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What are the new poetic techniques used in The Waste Land?

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modernhamlet | Student, Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted September 25, 2010 at 3:13 AM via web

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What are the new poetic techniques used in The Waste Land?

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted September 25, 2010 at 4:02 AM (Answer #1)

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T. S. Eliot is one of the major contributor to Anglo-American Modernism, the turn-of-the-century eclectic movement that revolutionized literature and the arts. Eliot's poetry strives to observe the Modernist dictum of "Make it new" by creating texts that are less emotional than Romantic poems and whose images are more concrete and less vague. In his essay on "The Metaphysical Poets", Eliot writes that poetry should respond to the complexity of modern life so "the poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning."

These are all features that we can observe in The Waste Land. The complexity and the fragmentation of modern life is reflected in the fragmented style of the poem and the juxtaposition of different images (a visual parallel could be drawn with certain paintings by Picasso and Braque). Each section of the poem is formed by several fragments put together whose narrative continuum is achieved through consistent tone and atmosphere. These emphasize the sterility of the present as contrasted to the fertility of a mythical past. Another important modernist technique employed in The Waste Land is the comprehensive cultural, historical and literary references to past epochs and mythological traditions. Talking about James Joyce's Ulysses, Eliot defined this technique as "the mythical method", a constant parallel between the writer's contemporary age and the past achieved through mythological references in the depiction of ordinary and common sketches. Eliot concluded that this techniques was "a way of  . . . giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history".

The poem's fragmentation is further heightened by the juxtaposition of different poetic styles (ranging from passages in Elizabethan English to lines that reproduce the jargon of the working class), forms such as monolgues and choruses and metres.

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