T. S. Eliot Questions and Answers

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Discuss the poetic style of T. S. Eliot (including epigraph, allusion, dramatic monologue, cubism, free verse, symbols, etc).

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Thomas Stearns Eliot (September 26, 1888–January 4, 1965) was an American poet who moved to England and became a British subject in 1927. He is considered a leading example of the Modernist movement in poetry. As well as producing an important variety of poems, he wrote many influential critical essays which explained some of his stylistic and technical choices as a poet, such as "Tradition and the Individual Talent."

Eliot is often described as writing in free verse, but that it not entirely accurate. Eliot's use of rhythm was influenced by the Elizabethan and Jacobean poets as well as the French Symbolists, and while his lines are often irregular, there is often the ghost of traditional meter behind them, giving meaning to his metrical variations by positioning them against a tradition of English and European poetic history. Eliot famously said:

No vers is libre for the man who wants to do a good job.

His poetry is also grounded in tradition in its use of allusion. Eliot believes that poets do not write ex nihilo but rather exist in an ongoing tradition which is altered and which evolves through its instantiation in a rich cultural heritage of poetry. He makes this belief in the nature of tradition explicit in his use of features such as epitaphs, fragments quoted from previous writers, and indirect allusions.

The dramatic monologue is a genre made popular by many Victorian poets. In such a work, the poem consists of a fictional narrator thinking or speaking the audience overhearing this monologue.

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