T. S. Eliot and the Idea of Tradition

T. S. Eliot and the Idea of Tradition

T. S. Eliot and the Idea of Tradition

T. S. Eliot and the Idea of Tradition

Excerpt

I intend to show in this book how certain fundamental themes and ideas run through the writings of T. S. Eliot and influence his work at every level: in his verse, his plays and his critical studies.

So much has already been written on the subject of Eliot's poetry and plays, especially in the field of detailed analysis and interpretation, that I have concentrated more on his critical writings, though trying at the same time to show their connection with his creative work. In fact, a secondary purpose has been to gather Eliot's more important critical dicta from the scattered studies which contain them; to collate them, thus showing the essential unity of his thought; and to examine them in the light of his place in English literary development. In doing this I have laid stress on his beliefs concerning fundamental and permanent principles of poetry, drama, and criticism, rather than on his judgements of individual writers, works, or periods. Since he almost always uses judgements of literary detail to discover, extend, or clarify a literary principle, I do not think that this treatment gives a false emphasis to the analytic aspect of his criticism.

The method I have employed in dealing with his criticism is one which involves numerous and often lengthly quotations from his work. I am aware of the dangers of quotation out of context, of which the worst is complete misrepresentation of the original meaning, and the least pernicious is a nuance of meaning which vanishes, or changes its nature, or becomes much clearer if the extract is considered in the original context. These dangers are particularly grave when treating of a writer like Eliot whose essays are almost organic in their structure. But, in spite of the dangers involved, quotation seems preferable to paraphrase, which is the only possible alternative in a work which seeks to gather together ideas scattered throughout occasional writings. It seems preferable for a number of reasons -- because paraphrase inevitably distorts meaning even more than quotation; and because, by paraphrase, we lose the feeling of the author, his atmosphere and character, and get instead an insipid and spiritless dilution both of matter and of manner. I have tried to avoid the dangers of quoting out of context . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.