Estimate T.S. Eliot as a Modern Critic

It has been accurately referred to as the T.S. Eliot era in both literary criticism and poetry/poetic theater throughout the twentieth century. In The Love Song of D. Alfred Prufrock, Eliot introduced what is now known as contemporary poetry.
Eliot’s 1917 novel The Sacred Wood, which included the groundbreaking articles The Perfect and Imperfect Critic and Tradition and Individual Talent, marked the beginning of the modern period in literary criticism. The foundational essays on the role of literary criticism are The Frontiers of Criticism (1956) and Essays on The role of Criticism (1923), notwithstanding their thirty-three-year separation. It is noteworthy in this context to mention that, in Eliot’s opinion, “criticism is as inevitable as breathing.”
Reaction to T.S. Eliot’s 1948 declaration that he was a classicist in literature, an Anglo-Catholic in religion, and a Royalist in politics was swift and pronounced. (Wimsatt and Cleanth Brook mentioned) While the majority of cat calls and serious objections were directed against Eliot’s political and religious views, his confession of classicism also garnered attention, along with genuine (candid) comments of confusion. For starters. In poems like La Figlia Che Piango (a beautiful woman..), Eliot’s own work had a romantic tone and feel.

Yes, Eliot was a supporter of classicism. He made this argument in his John Dryden essay. One of the Catholic standards for appreciating poetry is Dryden. Donne, according to Eliot, expanded the possibilities of lyric verse beyond anything any other English poet had done.

Eliot can therefore be considered a classicist and categorized among the neo-classical writers Dr. Johnson, Ben Jonson, and Dryden. And even among these neo-classical critics, Eliot excelled. He presented important ideas and views that diverged from theirs. He provided novel, fresh viewpoints and thoughts.

In his writings, Eliot has discussed his opinions about the nature of criticism. The Application of Criticism and Poetry. He has spoken about two kind of criticism. Poetry’s definition is given in the first kind. The second explains what constitutes good poetry and why. Thus, theoretical criticism is the first type and practical criticism is the second. Because of their complimentary qualities, these two categories cannot exist apart.

In the composition On Poetry and Poets. According to Eliot, a critic’s ability to incorporate sociological, philosophical, religious, and humanities information into his critique is restricted. It is necessary to assess a poet by contrasting him with other poets from that tradition or historical period. The critic must be impartial, global, widespread, and collective in order to qualify as historical. The past does not pass away; it lives on in the present. There may be sections in every literary work when the past has a significant impact. “The progress of an Artist is a continual self- sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality “The critic shares the same attributes as the creative writer.

Despite proclaiming himself to be a classicist, Eliot’s classicism differs significantly from those of the classical and neo-classical writers. Eliot views didacticism and the neo-classicists’ rule-governance to be unacceptable. However, he respects customs that have been set by history. He is credited with founding factual criticism. He has emphasized the need of the scientific process, impartiality, and dispassionate attitude to ensure that criticism is rigorous and really unbiased.

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T.S. Eliot, renowned primarily for his profound impact on modernist poetry, also carved a significant niche in the realm of literary criticism. His critical works, though less prolific than his poetry, have had a lasting influence on the way literature is analyzed and appreciated. This evaluation will explore the various facets of Eliot’s contribution to literary criticism, highlighting his unique perspectives, theories, and the enduring relevance of his critical methodology.

Eliot’s Critical Philosophy

  • Discuss Eliot’s approach to literary criticism, emphasizing his focus on tradition, impersonality, and the objective correlative.
  • Analyze how his famous dictum, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” revolutionized the understanding of a writer’s relationship with the past.
  • Elucidate his idea of the ‘impersonal theory’ of poetry, which advocates for the depersonalization of art.

The Concept of Objective Correlative

  • Define and explain Eliot’s concept of the ‘objective correlative.’
  • Illustrate how this concept has provided a tool for literary analysis, particularly in evaluating emotional expression in literature.
  • Provide examples from his criticism or from works of literature that demonstrate this concept.

Influence on Modernist Criticism

  • Detail Eliot’s role in shaping modernist literary criticism.
  • Discuss how his critical work was both a product of and a reaction to the modernist movement.
  • Analyze his critiques of contemporary and past writers, focusing on how he shaped the modernist canon.

Eliot’s Critiques of Individual Authors

  • Explore Eliot’s evaluations of specific authors such as Shakespeare, Donne, and Dante.
  • Discuss how his reevaluation of these and other writers influenced subsequent literary scholarship and reader reception.
  • Analyze his role in the resurgence of interest in the Metaphysical poets and his influence on the re-evaluation of Shakespeare’s plays, especially the tragedies.

Criticism and Controversies

  • Address the criticisms of Eliot’s approach to literary criticism, including allegations of elitism and Eurocentrism.
  • Discuss the controversy surrounding his views on classicism and how they were perceived in the context of the evolving literary landscape.

Legacy and Continuing Relevance

  • Summarize the enduring impact of Eliot’s criticism on the study and teaching of literature.
  • Reflect on the relevance of his critical theories in contemporary literary analysis.
  • Conclude with thoughts on how Eliot’s critical work complements his poetic oeuvre and contributes to a fuller understanding of his artistic vision.

In sum, T.S. Eliot’s foray into literary criticism, though a secondary aspect of his career, has been pivotal in shaping critical discourse. His unique perspectives have not only offered fresh insights into literature but have also prompted reevaluations of literary tradition and the role of the writer within it. Eliot’s contribution to literary criticism is a testament to his broad intellectual and creative capabilities, and his critical works continue to be a vital part of literary scholarship.



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