopedia, 30 March 2001 [subscription service].

literary criticism

Altieri, Charles. "Theory of Emotions in Eliot's Poetics." Addressing the decline of Eliot's reputation among current scholars, Professor Altieri contends that Eliot's work gives us much that we can admire and use.

Childs, Donald J. Excerpt from Modernism and Eugenics: Woolf, Eliot, Yeats, and the Culture of Degeneration (Cambridge UP 2001). Childs explores how eugenics, aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population, became for some writers a way to address social problems, and was attacked by others as a theory promoting racism, classism, and sexism.

Chinitz, David. Publisher's web site for T. S. Eliot and the Cultural Divide (U of Chicago Press, 2003). "The modernist poet T. S. Eliot has been applauded and denounced for decades as a staunch champion of high art and an implacable opponent of popular culture. But Eliot's elitism was never what it seemed." Chinitz's earlier article by the same title, in PMLA 110 (Mar. 1995).

Clark, Carlton. "'Such a Vision of the Street as the Street Hardly Understands': Jonathan Swift, T. S. Eliot, and the Anti-Pastoral." Clark discusses four poems about morning in the city, three by Eliot and one by Swift, and Eliot's letters to the Dial. EESE April 2000.

Donoghue, Denis. "T. S. Eliot and the Poem Itself." Donoghue writes of his initial bewilderment at Eliot's poetry, "I settled for the thrill of yielding to a few unforgettable lines," and Eliot's aesthetics and themes. Partisan Review Jan. 2000.

Eagleton, Terry. "Nudge-Winking." A review of Jason Harding's The 'Criterion': Cultural Politics and Periodical Networks in Interwar Britain (Oxford UP). Eagleton notes, "The Criterion, T.S. Eliot’s periodical, ran from shortly after the First World War to the very eve of World War Two. Or, if one prefers, from one of Eliot’s major bouts of depression to another. The two time-schemes are, in fact, related." London Review of Books 19 Sept. 2002.

Glaser, Brian. "A Hegelian Reading of T.S. Eliot's Negativity." The author disputes "the prevailing opinion that the poetics of early modernism which T.S. Eliot articulated are post-Hegelian," contending that "Eliot’s early poetics of impersonality are more Hegelian than he—and the majority of subsequent critics—have come to recognize." Cercles 12 (2005) [and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel].

Jay, Gregory S. A review of T. S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism, and Literary Form, by Anthony Julius (Cambridge UP 1995). Journal of English and Germanic Philology. Julius defends his position. The Guardian 7 June 2003.

Kimball, Roger. "A craving for reality: T. S. Eliot today." Writes Kimball, "From our vantage point at the end of the millennium (maybe it should be called our "disadvantage" point), the extraordinary literary and critical authority that Eliot once commanded is almost incomprehensible." The New Criterion October 1999.

Kirsch, Adam. "Matthew Arnold and T. S. Eliot." "So frequently does Eliot disparage Arnold that it is easy to overlook how much he owes him." The American Scholar 67, 3 (Summmer 1998) [sub ser vlex].

McIntire, Gabrielle. Excerpt from Modernism, Memory, and Desire: T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf (Cambridge UP 2008). Contends that despite their many differences, representing the past was for both T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf "a sensuous endeavor that repeatedly turned to the erotic and the corporeal for some of its most authentic elaborations."

Montgomery, Marion. "Memory and Desire in Eliot's "Preludes"." South Atlantic Bulletin 38, 2 (1973) [first page of article only, and blurred].

Perloff, Marjorie. "Chapter One: Avant-Garde Eliot." From Perloff's 21st-Century Modernism, The "New" Poetics (Blackwell Manifesto, 2002). Perloff revisits her analysis in The Poetics of Indeterminacy (1981), where she made a sharp contrast between Eliot's 'symbolist' mode and a more 'literalist' indeterminacy in John Ashbery.

Raine, Craig. "A Devoted Tour Guide to a Desert of a Soul." A review of Raine's T. S. Eliot (Oxford UP 2007), in the NYTimes, 16 Jan. 2007.

Ricks, Christopher, ed. A review of Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917. Reviewed in the Washington Times by Dana Gioia, who writes, "Inventions of the March Hare expands, deepens, and qualifies our knowledge of the central figure in English-language Modernism. For readers of Eliot, it is an indispensable book."

Schuchard, Ronald. A review of Eliot's Dark Angel: Intersections of Life and Art (Oxford 2001). Reviewed by Gail McDonald in South Central Review 19 (Summer/Autumn, 2002).

Schuchard, Ronald. "T. S. Eliot as an Extension Lecturer, 1916-1919." The Review of English Studies 25 (May 1974) [first page of article only, blurred].

"Journal rekindles debate on whether T. S. Eliot was anti-Semitic." "Was T. S. Eliot anti-Semitic? The perennial question gets lively, multifaceted treatment in the January [2003] issue of Modernism/Modernity." Titles and abstracts from the January 2003 Modernism/Modernity. Stanford Report, 9 April 2003.

Skaff, William. A review of The Philosophy of T. S. Eliot: From Skepticism to a Surrealist Poetic, 1909-1927. Reviewed by Jewel Spears Brooker in American Literature 59 (Oct. 1987).

Wetzsteon, Rachel. "Some Reflections on Eliot’s 'Reflections on Vers Libre.'" Eliot's contention that "the division between Conservative Verse and vers libre does not exist, for there is only good verse, bad verse, and chaos" can be seen as an explanation of his own practice in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," says Wetzsteon. Academy of American Poets.

Woodward, Kathleen M. At last, the real distinguished thing: the late poems of Eliot, Pound, Stevens, and Williams (Ohio UP 1980) [and Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, poetry of old age]. The entire book is available online from Ohio UP.

impersonal poetics

Eliot, T.S. "Tradition and the Individual Talent." In The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1922). The essay in which Eliot writes, "The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality. There remains to define this process of depersonalization and its relation to the sense of tradition. It is in this depersonalization that art may be said to approach the condition of science."

O'Brien, Geoffrey G. "Next Year's Words": T. S. Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent." On Eliot's "impersonal style" and the influence of his poetics on living poets. Academy of American Poets.

Parkinson, Thomas. "Intimate and Impersonal: An Aspect of Modern Poetics." Parkinson turns to the origins of Eliot's early ideas about art, particularly the ideas of Ortega y Gasset that stressed that modern art must make a complete break with prior art. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 16, 3 (Mar. 1958) [first page of article only].

web sites & libraries

A web site on "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," with links to thirteen reviews of the poem written between 1917 and 1919. The reviewers included Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, and William Carlos Williams. Additional critical commentary. The Department of English, U of Saskatchewan.

"The Editor in the Machine: Theoretical and Editorial Issues Raised By the Design of an HTML Literary Hypertext." On a digital version of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" at the U Saskatchewan.

The Robert Graves Trust Archive, St. John's College, Oxford, includes copies of T.S. Eliot's letters to Graves pertaining to the publication of The White Goddess and the incarceration of Ezra Pound.

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