How is T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land commonly regarded as a seminal work of Modernist literature?How is T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land commonly regarded as a seminal work of Modernist literature?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Eliot's work is considered as a seminal work of Modernism because it embodies the fundamental precepts of the intellectual movement.  When Woolf, another preeminent Modernist, writes that "all human relations have shifted," it reflects the basic idea that the literature of Modernism is one whereby individuals have experienced a seismic movement between what they have been told to believe or what they used to embrace as opposed to what is in front of them.  This chasm of experience is where Eliot's work falls as it articulates a vision of post World War I reality where what has been told, the transcendental truths that people were instructed to embrace in order to establish meaning, have proven hollow.  This is where Woolf's notion of human relations "shifted" is best seen.  Eliot's work is one where human beings are presented with quite a different vision than what they have been told.  Eliot's work is considered to be seminal to understanding Modernism because it does not shy away from this theme of fragmentation and disilusionment with reality.  Adding to this is the very style in which it was written.  Eliot does not conform his writing to the traditional standards of what writing has been told to be.  Rather, he creates a work that is poem, story, narrative, philosophical treatise, and personal exploration with images from Classical, Eastern, Western, and even futuristic referential points.  In this, Eliot has "shifted" what art can be and what writers can do.  For these reasons, Eliot's work is seen as critical and vital to understanding Modernism, a seminal representation of the movement.

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The Waste Land

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