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T.S. Eliot: The Evolution Of A Modernist

1643 words - 7 pages

About the time of World War I came a man that would help change the thinking of many people. T.S. Eliot, along with many other poets and artists, headed a new revolution known as Modernism. According to Lavender, (1998) modernism is a rebellion against the Victorian traditions of that time. Modernists believed that the industrialized nations with cash-based economies, primarily Protestant Christian, were not the "civilized" people. Instead, they saw them as greedy hypocrites who made freedom unattainable. The modernists thought that the truly civilized people were the people who Victorians considered savage: hunters/gatherer tribes with barter-based economies with mainly "pagan" beliefs. ...view middle of the document...

After receiving his master's degree, Eliot decided to take a postgraduate year in Paris to read, write, soak up the atmosphere, and study at the Sorbonne. After returning to America, Eliot continued his studies at Harvard, taking graduate courses in philosophy while serving as a teacher's assistant. In 1914, he was awarded a traveling fellowship to study in Germany, but his studies there were cut short because of the eruption of World War I. (Kennedy and Gioia, 2001)Bush (1999) says that Eliot moved from Germany to London where he met a young dancer named Vivien Haigh-Wood through a friend from Harvard. Eliot was drawn to her immediately and married her on impulse in June of 1915, shocking his parents. After learning of Vivien's history of emotional and physical problems, Eliot's parents were so disturbed that the marriage almost broke up the family.Bush (1999) also tells us that during this time Eliot started having struggles financially. To help get through his struggles, he started teaching school and lecturing. He also started working on his PhD thesis to appease his worried parents. Although he did finish his thesis in 1916, he never got his degree because he was reluctant to go back to do his dissertation defense. In 1917, he finally got a steady job in the foreign section of Lloyd's Bank.Now that Eliot had a steady job, he started concentrating back on his poetry. He had his first book of poems published in 1917. Prufrock and Other Observations had only twelve poems, but gained some popularity due to the help of Ezra Pound, a fellow modernist poet. His book contained his first widely recognized poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" which Kennedy and Gioia (2001) say may have reflected some of Eliot's insecurities and self-consciousness with women. Eliot wrote in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," "Do I dare to eat a peach?" A peach is considered by the Chinese to be a symbol for marriage and immortality and could be considered a symbol for female genitalia. "Prufrock's anxiety about eating the peach, then, has much to do with his feelings of sexual inadequacy..." (Gradesaver, n.d., "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock")After recovering from a nervous breakdown in 1921 probably caused by the death of his father and the further deterioration of Vivien's health, Liukkonen (n.d.) says that Eliot found time to finish his long poem The Waste Land. The poem, edited by Ezra Pound, was divided into five sections using many literary sources while combining slang and scholarly language. One of the reasons why the Waste Land became so popular was it conveyed the feeling of confusion and change that society was facing because of the ramifications of World War I. EXAMPLENow, Eliot had plenty of work writing and editing for various publications. He even founded his own journal, The Criterion, in 1922 and edited it until 1939. In these publications, he wrote philosophical reviews and many critical essays, many of which have become classic...

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