Eliot Tradition And The Individual Talent

854 words - 4 pages

A Brief Summary of “ Tradition and the Individual Talent”
In T.S. Eliot’s essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, he shares his perspective on the function of poetry in the literary canon. He is able to sum up his thesis in this short sentence: “The emotion of art is impersonal”. Like Wimsatt and Beardsley, Eliot does not believe in the use of poetry as an interpretation of the poet’s thought and feelings. In addition, he believes that the poet’s role in writing poetry is not to express his own emotions through the medium of his poems, but to create literature that reflects in some way what came before it and can seamlessly attach itself to history.
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In fact, unlike most traditions it does not come easily or feel inherent. It must be worked towards, and one must cultivate “a historical sense”. That is, learning about the works of the past so that they become a part of one’s present until he can experience both simultaneously. Once a poet does this, then he can write so that his literature holds something of the past as well as something of itself.
Eliot states that no poet has a value in and of himself, but can only be valued as a part of the whole that is himself and those who have come before him. His new work, if heavily affected by all old works as it should be, will then affect those works in return and form an entirely new tradition to be absorbed and adapted by those who come after him. This altering of each existing order of tradition will be a never-ending process, constantly adding new writers and new works into its mixture, and changing to make room for new ideas and original perspectives that will shed light on those that have already been established. Once a new piece is added into the mix, all of the previous pieces will have to be reread and reinterpreted by the light of the new piece. Sometimes nothing will change at all, sometimes there will only be a slight revelation, and sometimes everything will be turned around completely.
It is for this reason that poets must separate themselves...

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