What are some main points in T.S. Eliot's essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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T.S Eliot's essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" is very metaphysical in its concepts; definitions of his main points are only understood within the context of the quantum metaphysical realm. Some of the main points in T.S. Eliot's essay are tradition, isolation, knowledge, and catylyst. By "tradition" Eilot means that all past poets comprise a simultaneous existence and order into which the new poet or artist is immersed or joined: tradition are those long historical lines of poets who stretch back through Spenser, Chaucer, Petrarch, Boccacio and all of them to Homer. This suggests that no poet ever writes in true isolation--the true meaning of an artist's work--is valued according to the whole tradition. Eliot suggested that at any given moment the tradition, the historical whole of past poetic or artisitic work, is complete, is an organized whole. When a new poem or other work of art is created it is subsumed by all that have gone before--the organized whole past tradition--and in being subsumed alters the nature of the whole: Each added piece of a created work of art or poetry alters and enriches the tradition, which is always an organized whole.

Eliot contends that knowledge--upon which inspiration and creation depend and from which the creative work attains excellence--is the collective wisdom and experience of all past poets, and the attainment of knowledge by the new poet is the submersion of self and ego into the collective tradition. Eliot uses this to state that the mind of the poet or other artist is a catalyst for the creative process, not the controller of the creative process. A catalyst is the initiating event that causes a thing--in this case creative art or poetry--to happen. The mind is a catalyst that stores up impressions until they ripen into an inspiration for the production of art or poetry. The poet or artist doesn't express personal self or personal traits, instead the poet or artist expresses a collective experience or emotion that is based on all the tradition that has existed before and is descriptive of the human emotion and experience that is present at the moment of the poem's or art work's creation.

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