Selected Essays, 1917-1932 begins with an essay on the role of the "poet," or the author of a work of art written in English. A poet must understand his/her literary predecessors, Eliot argues, and carefully consider how his/her work of art will fit into the world of artistic tradition. Through "a continual extinction of personality" (or individual talent), a talented writer should become a translator of the emotions of his generation in a new way that adds to the poetic achievements of the past.
"The Function of Criticism'' extends the theories of the previous essay to critical literature. Here too, writes Eliot, "the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.'' Critics should make a work of art clear to the reader and guide his taste.
Eliot states that John Middleton Murry provides an example of the difference between the ‘‘outside authority’’ of classicism and ‘‘inner voice’’ of romanticism. A critic must provide a useful explanation of the work of art with the important tools of ‘‘comparison and analysis’’ to help the reader understand it without prejudice. By following this method, Eliot writes, there is "the further possibility of arriving at something outside of ourselves, which may provisionally be called truth."
In ‘‘Rhetoric and Poetic Drama,’’ Eliot argues against the use of the term "rhetoric''...
(The entire section is 2247 words.)
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