T. S. Eliot

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What is the mythical method T. S. Eliot describes in his essay "Ulysses, Order, and Myth"?

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The mythical method T. S. Eliot describes in the essay “Ulysses, Order, and Myth” refers to the way James Joyce structures his modern text after the classical Greek Odyssey. The mythical method allows modern writers to bring order and add deep meaning to their works even in the midst of modern chaos.

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In his review of James Joyce's Ulysses entitled “Ulysses, Order, and Myth,” T. S. Eliot presents the mythical method of modern literature that he sees operative in the work under review. Eliot emphasizes that Joyce parallels the ancient Greek poem the Odyssey in style, symbols, and structure. This, Eliot claims, is highly effective, for it reveals the “continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity.”

Let's unpack this idea. The modern mind, the modern experience, and modern literature have often been labeled as chaotic. They need some form of order to make them intelligible, able to be grasped and be understood. Many modern writers, including Joyce, have determined that traditional narrative techniques are simply not adequate any longer. Joyce, therefore, chooses to structure his work by modeling it after the mythology of the Odyssey. He incorporates elements of the older work into his modern text to provide the order it needs. As Eliot notes, however, many critics have failed to notice this order.

Yet according to Eliot, the mythical method of bring order to modern chaos is highly effective. It connects the past and the present and helps writers and readers draw deeper meanings from both. Further, Eliot asserts that other writers must follow in Joyce's footsteps, pursing the mythical method in their own works, not imitating but experimenting with their own materials in order to give a “shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.” This, he concludes, will make “the modern world possible for art.”

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