Please discuss T. S. Eliot's Objective Theory in reference to his essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent." What influenced Eliot's critical theories?

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T. S. Eliot's Objective Theory essentially states that a poem or piece of literature should have a sense of inevitability. The idea is that the feelings and emotions should be clear and directly linked with actions, to the point where the outcome is a logical conclusion and understanding of the individual's emotions or motivations. In terms of a poem, while the emotions and experiences of the poet are all swirling around as a many-layered thing, the final result should be a cohesive expression of a unified idea. A poem should express one concept or emotion. It can be an incredibly unique and complex one, but there should be an overarching tone or mood to a successful piece of poetry.

In terms of storytelling, there should be objective and clear motivations and emotions. Eliot analyzes the play Hamlet and concludes that the character of Hamlet is poorly written, because his emotions and choices are not indicative of the events that happen to him in the story. Lady Macbeth is juxtaposed against this, though, as someone that is successfully written—the events of the story lead to a natural response, and the reader or observer can relate and, presumably, would take similar actions given the same set of circumstances.

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T. S. Eliot’s Objective Theory stated, in the simplest terms, that whereas poetry for the romantic poets was the product of emotion, thus a manifestation of emotional pleasure or pain, poetry was in reality a structure of nonemotional objective unity. According to Eliot, the poet carries within his mind a multiplicity of experiences, thoughts, emotions upon which the poet imposes order and from which emerges a unity. Thus is a new “artistic emotion" created that is unique to the poem. Therefore, the critic is to judge a poem based on objective rationality of the unity created. In other words, does the poem present a whole unit of intelligibility produced from a multiplicity of disparate parts. Think of The Waste Land when considering this concept. Some can argue that The Waste Land presents elements of irrationality and hyper-emotionalism, yet, all the disparate parts fit together as a whole unit producing a poem that is more than the sum of the parts of the poet’s collection of emotions and experiences.

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