T.S. Eliot:

T.S. Eliot:
Points of Departure
Some difficulties with T.S. Eliot's
(taken from Robert DiYanni's essay,"T.S. Eliot" in Modern
American Poets: Their Voices and Visions)
• The heavy use of allusion
• borrowings from foreign languages
• The structural mode of juxtapositon
• mystical and paradoxical ideas about time, death, and
• references to history, philosophy, and literature
--especailly medieval and Renaissance drama,
classical literature of Greece and Rome
• utilizing those references within the context of the poetry
Difficulties, 2
• fragmentary nature of the poetry with its lack of
connection between sections, stanzas, lines,
and sentences--unity and coherence must in
many ways be supplied by the reader.
• highly imagistic
• the poems often assume musical structures
• juxtaposing crude and disgusting details of the
present with the more wholesome images of the
• poetry should reflect the complexities and
ambiquities of experience
Difficulties, 3
• the poetry, like music, doesn't always
require rational understanding; a poem
can be apprehended emotionally if not
comprehended intellectually
• Eliot's belief that poetry should be difficult
and that great poetry need not be
understood in every line and detail to be
Eliot Pro or Con
• The poem has been described as THE modernist
• DiYanni claims it is the “single most widely read and
most frequently analyzed American poem of the
twentieth century.
• “It is, for many, the most challenging poem of the
century, and probably the most important.”
• “The Wasteland is important not only as a poetic
achievement in its own right, but also as a remarkable
influence on an entire generation of poets. . . . “
• Perkins claims the poem is endowed with “imaginative
intensity and suggestion” “almost visionary intensity.
Eliot Pro and Con, 2
Has been described as a “mad medley”
Amy Lowell called it a “piece of tripe”
Parasitic on past styles
Some Points of Departure
• “. . . No previous poem gave so vivid an
impression of the contemporary, urban
metropolis.” –Perkins
• The technique resembles avante-garde
cinematic montage
• Fragmentation, juxtaposition, use of vignettes
• The use of memory to contrast past with
present—Grail Legends, The Golden Bough
and fertility rituals
Points of Departure, 2
Modern Sexuality
Cultural Decay/Cultural Exhaustion
Possibilities for regeneration/Hope
Experimental Poetry