Showing posts with label T. S . Eliot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label T. S . Eliot. Show all posts

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What is 'historical sense' according to T.S. Eliot?

The historical sense is the sense of the timeless and the temporal, as well as combination of both. This sense makes a writer traditional. One, who has the historical sense, feels the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer down to his own day. It includes the literature of one’s own country which forms one continuous literary tradition.

In this regard he says, “Tradition is not anything fixed and static. It is constantly changing and becoming different from what it is.” The function of tradition is, the work of a poet in the present is to be compared and contrasted with work of the past and judged by the standard of the past. Because the past helps us to understand the present and the present throws light on past. Thus we can shift tradition from the individual elements in a given work of art.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Show how Eliot Portrays the Degeneration of the Contemporary Civilizations in The Waste Land.

“The Waste Land” by T.S Eliot describes the barrenness of city life in modern civilization and also gives us an authentic impression of the psychology of educated people in the psychological stump that took place immediately after World War I. It makes us aware of the nervous exhaustation, the mental disintegration, the exaggerated self consciousness, the boredom, the pathetic groping after the fragments of a shattered faith-all these symptoms of “the psychic disease which ravaged Europe mercilessly like an epidemic.”   Eliot takes us into the very heart of the wasteland which was post war Europe and makes us realize to the full the plight of a whole generation. It vividly illustrates the complexity and machine like activity of modern man comparing with the glorious past of spiritual and moral highness.

The figures who inhabit the unreal city are like the inhabitants of Baudlaire’s Paris. Eliot clearly points out the aridity of the modern urban civilization.

  Besides the modern waste landers consider April as the cruelest month because they have no desire for re-birth and spiritual life.

The dead-routine of the office goers shows the futility and the emptiness of civilization. The city-dwellers have no faith in any religion. The offices and factories in London begin at nine which is the time of Christ Crucifixion. In the modern civilization, the world of commerce is entirely different from the world of God. In the big city, one will come across the evil of gambling in different forms. In the poem, Madame So Sostris exemplifies the worldliness and unspiritual outlook of modern world. She is a society. Under the low, fortune telling is a criminal and undesirable business. So Madame So Sostris is afraid of police. (She has a pack of seventy eight ends through which she tells the fortune of her customer.)

We may regard “The Wasteland” as an epitome of the “Decade of Despair’, which followed World War I. The poem aims at presenting to us the various cross-current, emotional, intellectual and psychological which together contributed to the general atmosphere of that unhappy period. In the past the source of inspiration for life and achievement was faith. But values have bee changes now-a-days. Spiritually the people all over the world have become barren. In the poem, Eliot shows that the conception of family and of human relationships is being shattered down day by day. The people of upper class capacity are suffering from various types of mental illness. The fashionable society women called the lady of situation are bored with her urban wasteland. They do not feel comfort in their houses. For example, Mr. Eugenides, modern businessmen, is fond of home sex, and he fulfills his desire with hotel boys. Psychologically, the modern people are no satisfied with their getting. They seemed frustrated. For example, Lil is frustrated because she is a woman of thirty one ad fails to fascinate her husband who wants to enjoy life. Similarly, the fashionable society woman, the lady of Situation is bored with her own life.

The Waste Land is timeless; it is valid for all ages. It deals with a universal dilemma. The theme of the poem is the spiritual emptiness, the unemotional sociality and the general aimlessness which have characterized all periods of history. In addition to the myth which serves to link the present with ancient times. Eliot has introduced a multitude of reminiscence of other poets into the fabric of his poem. By this method he is able to suggest the extensive consciousness of the past and to reveal the sameness as well as the contrasts between the life of the present and that of the past. 

There is a general feeling of fear in Waste Land-modern and ancient. April inspires fear. Marie is frightened in her moment of sexual delight on her cousins’ sledge. The “Son of Man” is urged to endure the vision of fear and mortality in the desert, and the lover in the garden is neither living nor dead. Fear is common to all times ad periods of history. Unemotional sea or lust is a feature of all ages too. It has become a source of moral degradation. For instance, we find in the poem the picture of three Thows daughters who live on being the objects of sexual enjoyment in exchange of money. Cleopatra was, of course, an exception. But Philomel’s rape by the barbarous king is “Game of Chess” strikes the keynote of this section linking the past and the present.

Thus, Eliot in “The Waste Land” has cast his vision of the contemporary erotic and spiritual aridity into a general perspective beyond berries of historical time or national or geographical boundaries. The framework of the myth and  the recurrent allusions the portrayal of characters, the presentation of scenes of seduction and violation of women, the literary reminiscences and quotations all the contribute to giving the poem a permanent and universal quality.

Monday, December 3, 2012

How does Prufrock in T.S Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock personify a tormented observer, who is hesitant and unable to commit himself?

The poem 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' is an examination of the tortured psyche of a prototypical modern man, who is over-educated, eloquent, neurotic, and emotionally stilted. Prufrock, the poem's speaker, is the member of the cultured society of a modern city which may be London, Boston or any other. The hero is different from the traditional hero of the love poems. He is entirely unheroic,a bundle of hesitations and indecisions.

At beginning of the poem he seems to be addressing a potential lover, with whom he would like to "force the moment to its crisis" by somehow consummating their relationship. But Prufrock knows too much of life to "dare" an approach to the woman: In his mind he hears the comments others make about his inadequacies, and he chides himself for "presuming" emotional interaction could be possible at all.

Eliot modernizes the form of dramatic monologue by removing the implied listeners and focusing on Prufrock's interiority and isolation. It is an internal debate in the mind of  Prufrock between two sides of his personality and it is through this debate the poet has thrown light on the spiritual degeneracy of the speaker.

The poem opens with an epigram from Dante’s Inferno in which Guido de Montefeltro, who is consumed in flames as punishment for giving false counsel, confesses his shame because he believes that it cannot be reported back on earth. In context, this excerpt is essentially Prufrock’s assurance that he can confide in his reader without fear of shame for what he is about to disclose.

The poem with the speaker’s address to a person, supposed to be a woman. The time is evening and the sky looks like a ‘patient etherized’ upon a table. The expression ‘patient etherized is a metaphysical conceit and serves here as an objective correlative to express the inner consciousness of the speaker. He is like an etherized patient, who has lost the power of activity and has become inactive. The poet introduces some other imageries in the opening stanza such as "half-deserted streets" (4) reveal "one-night cheap hotels / And sawdust restaurants" which evoke the picture of a sterile and deadly city. Although Eliot does not explore the sterility of the modern world as deeply here as he does in "The Wasteland" (1922), the images are undeniably bleak and empty.

In the next stanza the poet shows the fog/cat, which seems to be looking in on the roomful of fashionable women "talking of Michelangelo" (13). Unable to enter, it lingers pathetically on the outside of the house, and we can imagine Prufrock avoiding, yet desiring, physical contact in much the same way (albeit with far less agility). Eliot again uses an image of physical debasement to explore Prufrock's self-pitying state; the cat goes down from the high windowpanes to the "corners of the evening" (17) to the "pools that stand in drains" (18), lets soot from the high chimneys fall on its back (since it is lower down than the chimneys), then leaps from the terrace to the ground. While Eliot appreciated the dignity of cats, this particular soot-blackened cat does not seem so dignified. Rather, the cat appears weak, non-confrontational, and afraid to enter the house. Moreover, Prufrock's prude-in-a-frock effeminacy emerges through the cat, as felines generally have feminine associations.

Prufrock’s inability to act becomes even clearer in the next stanza in which he repeats ‘indeed there will be time’.It is the characteristic Hamletian indecision. He thinks that there will be enough time to make the decision. Prufrock  is clearly a thinker, not a feeler, and his indecisive thoughts contribute directly to his paralysis. Prufrock's refrain "And indeed there will be time" (23, 37) is an allusion to Metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" ("Had we but world enough, and time" [1]), in which the speaker urges his lady to speed up their courtship.

Prufrock's social paralysis is diagnosed in the next stanza. The smallest action - descending stairs - is occasion for magnified self-scrutiny and the fear that he will "Disturb the universe" (46). He continues asking himself questions about how to comport himself, but admits he will reverse these decisions soon. His inaction is constantly tied to the social world: "Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, / Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?" (79-80) The somewhat silly rhyme here underscores the absurdity of Prufrock's concerns. Yet Eliot fleshes out Prufrock's character and makes his worries, however trivial, human. Prufrock twice refers to his balding head, describes his plain, middle-aged clothing, and draws us into his point-of-view of the social world. He is a coward and does not have courage enough to face his lady. He is acutely conscious of his old age, of his baldness and of his thin body.

Prufrock knows the pros and cons of the upper class society and the party women.All his knowing makes him inactive.The triviality of the contemporary society is portrayed through the line ‘I have measured out my life with coffee spoons. Modern life is passed in giving tea-parties in which there is too much frivolity and flippancy but little sense.

The perfume coming from the dresses of women stimulates his sense, but he can’t express his emotion and feels miserable. He knows the flirtations and tricks of the upper class women. He has observed the lonely old man.Prufrock is bored with the triviality of life and with his own decision. He wishes that he were a sea-animal which catches its prey and rums swiftly across the sea. He would like to escape his present surroundings.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

T . S . Eliot's Theory of Depersonalization

The theory of depersonalization or impersonality is T.S.Eliot’s remarkable gift in criticism. He holds that the poet and the poem are two separate things. Eliot explains his theory in two phases; “the relation of the poet to the past,” and “the relation of the poem to its author.’

As for the first phase, he says that the past is never dead; it lives in the present. And if we approach a poet with an open mind, “We shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously.” Again if he is a great poet, he alters his work in no small scale. So what is a sort of flowing out and in. But while in giving he asserts his individuality, in taking he has to repress it. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.” According to him it is the duty of the poet to discard the touch of personality in his work: and as a result a new form will come out from the fusion of the past and the present.

This brings the second aspect of his theory of depersonalization in which Eliot shows that a poet’s greatness does’ lie in putting his personality into his work. A poet may have personal liking, disliking or may fell interested in anything, but he should not put it into his poetry. Rather a poet should have varied feelings which are at liberty and therefore will enter into new combinations.

It is not necessary that these feelings will be his own rather those of others will also do. For his mind is just like a catalyst that combines them into a new shape ad remains unaffected at a time. Of course, it may partly use of the poet’s on experience. “but the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers. There may be impressions and experiences that are grave concern for a man, but they should not take any place in the poetry.

So, what comes is that “Poetry is not a turning case of emotion, but an escape from emotion. It is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.” So the poem, not the poet, is the focal point of “honest criticism and sensitive appreciation.’

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What does T. S. Eliot mean by Tradition and Historical Sense in his Tradition and Individual Talent?

In his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” Eliot spreads his concept of tradition, which reflects his reaction against romantic subjectivism and emotionalism. He also signifies the importance of the tradition. He opines that tradition gives the reader something new, something arresting, something intellectual and something vital for literary conception.

Tradition, according to Eliot, is that part of living culture inherited from the past and functioning in the formation of the present. Eliot maintains that tradition is bound up with historical sense, which is a perception that the past is not something lost and invalid.

According to Eliot tradition is a living culture which is inherited from the past and also has an important function in forming (shaping) the present. To Eliot tradition is bound up with historical sense of a poet or writer. Historical sense is a perception that past is not something that is lost or invalid. Rather it has a function in the present.

It exits with the present. It exerts its influence in our ideas, thoughts and consciousness. This is historical sense. It is an awareness not only of the past ness of the past but the presence of the past. On this sense the past is our contemporary as the present is.

Eliot’s view of tradition is not linear but spatial. Eliot does not believe that the past is followed by the presence and succession of a line. On the contrary, the past and the present live side by side in the space. Thus it is spatial.

Then Eliot holds that not only the past influences the present but the present, too, influences the past. To prove this idea, he conceives of all literature as a total, indivisible order. All existing literary works belong to an order like the member of a family. Any new work of literature is like the arrival of a member or a new relative or a new acquaintance. Its arrival and presence brings about a readjustment of the previous relationship of the old members. A new work takes its place in the order. Its arrival and inclusion modifies the order and relationship among all works. The order is then modified. A new work of art influences all the existing- literary work, as a new relative influences the old members of a family. It is this sense that the present modifies the past as the past modifies the present. The past is modified by the present also in the sense that we can look at the past literature always through ever renewing perceptive of the present.

A new work of art can not be evaluated in isolation without reference to past literature and tradition. Evaluation is always comparative and relative. It calls for a comparison with the past that is with tradition. The value of a work depends on how well it is adjusted into the order of existing literary works. No poet, no artist of any art has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You can not value him alone. You must set him for contrast and comparison among the dead.

A work of art has two dimensions- it is at once personal and universal. It is an individual composition, but at the same time, its inclusion into tradition determines its worth and universal appeal. A writer must be aware that he belongs to a larger tradition and there is always an impact of tradition on him. Individual is an element formed by and forming the culture to which he belongs. He should surrender his personality to something larger and more significant.

In his conscious cultivation of historical sense, a writer reduces the magnification of personal self, which leads to depersonalization and impersonal act.

When a writer is aware the historical sense, it does not mean that he is influenced by the past or his own self. Rather the writer should minimize the importance of his personal self, which will lead him to depersonalization and impersonal act.

Tradition is a living stream. It is not a lump or dead mass.But the main current does not always flow through the most noted authoress.

Eliot regrets that tradition in English world of letters is used in prerogative sense. This is one reason of the undeveloped critical sense of the English nation. They are too individualistic on intellectual habits.

Eliot criticizes the English intellectuals. According to Eliot to the English intellectual tradition is something that should be avoided. They give much more importance on individualism and are critical about the historical sense or tradition.

Like Arnold , Eliot views tradition as something living. For both the word “tradition” implies growth.Eliot recalls Edmund Burke what Burke did for political thought, by glorifying the idea of inheritance, Eliot has done for English literary criticism.Burke, famous English politician, gave emphasis on the experience of the past in politics. In the same Eliot also gives emphasis on the past regarding English criticism.

Tradition does not mean uncritical imitation of the past. Nor does it mean only erudition. A writer draws on only the necessary knowledge of tradition. He must use his freedom according to his needs. He cannot be completely detached.Often the most original moments of a work of art echo the mind of earlier writers. Though it sounds paradoxical it is true.It is paradoxical but true that even the most original writings sometimes reflect the thinking of the past or earlier writers. So, there is nothing which is absolutely original.

A partial or complete break with the literary past is a danger. An awareness of what has gone before is necessary to know what is there to be done in the present or future. A balance between the control of tradition and the freedom of an individual is essential to art.

Eliot said elsewhere that by losing tradition we lose our held on the present. Hence, a writer should be aware of the importance of tradition.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How Eliot Refutes Wordsworth’s Concept of “emotion recollected in Tranquility”

Eliot expresses his anti romantic view of creative process in “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” He disapproves of the romantic view of poetry as a sentimental expression of subjective feelings. Accordingly he rejects the emotive statement of Wordsworth-“emotion recollected in tranquility.” Wordsworth’s formula involves three components for poetic composition- emotion, recollection and tranquility.

Regarding the first component, Eliot puts forward his own theory of emotion and feelings. He distinguishes between emotion and feeling. He says hat emotion arises out of personal incident or situation of a poet’s life. It is closely associated with a poet’s private life.

Feelings, on the contrary are only remotely or thinly associated with personal situation. Feelings can be aroused by an image, a word or a phrase. For example, the Ode of Keats contains a cluster of feelings which have nothing particular to do with the Nightingale, but which the Nightingale partly perhaps because of its evocative name and partly because of its reputation, served to brig together.

On the contrary, Coleridge’s ‘Dejection’ is composed with the direct use of emotion rooted in personal incident. The emotion of gloomy despair conveyed in Coleridge’s poem is a working up of the poet’s similar emotion evident in a phase of his personal life. Eliot asserts that a poem can be composed either with emotion or with feelings. It is not always necessary that poetry must originate from emotion. In this way Eliot rejects the subjective emotionalism of Wordsworth’s theory.

He further states that it is not for the emotions generated by particular events of a poet’s life that a poet earns distinction. Rather personal emotions are distilled, processed and transmuted into what Eliot calls structural or art emotion, for which a poet deserves consideration. And emotion achieves some degree of impersonality. Thus Eliot depersonalizes the romantic magnification of personal emotion in poetry. Poetry is not a medium to unleash raw emotion in an artless, uncontrolled and undisciplined way. Hence Eliot maintains that poetry is not a turning loose of emotion. Rather it is a controlled, selective, pattered expression of emotion. It demands some kind of some kind of masking and distancing of personal emotion- a kind of artistic detachment, a sort of decorum, some sort of veiling. This is what Eliot means by “an escape from emotion.”

Eliot does not accept that poetry has always something to do with “recollection”. In other words recollection is not an indispensable material for poetry. Earlier Eliot observes that “the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates.” This statement implies that poetry is not completely candid (frank) expression of the total personality of a poet. Rather it is an expression of a significant aspect of life. And in creative process, there is a great deal which is conscious and deliberate. Thus Eliot attaches importance to intellect and rational faculty in addition to emotion and feelings.

In one of his influential essays The Metaphysical Poets – Eliot praises the metaphysical poets for their unified sensibility, which results from a fusion of emotion and intellect. Here too he recommends a unified sensibility- a synthesis of emotion and intellect.

Then he refuses Wordsworth’s requirement of tranquility in creative activity. He implies that the moment of composition is a heightened moment of psychic activity and introspection. It is a moment of excitement and concerted effect when the total mind strains to attain the desired height. It is a stimulated state of mind when an intense, purposive intellect brings feelings or emotions into new order. It can not be a relaxed, serene, tension-free state. Wordsworth’s reference to “tranquility” implies a kind of passive effortlessness. As Eliot says – it is not “ a passive attending upon the event”.

It is a moment or act of concentration- when al mental and emotional faculties are intently occupied in performing a creative fat. Thus Eliot refutes Wordsworth’s formula of creative process. I this way he manifesto his anti-romantic, modern, classical standpoint.