Eliot's Dark Angel: Intersections of Life and Art

Eliot's Dark Angel: Intersections of Life and Art

Eliot's Dark Angel: Intersections of Life and Art

Eliot's Dark Angel: Intersections of Life and Art

Synopsis

Schuchard's critical study draws upon previously unpublished and uncollected materials in showing how Eliot's personal voice works through the sordid, the bawdy, the blasphemous, and the horrific to create a unique moral world and the only theory of moral criticism in English literature. The book also erodes conventional attitudes toward Eliot's intellectual and spiritual development, showing how early and consistently his classical and religious sensibility manifests itself in his poetry and criticism. The book examines his reading, his teaching, his bawdy poems, and his life-long attraction to music halls and other modes of popular culture to show the complex relation between intellectual biography and art.

Excerpt

When sunlight glows upon the flowers, Or ripples down the dancing sea: Thou, with thy troop of passionate powers, Beleaguerest, bewilderest, me.

Who ever thinks about T. S. Eliot as a classroom teacher, preparing lectures late at night and marking the papers of working-class adults who came exhausted from their jobs to attend his classes? Who ever considers how crucial was his teaching experience to the development of his poetry and criticism? Most of Eliot's readers are quite familiar with the succession of his wartime activities after he arrived in England in September 1914—postgraduate student, new husband, dissertation writer, assistant editor, poet, reviewer, and banker. Biographical accounts of this period usually make passing mention of his brief tenure as a schoolmaster, begun out of financial necessity when he made the decision to marry and remain in England, but there is seldom the slightest notice of his Extension lectures for workers. He took his first position at the High Wycombe Grammar School in September 1915, earning £140 per annum, with dinner, until he found a slightly more remunerative position at the Highgate Junior School, which brought him £160, with dinner and tea. “I stayed at that for four terms, ” he reported to his Harvard classmates, “then chucked it because I did not like teaching. ” Even so, before he fled from the middle-class adolescents he had already applied for lecture and tutorial classes for adults with the Oxford University Extension Delegacy, and with the University of London Joint Committee for the Promotion of the Higher Education of Working People; his financial difficulties required him to continue teaching on a part-time basis. What has been missing from the record of Eliot's intellectual life is the fact that for the next three years he was steadily employed and . . .

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