T. S. Eliot Questions and Answers

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How we can say that T.S. Eliot is a modern poet?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Eliot's early poetry could certainly be described as modern in that he was actively responding to changes in Western society that took place after the First World War. Many of the old certainties had been undermined by the war; in the political realm, the dominance of the old classes was being challenged by the spread of mass democracy. In the cultural sphere, too, there were huge, unsettling changes to the established order with the rapid growth of the motion picture industry and other forms of mass entertainment. As a consequence, the authority of high culture was seriously undermined. Eliot's masterpiece, The Waste Land, is a response to this cultural malaise, an attempt to salvage what's left of Europe's cultural heritage in this ever-changing, chaotic modern world.

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Victorian poetry was perceived as being very excessive, in terms of both its language and its subjects, and so the stark Modernist reaction to that poetry, in the early twentieth century, was spare and straightforward by comparison. Just as the Romantics rejected the Enlightenment focus on reason, logic, and scientific method, Modernists rejected the Romantic privileging of the sublimity of nature, the importance of the individual and one's emotions, and the connection between the two. By the time T.S. Eliot wrote "The Wasteland," publishing it just after World War I, it struck a new tone. It shows the lack of connection between individuals, the stark alienation that each person feels from his or her fellows, the sordid nature of the city and the industrialized world, and the absence of possibility for connection. T.S. Eliot is a modern poet because his work tends to demonstrate the era's sense of detachment, fragmentation, and disillusionment.

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In sharp reaction to the Georgian subject-catalogue of 'rainbows, cuckoos and daffodils', T.S. Eliot appeared on the scene of 20th century English poetry as a wonderful innovator with these lines of his The Love-song of J. Alfred Prufrock on the pages of the Poetry magazine in 1915:

" Let us go, then, you and I

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherised upon a table".

These lines immediately revolutionised the intellectual climate of English poetry. Eliot initiated a new brand of poetry of the city, a poetry essentially cerebral, impersonal, predominantly imagistic, insistently urbane & ironic, characteristically observational. Eliot got associated with Ezra Pound and theĀ  Imagist Movement in English poetry.

Eliot's seminal essay, 'Tradition and the Individual Talent' in his volume of critical prose, The Sacred Wood, opposed the Romantic poetics founded on the principles of 'spontaneity' and 'expression of personality'. Eliot declared that poetry is not 'an expression of personality', but 'an escape from personality'. The mind which creates, stands aloof from the mind which suffers. The poetic self is like the catalytic platinum wire which remains active through the chemical reaction processing sulphuric acid, but remains unchanged at the end of the reaction.

Eliot was influenced early in his poetic career by the mid 19th century French poet, Baudelaire, and the Symbolists. Mallarme, Laforgue, Corbiere were the major sources providing Eliot with the innovations of language and technique. Preludes, Sweeny among the Nightingales, Rhapsody on a Windy Night were some of his early Modernists experiments in poetry. Published in 1922, The Waste Land was his masterpiece: 'April is the cruellest month / Breeding lilacs out of the dead land.......'

Eliot's modernity(or should it be called 'Modernism'?) can be understood with reference to the following:

a) his theory of impersonality;

b) his observations on the monotony, aridity, squalor of the big cities: the boredom and the horror;

c) the revival of the Metaphysical tradition of wit , allusion, conceit, colloquialism, ironic banter etc;

d) his conscious artistry of imagery and tone.

surajverma8 | Student

T.S.Eliot belongs to 20th century which is known as modern age. As we kow it very well that after the end of victorian age in 1900, the modern age came in to being.

Above all, there are the descriptions of modern society in his poems like "Ash-Wednesday" and "The Waste Land".

the description of Industrial Revolution, manners and activities of the characters are reflected same way as modern poet describe. These are the reasons that he is known as the modern poet.