Back to: Literary Theory in English Literature
T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) was a poet, playwright, and literary critic. He held dual citizenship of the U.K. and America. T. S. Eliot’s poetry represented a departure from romanticism. His poetry was marked by cynicism and a modernism questioning of traditional values and norms.
His poetry had modernist expressions. T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915), delineated a sense of decay within life which was one major philosophic trait within modernism.
Prufrock symbolized physical and intellectual impotency. Prufrock was an anti-hero. He had insecurities about his physical appearance and he had spiritual pretensions. The poet has also mocked his misplaced sense of pride when Prufrock compared himself with the universe.
T. S. Eliot’s “Hollow Men” (1925), represented a hollowness of life and ignominy which cannot be brought down. The poem shows the uneventfulness of life where people don’t get any deliverance from their personal hells. The poem is also a reflection of the broken modern life where heroism is absent.
T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” (1922), is modernist poetry which is divided into 5 parts. The five parts are as follows –
- The Burial of the Dead
- A Game of Chess
- The Fire Sermon
- Death by Water
- What the Thunder Said
The poem represented fragmented humanity after the world war. The poem alludes several times to classic literature and tells tales of suffering, damnation, ignominy, death, rebirth, lost ecstasy, pain, etc. The poem also brought in themes related to love, spirituality, infidelity, decay, etc. It is also a diagnosis of the predicament of civilization.
The poem also alluded to “Shanti” to convey a sense of peace. The poem concludes with the sense that destruction leads to regeneration. T.S. Eliot also wrote “Tradition and the Individual Talent“. The literary text talks about a sense of balance between tradition and individual talent. It argued that individual genius cannot be divorced from tradition.
He argued that individual acts of artistic creation cannot be created in a void. It thus means that artistic creation has to allude to the past or tradition to establish a lineage within the literature.
He also wrote “Hamlet and His Problems” where he talked about “objective correlative”, which establishes a connection between living things and objects. His other notable works include “Ash Wednesday” (1930), Four Quartets (1943), The Cocktail Party (1949), Murder in the Cathedral (1935). T. S. Eliot was awarded Nobel Prize in Literature in the year 1948.