Tradition and the Individual Talent

by T. S. Eliot
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How can I discuss the roles of the tradition and individual talent (artists) using this passage from Eliot's essay "Tradition and Individual Talent"? "…the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.”

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T.S. Eliot viewed Western cultural/artistic history as a continuum wherein contemporary artists are inevitably influenced and shaped by the artists that came before them. Eliot argues that in order for contemporary artists to be successful and their work meaningful, they must participate in the ongoing meta-dialog represented by the loosely defined (but readily understood) institution of European cultural expression.

Arguing for a sense of continuity in the arts, Eliot also takes a position as a proponent of a consciousness of continuity as more than an inevitability. For Eliot, developing established traditions is tantamount to the artist’s duty.

As is often the case for Eliot, his case is presented as a correction. Specifically, Eliot seeks to correct to what he sees as “our tendency to insist, when we praise a poet, upon those aspects of his work in which he least resembles anyone else.” The sentiment that animates such a view of quality falls squarely in the American tradition...

(The entire section contains 814 words.)

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